Grab Hold of Unexpected Opportunities

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Throughout my life, I have heard of people who bemoan the lack of opportunities they have been given. I have to ask, what would they have done if the opportunity had presented itself? Would they have been prepared to grab hold of the unexpected opportunity?

I first realized the lesson of grabbing unexpected opportunities when I was in High School. In my High School, Gibbs, I was one of a small group of Christians. Looking back, I realize it was a rough city school. However, I actually enjoyed Gibbs. A few friends and I began to meet at school for prayer. We asked God to give us opportunities to share His love and message with our classmates. One morning one of us said something like: “What would we do if an opportunity presented itself?” This set us on a journey of preparation. We began to study the Bible more intently, sought training and advice. We wanted to be ready when God answered our prayer. Soon opportunities presented themselves through a flood of circumstances. I remember, on one such occasion, a friend Ben, a self-proclaimed Satanist, asked if he could look at my Bible. I marked a passage I thought would intrigue him. Day after day, he would sit in the back of the class and read the passages I marked for him. He began to ask questions. I didn’t always have the answers, but I would find the answers, and we would discuss them. By the way, I am so thankful for the adults who served as leaders in my High School student ministry. They were such a big help. Back to the story… One day we had a study period, and he declared that he was ready to accept Christ. Right in the back of Biology class, Ben gave his heart and life to Jesus Christ. By God’s grace, I was able to grab hold of this unexpected opportunity.

There is an old Latin saying: “Fate rewards the prepared ones.” It is probably better understood as “The fates reward the prepared ones.” Ancient Romans believed that the fates were female personifications of destiny who directed the lives (and deaths) of humans and gods. Now I don’t accept this belief from mythology. But, I do believe that opportunities are more apparent to those who are prepared and that God provides opportunities to those who are prepared.

In Ruth 3:1-18, we discover a passage that beautifully displays the interaction between God and human efforts. God uses Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, to prepare Ruth so that she can seize an opportunity when it presents itself. Now I understand that we are not to step ahead of God, but we are not to lag behind Him either we are called to keep in step with Jesus. When we face unexpected opportunities, we can either become paralyzed by fear of the unknown or step out by faith in what we know to be true of God. Preparation helps us keep in step with Jesus and, therefore, grab hold of unexpected opportunities.

God is at work in the world, but he does not always work by direct intervention, but within the righteous acts of His followers, who grab hold of unexpected opportunities. Preparation is actually a sign of trust. The person preparing is trusting God for an opportunity. In this sense, I don’t see preparation as passive, but I would warn that it is not a guarantee of specific opportunities presenting itself. I will prepare and trust God with the results. I see unexpected opportunities as gifts from God. I want to be ready, and when opportunities present themselves, be prepared to open the gift. Side note, not all opportunities are right or good, but that is a topic for another time. I am speaking of opportunities God allows or places in our path to seize.

Imagine what it would be like for each of us to grab hold of unexpected opportunities in a way that honors God. I am so thankful I was able to do so in the back of my High School Biology class. It radically changed Ben’s life and mine as well. I believe grabbing hold of unexpected opportunities will change us, as well as the world around us. I pray God will help each of us be prepared to see and seize unexpected opportunities.

It is a blessing to be on mission with each of you. Let us encourage one another to intentionally be prepared while praying that God will give us eyes to see and courage to grab hold of unexpected opportunities. We and the world around us will never be the same. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Conduits of God’s Blessing

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When I was in graduate school, my family and I moved into family housing. Family housing was a trailer park, where we bought a trailer. This was a cost-effective venture, but meant that my wife, Krista, and I were responsible for the trailers upkeep. This was fine and good until our hot water heater went out and it was our responsibility to fix it. We had very little money, so paying someone to replace it was not an option. We sifted some cash from our tight budget and were able to purchase the heater. I found a gentleman at the local hardware store who generously offered his counsel, which I took him up on throughout the three visits back to the store that day (plumbing job!). The first miracle was that, after putting it in, it worked. The second miracle came later that day when Krista checked the mail. In the mail, that very day was a letter and check from the missions committee from a church in Michigan where Krista grew up. Inside the letter, the team let us know that they were running a surplus in their budget, and as they prayed, asking God what to do with the excess, the Lord brought us to mind. The check they sent was for the amount we had spent on the hot water heater. Tears flowed from our eyes as we gathered our children and together thanked God for His faithfulness to us.

