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Third Sunday after Easter

Die to Gain

John 12:23-26

“Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (v. 25). 

I have witnessed the paradoxical truth of this passage on multiple occasions in my years of ministry. 

As a youth pastor for many years, I had no problem filling three or four van loads of students for outreach events (like a trip to the amusement park or a ski trip). But when a service project or mission trip was offered, we were often hard pressed to fill one van. 

Here is what I repeatedly observed. At the end of an outreach event, students were typically drained, spent, cranky, empty. However, following ministry opportunities, students seemed to be filled—with testimonies, gratitude, joy, life—that extends into eternity! 

Spirit of the living God, fill us with your joy, your gratitude, your life today as we seek opportunities to spend our lives in service to you. Amen.

Die to Hopelessness

Psalm 30:1-5

I recently lost both of my parents. I rejoice that they lived long and fruitful lives for Christ, but sometimes we lose loved ones way too early. 

Pastor and sociologist Tony Campolo prayed for healing for a 40-year-old man with cancer. Not many days later Campolo received a phone call from the man’s wife saying, “You prayed for my husband who had cancer.” 

Campolo responded, “Had? Whoa. He was healed?” “No. He died,” she said. Campolo felt horrible. The wife responded, “Don’t feel bad. When my husband learned that he was dying, he was filled with anger. He hated God. But after you prayed for him, Tony, he experienced a peace and joy that he had never known before. The last three days have been the best days of our lives. He wasn’t cured but he was healed. And now he is healed and alive forevermore with his God.” 

Thank you, Lord, that weeping may remain for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning for those who trust in you. Help me to trust in you. Amen.

Die to Self-Sufficiency

Psalm 30:6-12

If you get the Hallmark station, you know that there really is only one plot to every story they air. Boy moves to small town and meets girl. Mutual attraction. Sparks fly. Unexpected call about a promotion requiring a move back to the big city. On the way out of town, a revelation. Return. Kiss in front a large group of onlookers. Awkward applause. Fade. Next movie. Although life is not as predictable as a Hallmark movie, in some ways Psalm 30 describes all our stories. 

Life is humming along. We feel confident and secure (vv. 6-7a). Something disrupts our happiness. It feels as though God has hidden his face (v. 7b). We cry out to God in desperation (vv. 8-10). God extends his mercy and reveals his faithfulness (vv. 11-12a). We praise the name of the Lord our God (v. 12b).

Lord, we can’t do this alone. Reveal your faithfulness and extend your mercy. We give you all our praise. Amen.

Die to Self-Effort

John 21:1-14

What did seven of the disciples choose to do in between Christ’s resurrection and his ascension? They did what they did best. They fished. All night long they employed all the tricks of the trade, but their efforts turned up empty. No fish—nothing, nada, zilch. So discouraging and frustrating! 

Then a voice called out from the beach and suggested that they cast their net on the other side of the boat. Why they chose to do so was any-body’s guess. But when they did, they immediately experienced miraculous provision. 153 large fish! What made the difference? Jesus’s words. 

We are reminded in Scripture that apart from Christ we can do nothing (nada, zilch) (John 15:5). On the other hand, we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13). The disciples learned this lesson anew that morning. 

Lord, remind us anew to die to our self-efforts and heed your voice. Be our strength and provision today. Amen.

Die to Pride

John 21:15-19

As the seven disciples stood around the breakfast fire, Peter’s thoughts must have drifted back to days earlier when he stood by another fire while denying Jesus for the third time. 

After they had finished eating, Jesus addressed Peter (the Rock) by his other name: “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” (v. 15). Ouch! Peter must have recalled his words to Jesus on the night of the last supper: “Even if all others fall away on account of you Jesus, I never will” (Matthew 26:33). Jesus questioned Peter two more times: “Simon, do you love me?” Three questions for three denials. 

Did Jesus intend to shame Peter? No. Rather, he desired to reinstate Peter offering three directives: “Peter, feed my lambs. Take care of my sheep. Feed my sheep.” I am so thankful that Jesus doesn’t give up on us when we fail him. 

Thank you, Jesus, that you are our Savior who came to forgive us, restore us, and reinstate us when we fail you. Thank you that your mercies are new every morning. Amen.

Die to Criticism

Acts 9:1-6

“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied (vv. 4-5). 

I have presided over many wedding ceremonies, and never once have I heard anyone criticize the bride’s appearance on her wedding day. Instead, I typically hear encouraging words of admiration spoken about the bride. 

On the other hand, I regularly hear words of criticism unleashed against another bride—the bride of Christ. And these words coming from the mouths of other members of the body of Christ. When this happens, I believe it too offends the Groom, namely Jesus, who dearly loves his bride. I think we need to be more careful about the words we speak concerning Jesus’s bride (more specifically, each other). I don’t want to grieve the heart of the Groom. 

Jesus, may the words we speak about others today be pleasing to your ears and result in praise to your name. Amen.

Die to Playing It Safe

Acts 9:7-19

Have you ever wondered if you heard God, right?

Ananias was aware of the many negative reports about that persecutor of the saints from Tarsus named Saul. Now the Lord was calling him through a vision to pray over Saul to restore his sight. This seemed to be a huge risk. Had Ananias heard right? Was this vision truly of God? 

Ananias obeyed and had the privilege to be the conduit through which God would restore Saul’s sight, both physical and spiritual, and then go on to become the great Apostle to the Gentiles. How often do we avoid taking risks when we sense God prompting us to step out? 

Lord, do you really expect me to make that phone call, forgive that jerk, participate on that mission trip, share my faith, invite them over for
a meal?

Pastor and author Rick Warren said, “God never gives a task without the ability to accomplish it; when he calls, he enables; when he appoints, he anoints.” 

Lord, help us to trust and obey what you are asking us to do today. Amen.

About the Author

  • Jon Black

    I am married to Lynn, and we have partnered together in ministry throughout our marriage. I spent my first 19 years of ministry serving as a youth pastor for the Covenant churches in Salina, Kansas, and Lafayette, Indiana. For the past 15 years, I have served as the lead pastor at Countryside Covenant Church in McPherson Kansas. It is a joy to serve our congregation alongside a gifted staff. Additionally, I am privileged to currently serve as the chair of the Ministerium in the Midwest Conference. For leisure, I enjoy taking walks with Lynn, visiting our three grown children, playing tennis, and following my favorite teams (Purdue, Kansas State, the Bills, and the Chiefs). I also enjoy pizza and fast food way too much and am finally learning to eat healthier.

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