On George Floyd and Our Nation

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Crosswinds Family and Friends,

I am sure your heart is aching as mine is today. Last week when I saw the disgusting treatment and murder of George Floyd, I was left speechless. The image still haunts me. I could not help but pray for the Floyd Family. I knew how this senseless act affected me, and I prayed for others who would watch and wrestle with all the questions and cry for justice. I also prayed for my friends in law enforcement. As a pastor, who bears the wounds of seeing others in my call abuse their position in unspeakable ways, I knew the pain they would feel seeing those who took an oath to serve and protect act with such evil and malice. As protest rose in Minneapolis, I was thankful that I live in a country where peaceful protests are not merely allowed, but protected by our constitution. I prayed for the protestors and asked God to bring healing and justice. Then, the rioting began. Krista, my wife, shared that a lady, who once was part of the student ministry I led and pastored posted that she was scared her restaurant in Minneapolis would be looted. I asked God to protect her and her business. As the rioting spread throughout our nation, I was grieved that it overshadowed the peaceful protest and asked God to restore order, bring peace, and justice.

I regret that I live in a time where prayer is downplayed and outright attacked as the act of wishful thinkers not willing to do more. Prayer is what our nation needs. I am reminded of God’s invitation offered to us in 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” We need God’s mercy, grace, and love. I hope, as a nation, we will humble ourselves, bow our knee before God, and pray.

Now, I agree prayer is not enough. I don’t mean that prayer is not powerful and necessary. It is our first step. It ought to be a believer’s first reaction in all things. We are to seek God, His path, His leading, and His power. But, we are to pray and obey. You and I are the hands and feet of God. We pray, then we follow His leading. We are Christ’s ambassadors (see: 2 Cor 5:20). We are “not to be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21). God calls us to do good by “doing what is just, loving kindness, and walking humbly with Him” (Micah 6:8). We are to “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isa 1:17). Doing good in God’s sight includes seeking the just functioning of society. Remember, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt 5:9). God calls us to bring His peace amidst the chaos.

Please, join with me in prayer for our nation and step out in obedience to our Lord’s leading with His empathy and love promoting justice and peace. I stand with George Floyd’s family. I stand with the protestors. I stand with the police who have taken an oath and rightly desire to serve and protect. I ask our Lord to bring order to our cities ravaged by rioting. I ask the Lord to deliver the rioters stopping their unjust acts. I humble myself before my God and ask Him to heal our nation. I ask Him to give me ears to hear and eyes to see how I can bring His peace to the chaos.

I love each of you. We have been given an opportunity to show up and be the church. Let’s be the light of Christ shining in the darkness. God is working and calling us to join Him in His great work of love, reconciliation, and redemption.

Believing with each of you,

Pastor Craig Cooper

God’s Family (Red, Yellow, Green)