God brought the miracles and did so through others as conduits of His blessing. A quick glance reveals that the gentleman at the hardware store was used by God to minister to me. I could not have put in the hot water heater without his guidance. The church in Michigan was a conduit of God’s blessing as they sent us a generous gift, not knowing how badly we needed it. The people who had given faithfully to that church were conduits of God’s blessing. Without their generosity, there would not have been a surplus in the missions budget nor the resulting gift to us. God provided these miracles, but, as He often does, He used people to conduits of His blessing.

In Ruth 2:14-23, we discover that the Lord uses a man by the name of Boaz to be a blessing to Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi. We find out in this passage that Boaz goes above and beyond the Old Testament Law’s requirement of caring for those in need. In fact, he not only provides Ruth the opportunity to gather the food needed for her and Naomi but made it extremely easy and very productive. Boaz exhibited a kind of generosity modeled after God’s generosity.

I am reminded that you and I may be the only Jesus people will ever see. Therefore, we ought not to simply sit back and pray for others to be blessed, we need to be open for the Lord to use us as an instrument in their blessing. The simple truth is that we are to pray for God’s blessing on others, but we also need to be open to being conduits of God’s blessing for others.

Boaz’s generousness reflects these words from Edward Everett Hale:

“I am only one,

But still, I am one.

I cannot do everything,

But still I can do something;

And because I cannot do everything

I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Imagine what our homes, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces – our region would experience as we place ourselves in God’s hands; being used as conduits of His blessing.  I believe miracles would abound, and God would be glorified, we would be blessed, and others would benefit, perhaps in coming to know Christ.

I feel so privileged to serve Christ with each of you. As we seek to know God and make Him know, let us encourage one another to be open to being used by God as conduits of His blessing. God is a miracle working God, and He often uses people like you and me to bring those miracles to others. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone!)

 

God is in the Details

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There are certainly times, even seasons of life where I am tempted to ask, “Where is God in all of this?”   I would guess that each and every one of us could relate. It is all too easy to wonder: “Is God in the details?” “Is God’s hand active in our circumstances?”

In Ruth 2:1-13 we find an account where there appears to be one coincidence after another happening in the life of Ruth. Now, a coincidence is an event coming together by chance. The writer is creatively introducing us to the reality that what can appear at first to be a coincidence, really is the providence of God. The world and our lives are not ruled by chance or fate but by God, who lays bare His purposes in redemptive history. We discover that the events unfolding in Ruth’s life are not coincidental, but God’s faithful and effective care and guidance of everything that He has made toward the redemptive end that He has chosen. In short, God is in the details of Ruth’s life even though His workings are not necessarily apparent.

If we were to look back at Ruth chapter one we would discover a life story that is introduced to us at a low point, there was a famine that led a family to leave their homeland in search of the daily necessities. While there, the family was plagued by death leaving Naomi, the matriarch and her two daughters-in-law, widows. They hear the news that the famine was over, and Naomi returns home with one of her daughters-in-law, Ruth. The account leads one to wonder where God is in all the loss and pain. However, out what appears to be hopelessness is a glimmer of hope. These two widows experience what, at a casual glance, seems to be coincidences, but in reality in the loving hand of God in the details of their life.

In one way or another, I think we can all relate to Ruth’s journey, All of us have wondered if God is in the details. Perhaps, you are sitting amid a situation where God’s hand is not evident. You feel alone. I encourage you to take courage. God is working. The things of life are not merely left up to luck. We may not understand the plan, but God has one. We can find rest in Him even in the unknown because God is actively present.

