This Week...Seeking and Finding
Wealth, power, influence, Zacchaeus had it all. Sure, those he cheated didn't think much of him, but the privileges that wealth brought him were worth it. Zacchaeus was living his best life. He could do anything he wanted to do. He could go wherever he wanted to go. With the Roman sword there to back him up, he was practically untouchable. And yet, he still felt compelled to get a glimpse of Jesus. Not only did he a get a glimpse of Jesus, he had him over for dinner. What happens next is nothing short of divine.  

The nerdy kid who becomes the hero of their high school. The number 14 ranked basketball team that makes it to the championship. The inspiring story of a single mother who starts a successful business. We all love an underdog story! There's something within us that wants to see the "little guy" win. This week, Jesus reveals himself as the Messiah to the most unlikely person you can imagine. He turned her life upside down, and I believe that he wants to do the same for us.

Jesus came, lived the perfect life, died on the cross for our sins and raised himself from the dead. He told us he came so that we might have "life and life to the fullest." Looking at the lives around us including our own, there's doesn't seem to be an abundance of full lives. People are angry. They're fighting with each other. Addictions of all kinds are destroying lives. Fear dominates the headlines as well as our own hearts. Does an encounter with Jesus have the potential to bring about a fresh start in life even in a world filled with hate? Over the course of the next four weeks, we'll dig deep into the stories of four vastly different people as their lives intersect with Jesus. As a result, they begin to experience their best life. Maybe, just maybe, they can help us find ours.

Most often, when we try to find or reach someone and aren't able to, it's disappointing and frustrating. Easter morning was no exception. Jesus' friends came to his tomb to give him a proper burial and his body was gone! He wasn't there. Quickly, however, their disappointment and frustration turned into great joy. Stunned, they saw him, touched him, talked to him and even ate with him. He raised himself up from the dead! Very intentionally, after his time to return to heaven had arrived, he led them to Bethany, the same place where he raised Lazarus weeks earlier. There, he blessed them as he ascended out of their sight. They returned to Jerusalem rejoicing, armed with a message capable of paving the road from earth to heaven for any who believe -- "He's alive!"

Jesus knew what was coming. Yet, in ways mysterious, his foreknowledge did not liberate him from its harsh realities. He told the disciples up front that their friend Lazarus' story would not end with his death. Nope. It would end with the Son being glorified bringing glory to the Father. Sickness, death, "Where were you?" direct hits, grief, mourning and weeping left Jesus exploding with guttural groans and sobs. He was broken in the very graveyard he knew his friend would leave very shortly. So many questions. Later, Lazarus himself feasted with Jesus at a dinner that was given in Jesus' honor. Perhaps it's simply not possible to have the feast without the graveyard.  

The subject of life after death is one that will never lose interest for people. The Bible tells us that God has set eternity (a sense of forever) in our hearts. There's a built-in understanding that our brief time on planet earth is not the end of our story. Everyone, even if it's to reject it, responds to the life after death question in one way or another. Jesus raised at least three people from the dead before he himself rose from the dead. Each instance was filled with significance and meaning. During this series, we'll pursue the life after death question through the lenses of these life after death stories. It's kind of a big deal. After all, if it's true that there is life after death, then all of us go somewhere forever.

With his pen nearing the time he puts it back in the ink bottle, Paul closes his second letter to the Corinthian church with a call to decision. At some point in time, the conversation has to end and people have to make their decisions. Paul has made his defense of his authority and his Gospel. Along the way, he has taught them and us wonderful truths. Now, he calls them to decision. He tells them what he has decided and now the proverbial ball is in their court. In this bold finish, he provides incredible insights about decision making we all need to know. 

As Paul begins to wrap up his defense of his apostleship, he lays out a puzzling apparent contradiction -- "When I am weak, then I am strong." No doubt his original audience found it confusing as well. After all, when we're strong, we're strong. When we're weak, we're weak. Everyone knows that. The Corinthians were all about the strong and the flashy. The worldly skills of these false apostles were quite impressive to them. Here, in II Corinthians 12, Paul reveals truth that will inspire and liberate all of us. The burden of maintaining an image of strength is absolutely exhausting. Paul goes so far as to say that he is glad to boast about his weaknesses. This week is shaping up to be a life-changing conversation. 

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