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We are heading through this transitional season of phases into our new normal. It is exciting to make progress. I have been getting questions of when we are going to “re-open the church.” The truth is that we never closed. Crosswinds continues to know God and make Him known. I have been so encouraged by how my local church family has proved that the church is the sum total of God’s people who do the work of the ministry in the Spirit’s power and leading. We are not the church so we can gather, but we gather so we can do the work of ministry as we scatter. God has been faithful, and so too has my church family.
Now, I get it. When most people ask when the church will re-open, they are actually asking when we will again open the campus for weekend services. This is a good question. However, one that can’t be answered with any certainty until we can be assured we can do so safely, answering the reasonable concerns of our church family and community. We need to be able to provide a service that is inviting to guests and meaningful to God’s people while maintaining a solid witness to the communities where we live throughout this region.
Pastor Rick Warren, who wrote the book The Purpose Driven Life, coined the phrase that “God is more concerned about our character than our comfort.” This is true, but I also believe God is more concerned about character than our calendar. What do I mean by this? I believe God is more concerned about how we return to weekend services than when we will return to weekend services.
It is difficult to answer the when question. This answer is determined by some things outside any of our control. The how question is clearly answered in the Bible. No matter when we gather again for weekend services, God calls us today and always to be one, united in love, and in purpose. Jesus nearly two-thousand years ago prayed for us: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21). Our unity as believers comes from our participation in the unity of the Father and the Son. This deep unity of purpose in the bond of love is to be a convincing witness to the world that Jesus came from God. In other words, the way we act and relate to one another, as Christ’s church, either present a positive witness for Christ or a negative one.
It is important to acknowledge that people have different confidence levels as it pertains to gatherings of any size, especially large gatherings. Pastor Kevin Meyers of 12Stone Church, an acquaintance in Atlanta, Georgia, describes people in three categories. He uses the image of a green, yellow, and red streetlight to describe these three groupings of people. The green light represents those who can’t wait. They have their shoes on and ready to gather. Some estimate this group as comprising of 20% of our population. The yellow on the light is composed of those who are cautiously walking back. This group represents about 60% of our friends, families, and neighbors. This group wants to carefully process what they see and experience before they return to a church building. The last group, those represented by the red light, will not be coming back soon. They will remain connected online and through other means. This group represents about 20% of our population and is partly made up of our vulnerable population, as defined by the CDC (65 and over and/or have underlying health concerns). All three groups can back their beliefs by science. It’s not about right or wrong. Our higher call is to move forward together to honor Christ and present a positive witness to those yet to receive Him as Lord and Savior.
The Apostle Paul, understanding the nature of all of us to want to be right, writes: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Paul calls all believers, in the power and leading of the Spirit, to do away with selfishness and conceit. He is not challenging Christians to have an inferiority complex. It is not about thinking less of one’s self but thinking about one’s self less. Through the power of God’s love, we should give honor to others rather than claim it ourselves.
I see this violated in the mask debate. Those who wear masks declare those who don’t as uncaring, while those who don’t wear masks call those who do foolish. We need to stop shaming one another. In fact, we need to determine where the other person is on the streetlight (green, yellow, or red) before we proclaim our light color. We need to humble ourselves and act and react loving despite our differences by the grace of God.
We read in Ephesians 4:1-7 Paul’s call and instruction on how-to live-in unity. It is worth noting that Paul is writing while a prisoner in Rome. He writes to show consideration to others, making allowances for differences and even shortcomings. This is a part of godly love bringing unity and peace. As part of God’s church, we are to preserve unity. Unity is not extinguishing differences, but loving one another amidst differences. After all, the church is one body by the one Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is our one Lord in whom we have a common faith. God is the Father of all the Christian family. As God is one, so His true church is to be one. We also discover than in Christ, every believer has been given the abilities needed to build up His church in the unity of peace.
Unity is not effortless, but we do have the power to live in peace with one another in Christ. We bow to Christ, and He leads and empowers us to lift up others. Through the Spirit, we can bear with one another. Why do we need to bear with one another? Because sometimes people act like a bear or we do. As Christ showed mercy from the cross, He calls and gives us all we need, in Him, to do the same. This brings glory to God, unity in His church, and provides a mighty witness to those yet to receive Christ.
When everything is said and done, the real win is not returning to weekend worship gatherings. Although I, for one, greatly anticipate us doing so. The real win is growing in Christ, and while making Him know, make disciples. This is currently happening in and through Crosswinds. By God’s grace and power, this will continue. Crosswinds’ leadership is looking to the calendar as to how we can continue to grow in Christ and minister safely in and through the phases leading to our new norm. We will gather again, but as we move forward together, let’s encourage one another to allow the Spirit to form Christ’s character in us. After all, this is what God desires most for us. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Singleness