For each of us, it is a good reminder to replace thoughts of coincidence with an understanding of God’s hand always at work. It is good to be reminded to place our whole-self in His capable hands. Take a moment and imagine what it would be like for each of us to believe that God is in the details. I believe that our confidence in the Lord would birth within us the ability to trust God no matter what the circumstances. Think about it…the peace of God would be ours, and the power of God manifested throughout our lives.

It is an honor to be on mission with each of you. Let’s encourage one another to believe that God is always in the details. Let’s be encouraged that as His children He is always with us. Let’s hold on to Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” God is in the details, even when we can’t see Him at work and is working for the good of His own. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

From Famine to Hope

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It is remarkable how God has woven throughout the whole of Scripture a scarlet thread of redemption. Each book found in the Bible, in one way or another, points to Christ. One book that does this wonderfully is Ruth. Ruth is a story of love, devotion, and redemption.

Each and every one of us has a story. Each of us has a desire to experience love and redemption. Many of us can share how we have found redemption. We could share how God’s story has intersected with our own. What we’ll discover from the story of Ruth is an amazing account of redemption that is both personal and wide reaching.

Ruth’s story occurs during the time of the judges, roughly 1200 – 1020 BC, the time between Joshua’s death and the coronation of Saul. This is one of the darkest periods in Israel’s history, filled with social and religious chaos. Ruth is a positive account in a rather negative era.

We discover an Israelite family; a man, his wife, Naomi, and two sons decide to go to live among the people of Moab due to a famine in Israel. So they leave Bethlehem, their hometown, to live among a people who were traditionally their enemy. Their decision would have been seen as both shameful and dangerous. This family, leave what was familiar for the unfamiliar, the known for the unknown. They were strangers in a strange land.

While in Moab the two sons marry. One marries a woman named Orpah and the other a woman named Ruth. Tragically the man and his two sons die leaving Naomi and her daughters-in-law widows. Two questions are raised. What kind of God is it that cannot keep a single Israelite alive in a foreign but not distant land? And, has God lost control? The author peaks our interest. Indeed God can bring hope to the hopeless, but will He?

Naomi receives word that the famine in her homeland is over, so she plans to return to Bethlehem. She pleads with her daughter-in-law to remain in Moab. Naomi has nothing to offer them. She has no sons to provide them with as husbands. Both daughters-in-law argue with her to allow them to stay. But, Orpah eventually heeds her mother-in-law’s advice and returns to her people. Ruth, however, chooses to remain declaring:

“Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you” (Ruth 1:16-17).

Orpah did the sensible, expected thing, Ruth the extraordinary and unexpected.

The first chapter of Ruth ends with Naomi and Ruth returning to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest. The chapter begins with a family leaving Bethlehem due to famine and ends with two widows returning during a celebration of an abundant harvest. Amid a gloomy situation shines bright harvest fields and a devoted foreigner, Ruth. The chapter ends by exposing the first, faint rays of dawn on the distant horizon. The chapter leaves us with a glimpse of hope. We are left asking several questions such as: What does God have planned? Will Naomi and Ruth trust in the Lord and find Him faithful?

How about you? Perhaps, you are sitting in a circumstance with questions of your own for God. Let me encourage you, God is in control. There is always hope in the Lord. When God is at work, bitter hopelessness can be the beginning of some surprising good. In the remaining chapters of Ruth, we discover how God uses Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi to orchestrate a beautiful account of redemption for Ruth as well as for each and every one of us. Imagine what God can do in all the circumstances of our life, even the tragic ones. He brings hope to the hopeless and light to even the darkest of situations. The question we must answer, however, is: Will we find our hope in Him?

It is a privilege to be a part of Crosswinds. Let us encourage one another to find our hope in God. He is always in control and is always working. He loves us and is using our story to continue to weave the sacred thread of redemption found throughout the Bible, offered to all in Christ, and being experienced by everyone who places their trust in Him, throughout each of our stories as they intersect with God’s. I pray we will be found resting in His hope for us. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Generations

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Over nearly three decades of church ministry, I have become convinced that there is greater health in a church when it is multigenerational than in a single generation church. This does not mean that such a church is easy to lead. The advantage of a multigenerational church is its ability for the experience of an older generation pouring into a younger one as well as the innovation of a younger generation pouring into those older than them. The cross-pollination of ideas and thoughts, when rooted in God’s Word and prayer, while dependent on God’s Spirit, is invigorating to a church as they seek to know God and make Him known.

