April A to Z Blogging Challenge– Atonement

A to Z Blogging Challenge

A friend of mine has done the April A to Z Blogging Challenge for a couple of years, and I decided I’d give it a try this year. I clearly haven’t been very consistent in posting, and I’m hoping this will get me more in the habit of writing or posting artwork. I’m not planning to stick with a particular theme, other than letting the letter of the day be my starting point, so my posts might be all over the place with content or subject matter.


Since tomorrow is Good Friday, I figured “Atonement” would be timely for my “A” entry.

Here’s the definition of atonement that I found online:

  • reparation for a wrong or injury
  • (in religious contexts) reparation or expiation for sin
  • the reconciliation of God and humankind through Jesus Christ

Easter is one of my favorite days of the year. I remember getting up early, while it was still dark, and going out to meet some other college students for a sunrise service at our church in Ithaca. There was a shared sense of wonder and joy as we stood by a wide creek for some moments in silence and then sang joyful hymns of praise—Easter hymns have always been my favorite hymns.

But Easter wouldn’t be, if there hadn’t been Good Friday. I always used to wonder why it was called “good,” when it is a day for remembering the brutal killing of an innocent person. That was before I understood the depth and urgency of my need for atonement—reconciliation with God. When I began to really understand how my sin separates me from God, I developed a greater appreciation (that’s another good “A” word) for what Christ did in taking the punishment I owed for my own sin so that I could be reconciled to God. The more I get to truly know myself, the more I am in awe (another excellent “A”) of Jesus’ willingness to suffer pain and even death for me.

I don’t anticipate (yet another good “A” word) meeting anyone by a creek this Easter, but I am looking forward to meditating with humble gratitude tomorrow on the death of Christ and then, with great joy, celebrating his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.  Romans 3:25

For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Hebrews 2:17

A to Z April Blogging A

More Easter thoughts and meditations…

In many churches Easter is celebrated for a season, rather than just one day- Easter Sunday, and actually, every Sunday’s worship is a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. This week’s prayer guide is from another passage about Jesus’ resurrection, taken from a conversation the risen Jesus had with two disciples who did not yet believe that he had truly risen from the dead. I followed a different format this time, breaking the passage up into separate verses to meditate on each day.

Monday: “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel…” Luke 24:19b-21a

Are there ways in which you have been disappointed by God that have affected your faith? If so, talk honestly with him about it. He can handle it, and throughout the Bible God invites people to speak with him openly and honestly about how they are feeling and what they’re thinking.

Tuesday: “In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” Luke 24:22-24

Do you tend to automatically receive or automatically dismiss other people’s testimony? Pray for the ability to accurately discern truth, so that you can benefit from the experience of other believers without being gullible to error.

Wednesday: And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. Luke 24: 27

Read and meditate on the testimony of Scripture about Jesus and let it inform and transform you.

Thursday: They urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. Luke 24:29

Ask God to open your heart, so that even when you don’t really recognize him or understand clearly how he’s working, you will be able to be hospitable to him in your life.

Friday: When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him… Luke 24: 30-31a

Thank Jesus for nourishing us with the bread of life—his body—and revealing himself to us. Ask him to give you the ability to recognize him in whatever way he is present in your life.

Saturday: Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. Luke 24: 35

Share how Jesus has worked in your life, that others may be strengthened in their faith through your testimony. Praise him for his gift of Scripture, the fellowship of believers and his presence!


Resurrection Joy

Darkness and Dawn    

I love Easter Sunday, especially the early morning hours. Every year I get up while it’s still dark and spend some time imagining what that first Easter Sunday must have been like, starting with deep grief and fear, then moving to confusion, then astonishment and, finally, joy. I try to put myself in the women’s place, as they walk through the dim light of early dawn, carrying spices, planning to go to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body for a proper burial. All their hopes had been dashed, and their friend, their teacher, the one in whom they had wholeheartedly trusted, was dead.

They get to the cemetery and find that his grave has been violated, opened; his body is not there! And then an angel appears (!) and tells them that Jesus isn’t there, that he has risen? What could that mean, risen? Jesus is dead; he died a horrible death, beaten and mutilated, and killed. They saw it happen and saw his dead body.

And then the angel tells them to go tell the disciples that Jesus has risen. Like the disciples are really going believe that! Men wouldn’t take a woman’s word for anything in that time and place in history. Women weren’t considered reliable witnesses and their words weren’t admissible as testimony in court. And yet, these women are the first ones to receive the announcement that Jesus has risen. And then they are the first ones to whom the risen Jesus appeared! I think often about what that says to our world about how Jesus esteems women…

And now these women, afraid and yet filled with joy, have a message to carry to the disciples, a message that resonates through centuries and cultures, a message I meditated on this morning as birds sang their joy in the new day and that I will continue to ponder for many mornings when I rise early and look out at the new light of dawn breaking in and dispersing the dark of night.

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”    Matthew 28:1-10 NIV

Resurrection Joy


Pondering the Resurrection: Evidence and Response

Easter Sunday is
one day, but the resurrection is significant enough to ponder and celebrate far
more than just one day, and I’ll be focusing on it in these prayer guides for
at least a couple of weeks. 