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When I was attending a Christian university, it was a common observation that many a young lady was pursuing a “Mrs. degree.” This, of course, meant that the real purpose of her college work was to get married. This was a little unfair since many guys were there for the same reason. There is nothing wrong with desiring to be married. If you are going to find a spouse, a Christian university is not a bad place to do so. But, I don’t believe pursuing marriage for marriage sake is all that healthy. God wants us to pursue Him and allow His Spirit to direct all aspects of our life, especially our relationships. God can be honored in our marriages as well as in our singleness.
Singleness is not something usually talked about in our culture. This is especially true in the church, where marriage seems to be the highest of relational goals. No doubt, marriage is God’s part of God’s plan to positively impacting culture and His plan to populate the earth. On the other hand, it is important to note what Jesus taught about singleness (Matt 19:12). He explained that there are good reasons for not marrying. For one, a single has more time to invest in growing in Christ and in advancing His kingdom.
Marriage is not God’s plan for everyone. I would also add that the decision to marry is not to be entered into lightly. It is essential to prayerfully seek God’s will before you plunge into the lifelong commitment of marriage. Marriage is a big deal. However, Jesus did not teach us to avoid marriage because it is inconvenient or takes away our freedom. That would be selfish, focusing only on our own benefit. Rather, singleness can be a wise choice. Further, it is a smart choice if that is where the Lord has currently led.
Scripturally we discover that marriage and singleness are both gifts from God (1 Cor 7:1-11). It is often wrongly thought that one is morally better than the other. Both are valuable. I appreciated my singleness, and I now appreciate my marriage. In both seasons of my life, I was able to grow and be used by God in kingdom work.
It is not wrong to be single and desire to marry. But, it is important to accept and find contentment in Christ in our present situation. The Apostle Paul wrote that he wished that all people be like him, unmarried. He was not anti-marriage. However, Paul knew a freedom in ministry others who were married were not able to experience due to added concerns of spouse and family. Again, he was not anti-marriage but is expressing the benefit being single had for him. For those single desiring to be married, I would encourage you to seek Christ, not marriage, and allow the Spirit to guide you in all your relationships. I was not seeking my wife, Krista, but as I sought the Lord, He brought her into my life and led us to enter into marriage. God knows what we need, and when we need it. He is faithful.
Church cultural sometimes can make singles feel less than complete in Christ. On the contrary, in Christ, it is possible to live a full and fulfilling life as a single. One does not need a spouse to be “complete.” Only Christ can make us complete. Whether single or married, we are to find our value and purpose in Him (1 Cor 7:25-40). We find wholeness in Christ. No doubt, in a god-honoring marriage, spouses help one another grow in Christ. Still, singles can partner in godly relationships with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to assist each other on their spiritual journey. Actually, as the church, we are called to help others learn what it means to become the person we have been created to be by God. Singleness is not synonymous with loneliness. God is fully present in a singles life, and God uses relationships within His church to provide Christ-honoring companionship.
If you are single, know that you are completed in Christ. God has a wonderful plan for you. If you desire to be married or don’t, focus on Him and allow His Spirit to lead your steps. This is not bad advice for those of us married as well. Christ completes us, and we are blessed to bless others when we follow His lead. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Marriage

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God’s original design for marriage allows for godly fruit to multiply throughout the world.  The Lord’s plan is to use marriage to assist couples to experience oneness with Him, each other, and others. His design for marriage leads to a wholeness, found only in Him.
We discover God’s original plan in the first book of the Bible, Genesis. In Genesis chapter one, we are given the creation account. Then, in chapter two, we read, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper (one who balances him – a counterpart who is) fit for him’” (Gen 2:18). As we jump down a bit are told:
So, the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept, took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen 2:21-24).
God’s original design for marriage is a committed partnership between a man and a woman.
Our Lord’s plan for marriage is three faceted. First, the man leaves his parents and, in a public act, promises himself to his wife. Second, the man and woman are joined together by taking responsibility for each other’s welfare by loving their spouse above all others. Third, the two become one flesh in the intimacy and commitment of sexual union that is reserved for marriage. Healthy marriages include all three facets of leaving, joining, and oneness.
Then we read this interesting verse, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Gen 2:25).  God’s original design for marriage intends for there to be a relationship of growing and open oneness. Adam and Eve were not ashamed in their innocence. When sin enter’s the world (Gen 3), we discover that Adam and Eve feel shame and try to hide their nakedness behind fig leaves and hide from God. Since then, barriers between husbands and wives and God are present and need to be addressed through the Spirt’s leading.
People’s desire is to be in a relationship where their deepest need for security and significance can be met. This is ultimately only possible in the Lord. Jesus prayed to the Father, on our behalf, and asked, “That we all would be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17:21). Oneness with another begins with oneness with God.
The necessity in building our oneness in marriage upon our oneness with Christ is clearly seen in the four courses married couples often take in meeting their needs in marriage. Some choose to ignore their needs and only experience shallowness in their marriage. Still, others attempt to find satisfaction in achievement. They try to cover their needs, but basking in worldly success at work and elsewhere. These marriages merely survive, but do so with a tremendous relational chasm existing between husband and wife. Others attempt to meet their needs in each other. This leads to exhaustion and frustration as it becomes clear that two imperfect people cannot meet the deepest needs (security and significance) of one another. Finally, some depend on the Lord to meet their needs. Such a couple discovers wholeness in Christ, which allows for their marriage to flourish since it’s built upon the Lord.
We ought not to expect our spouse to be or do what only God can do and be. God’s original design for marriage is only possible when both a husband and wife have a growing relationship with Him. Remember, God’s design for marriage provides a plan whereby He allows a couple to experience oneness with Him, each other, and others. God’s original design for marriage leads to a wholeness, found only in the Lord. As a couple experience oneness with Christ, they are empowered to experience oneness with each other and others that will produce godly fruit in the world.
Let’s be encouraged and encourage others, in their marriage, to do what is necessary to meet the challenge of committed partnership with one another. Let’s encourage those married to do the loving work of advancing a growing and open oneness in their marriage relationship. Let’s remember that the key to a healthy marriage is one built upon a husband and a wife having a growing relationship with God. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Motherhood