The challenge of a multigenerational church is that inevitably some people will feel left behind. This is in part due to the reality that a healthy multigenerational church is not multi-focused. In other words, a healthy multi-generational church is not trying to appeal to the vast variety of subcultures in each generation. The healthy multi-generational church understands that they must continually focus on emerging generations in style and practice, which is easy when you are part of the emerging generation, but increasingly difficult when the space between yourself and the emerging generation is growing (I am certainly in that boat). There is also a challenge for the emerging generation to acknowledge their lack of experience and wisely seek those who have journeyed longer on this world with Christ to gain godly insight.

How then can a multigenerational church overcome these challenges and remain healthy? I believe when a church keeps the main thing the main thing any church, including a multigenerational church, can be healthy and flourish in Christ. The main thing is our call to know God and make Him known. When we partner this with a desire to see emerging generations following Jesus, be changed by Christ and committed to His mission, then God is truly honored. This does not mean that a church is not concerned about seeing this happen throughout all generations. They certainly do, but do so understanding that the style and practices of the church need to be culturally relevant to the emerging generation. Churches who do not commit to a unique focus on the emerging generation will eventually find themselves lagging behind the culture, even church culture. This does not mean we abandon what is effective simply for the new, but it does mean we must continually evaluate what we do and make the shifts sooner than later. By the way, cultural relevancy does not mean compromising the truth. God’s truth is timeless, but the way ministry looks is not only adaptable but must be if a church is to remain healthy and flourishing.

I find Psalm 78:4 a key verse for the multigenerational church. It reads: “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” This verse challenges me to remember that the emerging generation is our opportunity and responsibility to raise them in knowing what it means to belong to Christ and His Church and become the person they have been created to be for God’s glory. This verse may be speaking of biological children, but as we look at the broader teaching of scripture certainly encompasses spiritual parenting as well. It is a great challenge, but when this challenge is met along with keeping the main thing the main thing, it leads to an understanding of the church that releases preference and even comfort to the more significant cause of seeing God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. I believe a healthy multigenerational church is best poised to see this accomplished.

I am honored and thankful to be a part of a church family that has, for well over a century, been a healthy multigenerational church focused on the emerging generation. I pray when Christ returns we will be found continuing to do so. I believe we will. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

We Thank God for Our Mothers

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It is hard to believe that just over a year ago my Mom had her homecoming. She passed shortly before Easter 2018. I continue to mourn the interrupted fellowship with her, while joyfully celebrating her being with Christ. In a real sense, heaven seems like an even more welcoming place knowing she is with our Lord. Her positive influence on me still ripples through my life. She was a great mom and grew to be a godly lady.

In the last chapter of Proverbs, a book filled with pithy and memorable sayings encouraging people to pursue wisdom, we discover the words that a mom of a king taught her son. In Proverbs 31:10-31 we find the description of a woman who loves and respects the Lord. These verses speak of a virtuous woman. The reason the king’s mother taught him these words was in the hope that her son would marry such a woman.

The king’s mother knew that her son’s choice of a wife would be a determining influence on his life. She understood that marrying a woman who truly loves the Lord and focusing his affections on her alone would lead to blessing and to not do so would be a decision he would live to regret. It’s hard to overstate the influence of a spouse and the positive influence of a godly lady.

Now it’s important to note that the lady described in Proverbs 31 is an idealized snapshot of a godly woman. You read and think, “she is perfect,” and she is. Remember, this is a mother’s description of the type of woman her son ought to marry. My point in bringing this up is that no one is perfect, but the description does describe the type of person we all ought to desire to be in Christ. The woman described is godly and is someone worth learning from and even emulating. She is someone to follow like Paul, the apostle, who wrote: “imitate me, just as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). Paul is not arrogant, but desiring that His walk with the Lord would positively influence others in Christ. It is truly a blessing to have the influence of godly people on our life.