Jesus’ death and
his resurrection are strongly attested historically. For those who, like me,
prefer to examine the evidence, there are many books that present the evidence for the
resurrection from various angles. One that I’m reading right now is The Case
for Chris
t, by Lee Strobel. I am also reading the transcript of a debate between William Lane Craig
(Christian apologist and theologian) and Bart D. Ehrman (agnostic New Testament

The love that led
Christ to die for us and the power of his resurrection are events so unique
that they require a response. This week let’s think about these events and how
we respond to them.

What I received I passed on to
you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to
the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day
according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then
to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the
brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living,
though some have fallen asleep. Corinthians 15:3-6
If you look at how you spend you time and money, what has top priority
in your life? Think about the relative merit of whatever you actually
value most, compared to the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. Ask God to
help you set your priorities in a way that reflects truth and
strengthens your relationship with him..
Christ’s death and resurrection was not a surprise; it was prophesied
long beforehand. Ponder the fact that God knows everything, good and
bad; past, present, and future.
Wednesday: Keeping in mind that God knows everything, meditate with gratitude on the wonder of Jesus dying for your sins.
Death was not the end for Jesus. He was raised to life and is alive
now. Do you believe this? If so, how does it affect your daily life?
Jesus appeared to many people who could and did give eyewitness
testimony, making his resurrection well-attested historically. How do
you give witness to his presence in your life?
Saturday: Let your mind dwell on the wonder of Jesus dying and then being raised to life again. Praise him!

Easter Emotions– from despair to confusion to joy

How often does it happen that we think God isn’t doing anything, or at least not what we want him to do, then find out that he’s actually doing something amazing that we just weren’t seeing? Jesus’ resurrection is the greatest example of that, as the women who went to his tomb and his other disciples experienced a full range of emotions from despair to confusion to joy. Let’s walk with them this week as we ponder their experience that first Easter morning.

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words.

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened. Luke 24:1-12

Monday: The women, desiring to give Jesus a proper burial, prepared spices to anoint his dead body. Put yourself in their place and imagine how deep their grief and despair must have been, ever since his death on the cross.

Tuesday: Jesus wasn’t there! Imagine the women’s confusion and upset when it seemed even his body was gone. Ponder the fact that, like the women, we can misinterpret what we see, and God may actually be working in marvelous ways that we can’t yet comprehend.

Wednesday: When the angels told the women what had happened, they remembered Jesus’ words and believed. Ask God to help you be open to the truth, no matter how inexplicable it may seem and how frightening or disturbing the message might be.

Thursday: Imagine how overwhelmed and excited the women must have been and eager to share the good news. Ask God to so fill you with faith and resurrection joy that you are bursting to share this good news with others.

Friday: The disciples didn’t believe at first, because they considered the women’s words nonsense. Do you ever dismiss a message or evidence without even evaluating it, because you don’t consider the messenger reliable? Pray for the humble attitude needed to receive truth openly.

Saturday: Peter, who had recently denied Jesus while depending on his own strength, was now open to learning. Allow your doubts, questions, and even failings to motivate you to seek truth and to ponder the evidence for Christ deeply.

How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
 “Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7

this week between Palm Sunday and Easter, we remember Jesus’ suffering
for us, from the time he entered Jerusalem, through his crucifixion and
burial. As we walk through this week, we’ll look at prophetic verses
from Isaiah, written nearly 700 years before the crucifixion, as well as
some of Jesus’ words recorded in the gospels. Let’s ponder these
passages deeply, thinking about how they speak to us and our faith or
lack of faith, and allow them to fill us with gratitude for all that
Jesus has done for us.

As [Jesus] approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and
said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you
peace– but now it is hidden from your eyes.” Luke 19:41-42

What in my life robs me of the peace Jesus offers and causes him to weep over me? Ask God to reveal what is hidden from your eyes that is keeping you from experiencing his peace.

Who believes what we’ve heard and seen?
   Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this? Isaiah 53:1
Do you believe the gospel message? It’s different than anything the world has to offer, and that is good news!
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
   a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
   he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Isaiah 53:3
Jesus was despised, rejected, and humiliated, even by those whom he loved and for whom he suffered. Come to him with your own hurts, shames, and ways you’ve been rejected, knowing he has suffered in these ways for you.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love
has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  John

Imagine a friend who loves you so much that he or she would choose to die in your place so you could live. Jesus did that! Ponder his amazing love today, and pray that you would grow in your ability and willingness to sacrificially love others.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
   he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
   and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
   each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:5-6
Jesus took all the punishment for our sins– pierced, crushed, punished– for each of us, even though he had no sin. Sit in silence a while, meditating on what great love it took to do that for us, for you. How will you respond to such love?

And [Jesus] said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be
rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he
must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Luke 9:22

Jesus told his disciples that he would be killed and then would be raised to life on the third day. He did indeed rise, and tomorrow we celebrate that resurrection. Today let’s ponder all that led up to his resurrection, so that tomorrow we can celebrate with true joy.