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It is apparent throughout the Bible that the family is the essential building block of human society. This is true of biological family’s as well as spiritual ones (God’s Church). It only makes sense then that the health of families matter. This is why it’s so important to acknowledge that whether you are married, divorced, single, or a parent, God has a plan to lead you to oneness with Him, and others and desires for you to experience a wholeness found only in Christ.
Let’s focus a bit on moms. Moms, both biological moms, and spiritual moms, who are not biologically so but spiritually are pouring into spiritual children, can make a significant impact on others. How can they do so? I want to look at an interesting verse from 1 Thessalonians. Paul writes:
“We were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess 2:7-8).
Paul compares himself, and the team of people with whom he planted the church in Thessalonica, to a godly mom. In doing so, he emphasizes two things. First, godly moms are called to express self-giving love (v. 7). Self-giving love is not thinking less of yourself, but less thinking of yourself for the benefit of others.
My youngest child was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. He had routine doctor appointments at the All Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, MN, that was two hours from our home in Wisconsin. My wife, Krista, set aside her career and sacrificially took our child to these appointments for the first few years of his life. If you were to make a fuss about it, she would respond by downplaying the sacrifice. Krista displayed self-giving love.
Many moms demonstrate self-giving love to their children. When moms show self-giving love to others, they are reflecting God’s love toward us (see: 1 John 4:7-11). God loves us with a self-giving love. He calls moms, in the same manner, to love others. In fact, He calls all of us to demonstrate a self-giving love to others.
Second, godly moms are called to give both their care and their knowledge. It has been said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Paul, like a good mom, gave both his care and his knowledge.
My mom’s wisdom was always packaged in care. I’m not saying that I consistently listened to her nor that I always appreciated it when she shared her knowledge with me. But, I can tell you that she didn’t just share her knowledge, then demonstrate no care for me. She cared deeply for my brother and me, and therefore her sharing of her knowledge was that much more powerful and palatable.
When moms or anyone else, for that matter, give both their care and knowledge, they are following God’s example. God has not merely given us His word or declared His love for us. He has demonstrated His love for us. Jesus did not die for righteous people or those who have done right for others, but for sinners, that is, for ungodly, unrighteous people living in rebellion against God (see: Rom 5:8). Jesus died for you and me. He has not just shared His knowledge with us through the Bible but has wrapped up the gift of His knowledge in the package of His caring love. This is why we are to share the love and message of Christ with others. God intends for His message to be shared in a package of genuine care.
God gives us both His care and knowledge. He calls moms to give both their care and knowledge. In fact, He calls all of us to give our care and knowledge to others. Moms, and actually each of us, can make a significant impact on our children, family, and those around us.
This occurs when we allow God to work in and through us by expressing self-giving love and giving our care and knowledge to others.
I want to celebrate all the moms (biological and spiritual) who take their call seriously, making an impact in the lives of their children, families, and others. Proverbs 31:28, when speaking of such a mom, declares that “her children will rise up and call her blessed.” Mom’s thank you for pouring your lives into others. I praise God for moms who worship and adore the Lord and pass this legacy along to others.
Let me encourage each of us to follow the example of our Lord and godly moms and express self-giving live to others. Let’s give our care and knowledge to those around us. No doubt, moms, and actually each of us, can make a significant impact on our children, family, and the world around us. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Hope Enduring