Besides my Mom, I have been honored to have the influence of a few spiritual mothers. Spiritual mothers are those women in my life who have treated me as a spiritual child. They have positively impacted my life for Christ. Ladies like Mrs. Graham, my third grade Sunday school teacher, Ann Bragg and Janet Coates who were married to my Jr. and Sr. high Student Pastors, and Patty Bray my lead pastor’s wife where I served on staff right after college have had a profound impact on my life.

My wife, Krista, is a godly lady. Her love for our family and me is such a blessing. I have learned much from her and benefited greatly from her influence on my life.

There is a verse in Proverbs that reads: “Her children stand and bless her and her husband praises her” (Prov 31:28). Those who know the Proverbs 31 woman best honor her. As I read this verse, I am reminded to honor the women who have made such a positive impact on my life. I am indebted to each of them. Like my Mom, their influence still ripples through my life.

It is my joy to journey with Christ with each of you. I hope you have, like me, had the privilege of godly woman pouring into your life. If so, I hope you will join me in taking the time to honor them by saying thanks. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Living the Abundant Life

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Jesus declared that He had come to give life to the fullest – abundant life (John 10:10). Abundant life is eternal life, an experience that begins the moment we come to Christ and receive Him as Lord and Savior, and goes on throughout eternity. Jesus Himself provides the biblical definition of life –especially eternal life: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). It’s interesting that this definition makes no mention of length of days, health, prosperity, family, or occupation. As a matter of fact, the only thing it does mention is knowing God, which is key to true abundant life, which is spiritual abundance. The Christian life revolves around, as Peter writes: “Growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18a). This teaches that the abundant life is a continual process of learning, practicing, and maturing, as well as, failing, recovering, adjusting, enduring, and overcoming. We are to know God and make Him known.

There is a fascinating account of a post-resurrection appearance of Christ found in the twenty-fourth chapter of Luke’s Gospel. We discover that two of Christ’s disciples are traveling to Emmaus from Jerusalem on Resurrection Sunday when a Jesus, whom they do not recognize, joins them. Together they walked and discussed the life of Jesus of Nazareth. The disciples are mourning Christ’s death and the death of hope. But, as they travel Jesus explains from the Scriptures all that had just occurred. The Divine Author of the Book explains His work, connected the dots throughout sacred history to the events that had just taken place.

When they reach Emmaus, the Scriptures tell us that Jesus acted as if He were going to continue on, but the disciples ask Jesus to stay with them. In fact, the passage says that they “constrained Him to stay.” He remains and later at supper the disciple’s eyes are opened, and they recognize Him. Jesus had promised that He would show Himself to those who love Him (see: Jn 14:21), and this is precisely what He does on the road to Emmaus. Jesus then vanished, and the two disciples return to Jerusalem where they pronounce to the eleven apostles that the Lord had risen!

The Emmaus road account shows us how the Old Testament and its prophecies point to Jesus. It also provides an evidential appearance of Jesus, which supports the resurrection of Christ. Lastly, the account presents us with a model of the journey Jesus makes with us today, leading us to live the abundant life. Jesus still opens our eyes so we can recognize Him. Jesus still points us to His Word, the Bible. As we study Scripture, we have the privilege of having access to God. The purpose of the Bible is to point to God. Jesus still reveals Himself to us.

The disciples on the road to Emmaus did not expect Christ to show up. They were mourning His death as well as the death of hope. But, once Christ shows up amazing things happen. What catches my attention is what they might have missed if they hadn’t “constrained” Him to stay with them. I believe Jesus would have proceeded and they would have none the wiser of what they missed.

