Looking to heaven

You might be surprised to know that the majority of my teen years were spent on a stage. I know what you’re thinking….. she must be a washed up Broadway wanna-be. Ha! Far from the truth. When I was entering middle school, Steve Seelig, the children’s director at my home church and my very dear friend known as Papa Steve, came up with this wild idea to make children’s worship like a Disney experience so that kids would be so eager to go to church every week. He thought if middle and high school students led children’s church with skits, songs, dances, and games, not only would the teenagers learn to serve and to lead, but also the younger kids would think church was “cool.” So children’s church became known as “JUMP” and the JUMP team was born.

You could say Papa Steve was a perfectionist. He required the Jump Team to practice every week so that every weekend we could give those elementary kids an experience with Jesus they had never had before. He wanted every dance to be clean, every song to be on pitch, and every skit to be just the right amount of funny. A lot of people wondered, “But it’s for kids at church. They won’t notice any mistakes. Does all that work really matter?” But that’s exactly why it matters. I learned something very important in my ten years working under Steve’s leadership: Jesus deserves our very best. So many times I find that people have a misunderstanding about ministry. To be blunt, they think it’s code for “I don’t have to work very hard.” Steve taught me that serving Jesus is quite the opposite. Kingdom work demands the most effort and our hardest work because lives are changed for eternity.

This week, Papa Steve lost his earthly battle with brain cancer but won his eternal victory with Jesus. I can only imagine the celebration that happened when he entered the gates of heaven. You see, Papa Steve knew that this world was not his real home. It’s fitting that Steve’s homecoming occurred as we approach Easter. When you lose someone dear to your heart, heaven becomes so incredibly real. So many times, we blow right through Easter with all the busy festivities without really thinking about the enormity of the sacrifice made because of the gravity of our situation.

Pilate demanded, “What crime has he committed?” But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!” So to pacify the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to be crucified. Mark 15:14-15

By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until 3 o’clock. The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last. Luke 23:44-46

The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead”! Luke 24: 5-6

“For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.” What was the joy set before Jesus as He bore the weight of our sin? It was you and it was me….. a love so great that no one on earth can understand, so powerful that it made a way for us to spend eternity in His glory.

So this Easter, take time to reflect on the cross and the enormity of His sacrifice. But remember, the story does not end on Good Friday. Celebrate the empty tomb and the magnitude of His victory over sin and death. Pursue Jesus with everything you have. And just like my Papa Steve, don’t give Jesus your second best here on earth.  

He is risen! He is risen indeed!!