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In our current reality, it is noteworthy that events that occurred nearly 2,000 years has an amazing impact on our lives today. It’s incredible how these past events have changed everything for humanity. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, the apex of human history, to the birth of the church, those events brought hope and a renewed purpose in Christ. The hope the believer has in Him prevails and permeates in and through their lives to the world around them.
The prevailing and permeating of our Lord (His reigning and power working in and through believers surrendered to Him, as well as, His love and message of His salvation spreading through His people to a world yet to receive Christ) speaks not just of the individual believer, but also of His church (the sum total of all of us believers, as well as, local church families). As we the church work together, in surrender to Christ, His Spirit’s power is unleashed in and through us to advance His kingdom in our very own lives, our homes, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, our region, and beyond. We work together, under the Lord’s leading and in His power, to see His Kingdom come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We claim the promises of God in our lives as we allow Him to use us to claim territory in His name through our lives.
To illustrate what I am talking about here, I want to look at the Old Testament book of Joshua. Here are the words of God spoken to Joshua recorded in Joshua 1:3: “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.” What did God say to Joshua? “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you.” God then draws the outlines of the Promise Land – all theirs on one condition: that they shall march through the length and breadth of it, and measure it off with their own two feet. Now we know through Scripture that the Israelites only claimed one-third of the property, and consequently, they never had more than one third. The Israelites had just what they measured off, and no more. Think about it. The Lord had offered them two thirds more than they claimed. They settled for only a third of what they were promised.
Today for the believer, besides the literal ground, unoccupied for Christ, there is the unclaimed, untrodden territory of Divine promises. In 2 Peter, we read of another sort of “land of promise” that is opened up to every believer (2 Peter 1:2-4). Peter writes that these promises (the resources and power of heaven unleashed in the life of a believer) are opened up to us and are God’s will that we should, as it were, measure off that territory by the feet of obedient faith and believing obedience.
As we know God, we gain the essential foundations for Christian living. Knowing God is the key to all things that pertain to life and godliness. They come to us through God’s power. Here is an unfortunate reality. We are willing to try almost anything except the knowledge of God. We will trust in the schemes and plans of people instead of the knowledge of Him. We will try knowing ourselves instead of the knowledge of Him. However, we are called to know God.
Since these promises are a gift of God, our posture in claiming is not of demanding spoiled children. We confidently claim what God has promised as grateful children acknowledging that God is in control and is the power behind every promise and the determiner of how they will be fulfilled. Our claiming of God’s promises and territory is by God’s power unleashed in and through our lives as we walk by faith in Him. When we, God’s church, by faith, fully claim God’s promises and territory, God’s power releases the resources of heaven so that we can honestly know Him and make Him known.
God has offered us a magnificent territory for faith to lay hold on and march through the length and breadth. Let me encourage each of us to enter into all our inheritance. Let us lift up our eyes to the north and the south, to the east and to the west, and hear our Lord say, “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you.” We receive enduring hope in the Lord as He prevails and permeates in and through the lives of those around us.
It is such a privilege serving the Lord with each of you. Let’s open ourselves up to His prevailing and permeating in and through our lives to the world who desperately needs to receive the life offered only in Him. Let’s humbly claim the promises He offers us as we also claim territory in His name and by His power and leading. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Hope Awakening