I am challenged to live a life expectant of God showing up. Wondrous things happen when we begin to expect God to show Himself to us. I am also challenged to ask myself one crucial question, “How much of Jesus do I really want?” I realize that it’s not Christ who limits Himself in my life, but me. Our Lord is willing to offer as much of Himself as we want. This means that I get as much of Him as I truly want. I can simply be satisfied with a little of Jesus in my life here and there, or I can receive the fullness of Christ on every step of life’s journey.

I pray that my answer to, “how much of Jesus do you really want” is that I want all He is willing to offer me. I am thankful that in every situation in life, that I have the ultimate source of power and love with me on my Emmaus Road. I merely need to recognize Him, be expectant, and be open to all He has for me. This, at least in part, is what it means to live the abundant life – to know Him and empowered to make Him known.

It’s a privilege to serve our Lord with each of you. Let us ask God to make us ever aware of His presence and encourage each other to live expectant of His workings in and through us. I pray that our answer to, “how much of Jesus we really want,” is as much as He offers us. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Living the Ascended Life

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After the resurrection of Christ, He presented himself on twelve occasions to groups ranging from one to as large as five hundred people. Jesus taught His disciples about God’s kingdom. Forty-days after the resurrection Jesus went with His disciples to Mount Olivet, near Jerusalem. Jesus promised His followers that they soon would receive the Holy Spirit and instructed them to remain in Jerusalem until the Spirit had come. Then, Jesus blessed them and ascended into heaven (see: Luke 24:50-51& Acts 1:9-11).

Just as Jesus’ resurrection was a bodily resurrection, where Jesus had died on the cross and was resurrected on the third day, His ascension was a literal, bodily return to heaven. Those present observed Jesus ascend until a cloud hid him from their view. Two angels appear and promised Jesus would return in the same way they had seen Him go. The ascension of Christ is a remarkable account that is meaningful for all of us.

The ascension is meaningful to us because it signaled the end of His earthly ministry. Jesus had come to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Christ came to die for our sins and be resurrected for our salvation. Sin had separated us from God and brought upon us a death sentence. Jesus died in our stead so that we can find new life and spend eternity with Him (see: Romans 4:25 & 6:23). The ascension signifies success in the earthly work of Jesus Christ. He had accomplished what He had come to do.

The ascension is meaningful to us because it symbolized His exaltation by the Father (Ephesians 1:20-23). When the Father received Jesus, He was honored and given a name above all names (Philippians 2:9). Jesus returned to His heavenly glory where He loving serves as our Mediator to the Father (see: 1 Timothy 2:5 & Hebrews 9:15).

The ascension is meaningful to us because it allowed Him to prepare a place for us (see: John 14:2). In John’s Gospel, we discover a conversation Jesus had with His disciples about His leaving them. Jesus tells His disciples that He will be leaving them soon. The disciples are troubled that Jesus is going away. So He encourages them that He is going to prepare a place for them in paradise. Jesus also declares that He would return and take them to be with Him. This promise was not just to those He was directly speaking to, but to all of His followers throughout the ages. Anyone who is in Christ is promised renewal for today and a blessed future with Him for eternity.

Much is spoken in churches about Christ death on the cross and resurrection and rightfully so. These two events radically changed the human predicament and opened the door for all to find salvation and life in Christ. But, unfortunately, little is spoken of the ascension. This is a shame because; the ascension marks Christ finished work in our salvation. It signifies His being accepted by the Father, as well as, the acceptance of all to God who has received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The ascension also introduces us to the reality of Christ preparing a place for His followers and His promise to return and take us to be with Him for eternity.