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In our current reality, it is noteworthy that events that occurred nearly 2,000 years ago, within several weeks, literally changed everything for all of humanity. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and His ascension, we are offered eternal life. We are actually allowed to live the ascended life through our ascended Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Practically speaking of the believer’s life today, it presents hope as the Holy Spirit indwells them.
Among Christ’s last words to His disciples as these, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Christ is speaking of Pentecost, which the prophet Joel announced, some 600 years earlier, which would give birth to the New Testament church in the coming of the Holy Spirit to reside in all believers (see: Acts 2:1-3).
The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is descriptive, not prescriptive. In other words, the description of how the Holy Spirit came to those at Pentecost is just that. Today, a believer does not need to wait to be filled by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes into a person’s life at salvation permanently. The Holy Spirit empowers the believer to live a Christ-honoring life, but this does not guarantee that the believer will act this way. For a Christian to become more and more like Christ, he must yield to the Spirit Who assists him in prayer (Jude 1:20), leads him into righteousness (Gal 5:16-18), and produces fruit in him as he yields to the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).
When a believer yields to the Spirit, she is said to “walk in the Spirit.” To walk in the Spirit means that we surrender control of our lives to Him, following His lead, by allowing Him to influence our steps. In Galatians 5:1-25, Paul speaks about this walk, where he concludes with these words:
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal 5:24-24).
The hope for believers is found first, by the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, but continues as they rely on Him to guide them in thought, word, or deed (see: (Rom 6:11-14). This brings believers a hope awakening as the Spirit works in and through their life in power.
To walk in the Spirit, a believer must understand that sin keeps him from genuinely yielding to Him. Therefore, He must keep a short account with God (1 John 1:9). Since obedience and repentance make up the pathway to walking in the Spirit, the believer is to know God’s Word, the Bible, and in the Spirit’s power walk in its truth.
Simply stated, hope is awakened in us when we come to Christ and are filled with the Spirit. It continues as we partner with the Spirit, as our senior partner. We walk in Him by surrendering control of our lives to Him, following His lead, and allowing Him to influence our steps.
It is my honor and joy to journey in Christ with each of you. The Spirit’s indwelling is a fantastic gift given to us by Christ. Let’s encourage one another to “walk in the Spirit,” yielding to His leading, walking in His power, and glorifying God. Let’s allow this hope to awaken us. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Hope Ascending

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In these unprecedented times it is helpful to look back at the finished work of Christ that occurred 2,000 years ago and directly impacts our lives today. After Jesus rose from the dead, he “presented Himself alive” (Acts 1:3) to well over five hundred people. In the days following His resurrection, Jesus taught His disciples further about the kingdom of God. Then, forty days after the resurrection, Jesus and His disciples went to the Mount of Olives, near Jerusalem. There, Jesus promised that they would soon receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus blessed them and ascended into heaven. The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus’ ascension was a literal, bodily return to heaven that was observed by many onlookers. As the disciples kept looking into the sky, two angels appeared and promised Christ would return “in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
Much is spoken in churches about Christ’s death and resurrection and rightfully so. These two events radically changed the human predicament by offering us a right relationship with God. Jesus did, indeed, die for our sins and was resurrected for our salvation (Romans 4:25). Unfortunately, little is spoken of the ascension. This is a shame because Christ’s ascension marks His finished work in our salvation.
Jesus’ ascension signaled the end and signified the success of His earthly ministry. All that Jesus had come to do He had accomplished. It also marked the return of Jesus’ heavenly glory, symbolizing His exaltation by the Father (Matthew 17:1-9; Ephesians 1:20-23; and Philippians 2:9). The ascension of Christ allowed Him to prepare a place for us (John 14:2). It indicated the beginning of His work as our Mediator (Hebrews 9:15). Lastly, it set the pattern for His return. Jesus will return just as He left-literally, bodily, and visibly (Acts 1:11; Daniel 7:13-14; Matthew 24:30; Revelation 1:7).
What is remarkable is that God’s Word teaches that we are called to live an ascended life in Christ. Paul writes in Ephesians:
“Even when we were dead in our trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:5-7).
Paul, in these verses, is writing of the past, present, and future of God’s work of salvation. God loved us even when we were dead in our trespasses (sin). He loved us when we were not showing any love to Him (v. 5). God took those dead in sin and allowed us to share in Christ’s death so that we could share in the power of His resurrection. The old person we were before receiving Christ is crucified, and we are new creations in Jesus with the old things passing away and all things becoming new. This great work of salvation is not earned but by the grace of God offered through the finished work of Christ.
As if this is not enough, Paul writes, that we are seated “in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (v. 6). This is the present position of the Christian. We have a new place for living, a new arena of existence, being citizens of heaven. Since our life and identity is in Christ, as He sits in heavenly places, so do we. This means we have a right to the kingdom of God, filled with the joy of the Lord as we walk in fellowship with Him.
Then, Paul writes, that in the future, God will continue to show “the immeasurable riches” of His love toward believers (v. 7). God will never stop dealing with us on the basis of His extravagant love. He will forever continue to unfold heavens riches to us through eternity.
Today, the believer lives in the heavenlies with Christ. We are called to live an ascended life. Living the ascended life means you live as a citizen of heaven while dwelling on earth. You live as one who brings the kingdom of God into the relationships and circumstances of life. You think like Christ thinks. You possess heaven’s point of view seeing yourself as loved by God, fully resourced, covered in grace, and empowered by the Spirit to share the message and love of Christ to the world. We are to walk like Jesus walked, demonstrating what an ascended lifestyle really looks like to the world around us.
When we partner with the Holy Spirit, He leads us in the journey of becoming more and more like Christ, we are enabled to see from a heavenly perspective. We are empowered to address the situations of life from heaven’s viewpoint knowing that God is for us and not against us (Romans 8:31). In short, we live as those seated with Christ in the heavenlies, living the ascended life.
It is an honor to live the ascended life in Christ with each of you. I ask our Lord to teach us more and more through His Spirit how to live as citizens of heaven while we dwell here on earth. I pray we will gain heavens view and walk-in heaven’s power with the ascending hope of our Savior. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Hope Rising

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Easter has been an exciting time for me as long as I can remember. Sure, as a child, I enjoyed dying eggs, the Easter bunny, getting candy, and dinner with my family. However, it is the real reason for the season that began at a young age to foster in me a deep appreciation for Easter. The word “Easter” is related to the word “east,” which naturally points to the sunrise, to new days, and new beginnings. Easter is the remembrance and celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the life we are offered in our living Savior.
The Bible makes it clear that Jesus was resurrected on the first day of the week, Sunday (Matt 28:1). Jesus’ resurrection is most worthy of being celebrated (see: 1 Cor 15). His resurrection ought to be celebrated every day of our lives. However, this does not take away from the special time of remembrance and celebration of Christ His church has every year. Easter is about Jesus being resurrected from the dead and how this demonstrates that we can trust in His promise of eternal life by receiving Him as Lord and Savior.
We can understand the account and eternal implications of Christ’s resurrection by using the word Easter (E.A.S.T.E.R.) On Resurrection Sunday, followers of Christ found that the tomb was Empty (Lk 24:1-5). The tomb was not empty because someone had stolen Christ’s body, but because He was Alive (Luke 24:6). It is the Sacrifice of Jesus, His death, and resurrection that offers forgiveness of sins and salvation (Lk 24:6-9; Rom 4:25). The resurrection of Christ meant Triumph for Jesus and means sharing in His triumph for all His followers (Matt 28:16-18). The good news is that salvation is available to Everyone (Matt 28:19-20). All one needs to do is Receive Christ by “confessing Jesus as Lord and believe in his heart that God raised Him from the dead, and he will be saved” (Rom 10:9-10).
When we look at what Easter really means, it means that God loves us, Jesus is alive, and we can experience new life in Him. Easter means there is hope in Christ. In fact, Easter is hope rising. Jesus, our hope rising from the grave as well as hope rising in the life of everyone who comes to know the Gospel truth and receive Him as Lord and Savior.
At Easter, we will enjoy dying eggs. We won’t this year see Easter bunnies out and about. But that might not be so bad. We will give and receive candy. And, although we may not have gathered together to worship or share a meal with family and friends, I hope all of us celebrated in a big way, in our small spaces, our resurrected Lord, and the life we have in Him. All of this to say, amid our current reality, let’s not miss the genuine meaning and celebration-worthy truth of Easter.

The tomb was Empty.

Jesus is Alive!
His Sacrifice offers us salvation.
His resurrection demonstrates His Triumph as well as proves His offer of sharing in His triumph with His followers.
This promise is for Everyone.
It is for all who Receive Him as Lord and Savior.
Christ is worthy of our worship, our remembrance, and our very lives.
It is my privilege to serve our resurrected Savior with each of you. Let’s encourage one another to remember the real meaning of Easter. In response, let’s worship Him with our very lives and share the good news with others. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Hope Loving

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In these uncommon times if is good to remember that nearly 2,000 years ago, within 60 days, events occurred that literally changed everything. From Christ’s Triumphal Entry to His crucifixion, to His resurrection, to His ascension, and on to Pentecost, this period brought hope to a fallen world. The word hope in English often conveys doubt. For instance, “I hope it will not rain tomorrow.” Further, the word hope is usually followed by the word so. This is the answer some may give when asked if they think they will go to heaven when they die. They say, “I hope so.” However, that is not the meaning of the words usually translated “hope” in the Bible. Biblical hope carries no doubt. One of the verses in which we find the word hope is Hebrews 11:1. “Faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.” This verse carries with it all the confidence that comes with knowing for sure, with no question, what we have been promised by God in His Word and made available to all of us through the salvific work of Jesus Christ. Biblical hope is a reality and not a mere feeling because it is founded upon the Rock of our salvation, our Lord Jesus Christ.
We receive hope when we look at the events that took place during Passion Week. This is the time from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday. It is a week that begins with Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and comprises of Maundy Thursday, and of course, Christ’s finished work on the cross on Good Friday. Passion Week speaks of hope loving. Passion week speaks of Christ, who is our Hope, as well as the One in whom we place our hope, showing sacrificial love for each and every one of us.
Passion Week is described in all four Gospels and contained several memorable events (Matt 21-27; Mk 11-15; Lk 19-23; and Jn 12-19). Jesus cleansed the temple for the second time. Jesus disputed with the Pharisees regarding His authority. Jesus gave His Olivet Discourse where He spoke of the end times and taught many other things, including the signs of His second coming. Jesus meets with His disciples in an upper room where He washes His Disciples’ feet and institutes the New Covenant in His blood. He gives His disciples last-minute instructions and encouragement. He prays His “high priestly prayer” over His disciples as well as over all of His disciples at all times. Jesus goes to the garden of Gethsemane to pray as He waited for His hour to come. It is here that He, being betrayed by Judas, was arrested and taken to several sham trials before the chief priests, Pontius Pilate, and Herod (see: Lk 22:54-23:25). Following the trials, Jesus was viciously beaten beyond recognition at the hands of Roman soldiers, then was forced to carry His own instrument of execution, His cross, through the streets of Jerusalem along what is known as the Via Dolorosa (way of suffering). Jesus was then crucified at Golgotha on the day before the Sabbath, was buried and remained in the tomb until Sunday, the day after the Sabbath, and then gloriously resurrected.
We call this week Passion Week because, in this time, Jesus Christ truly revealed His passion for us in the suffering He willingly went through on our behalf and, in doing so, provides each of us with hope. The word passion is from the Latin pati, which means “to endure” or “to suffer.” Scripture often points to the suffering of Christ, indeed, the crucifixion of Christ as the apex of Human History and the grand theme of the apostles’ teaching (see: 1 Cor 2:2). It’s through the passion of Christ that we are made right with God.
We discover in Isaiah 53 hope loving. This prophecy speaks of the work of God’s suffering servant, fulfilled in Christ, our Hope, that is nothing short of exhibiting extreme love. Isaiah 53 foretells of Christ’s sacrifice, the witnesses’ initial reaction, and His truly salvific work. Through this prophecy, we receive hope from how others saw Him, how He bore our sins, from how Jesus suffered and died for us, His satisfaction, and salvific work and reward. Jesus’ passion was due to a settled purpose and love.
What is our response going to be to Christ’s passion? I would propose that we should be passionate in our worship of Jesus with our very lives. We ought to be moved to receive Christ as Lord and Savior and proclaim the good news to others of the salvation found in Christ. As Christ suffered for us, we should be willing to follow Him, no matter what suffering we may endure. In the passion of Christ, we see hope loving, as Jesus, out of love for us, endured suffering unto death, to save all who place their faith in Him as Savior and Lord.
I pray that this time of the year, where we celebrate the life, sacrifice, and resurrection of Christ, will bring you hope. I ask God to allow the hope we have in Him bear fruit as we worship Him with our lives by sharing His love and message with others. In Christ, we discover hope loving. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!