I am so grateful to follow Christ with each of you. As we celebrate Christ this Easter season, let’s not forget about His ascension and how meaningful it is to each of us. Because of Christ’s ascension, we can live the ascended life, a life filled with the power and promises of Christ. Jesus as our ascended Lord leaves no doubt about who we are, whose we are, and what we are all about in Him. Just like His first disciples, we are to share His love and message with others as witnesses of our Lord (see: Acts 1:8), so that all will be ready for His return. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Living with Resurrection Power

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I have always enjoyed celebrating Easter with my church family. Easter commemorates the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. I insert the qualifier “bodily” to unmistakably affirm that Jesus indeed died on the cross and was resurrected on the third day. This magnificent event is recorded in all four Gospels. Not only in the accounts do we read that the tomb where Jesus had been buried was empty and that an angel declared Christ had risen, but Jesus visited His disciples and many others after His resurrection. In fact, Jesus appeared on twelve occasions to groups ranging from one to as large as five-hundred. The empty tomb displayed that Christ was not there and the appearances that He is alive.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a historical fact that holds eternal consequences for those who believe. This truth begs the question, “What difference does the resurrection make in my life?”

Let me share with you three realities from Christ’s resurrection that impact our lives.

The first reality is that because of Christ’s resurrection, we don’t have to despair. On Friday Jesus was hanging on the cross. His followers believed their hope had been shattered, but what they didn’t know, and we do is that Sunday was on the way. When Jesus Christ rose from the dead on Resurrection Sunday, He proved that the hope He proclaimed was real, and so was God’s power at work in the world. When I consider the resurrection it encourages me to understand that no matter how bad things might look at any given moment, God has the power to change me and/or change my circumstances. God is in control, and as I look to Him, I am assured that He is with me. Paul writes to the believers in Rome: “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). God causes “all things” to work for the spiritual “good” of those who have entered into a saving relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. Jesus made such a relationship possible through His death and resurrection. Believers can be confident that nothing can hurt them so deeply that God can’t turn it around for their good. The resurrection presents us with the reality that we don’t have to despair.

The second reality is that because of Christ’s resurrection renewal is possible. One of the most precise descriptions of what Jesus accomplished on the cross is found in Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth. He writes: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). We have been offered a right relationship with God only because Jesus died for our sins, removing its eternal consequence – death (see: Rom 6:23). In Christ’s death, He took the punishment for our sin so that we might be forgiven and the righteousness of God might become a reality in our lives. The resurrection of Christ demonstrates that no sin is too terrible to be forgiven. Jesus took upon Himself the sins of the world – every sin each and every one of us every committed – and God the Father still resurrected Him from the dead. Through the resurrection, God proves that He has the power to bring us salvation. The resurrection presents us with the reality that renewal is possible.

The third reality is that because of the resurrection, we know that there is life beyond the grave. In John’s Gospel, we are presented with an account of Jesus preparing His disciples for His departure (see: John 14:1-3). The disciples are troubled that Jesus is going away. So He encourages them that He is going to prepare a place for them in paradise. He also declares that He will return and take them to be with Him. This is true for all believers. The resurrection proves that Jesus has the power to live up to His claim to come and take us to be with Him for eternity. The resurrection presents us with the reality that there is life beyond the grave.

The resurrection presents us with some fantastic realities. In Christ, we don’t have to despair. Renewal is possible. There is life beyond the grave. The people who encountered Christ between His resurrection and His ascension all discovered a powerful sense of hope because of His presence with them. The good news is that every believer can experience that same sense of hope today. I wonder how God, at this very moment, wants to fill you with hope, offer you renewal, encourage you that this life is not all there is. Jesus came, died, and was resurrected to make us alive!

It is an honor to serve Christ with each of you. I hope the reality of Christ’s resurrection reigns in your life. He has risen and desires to make each of us alive in Him. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Journey to the Cross 4-15-19

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Jesus declared that He came so we could experience abundant lives (Jn 10:10b). The simple truth is that in Christ we are truly alive. There is an account recorded in all four gospels that reveals much about this amazing work of Christ. I am speaking of The Triumphal Entry. The Triumphal Entry sets off a week that begins with celebration and ends with Christ sacrificial death on the cross for the sins of the world.

We discover in Matthew’s account of The Triumphal Entry that Jesus entered Jerusalem amidst great fanfare riding on a donkey (Matt 21:1-8). There is great significance in Jesus riding on the donkey. Every person present as Jesus entered into Jerusalem would have understood the significance of how a king entered a city. Kings often entered cities in one of two ways. He would either enter on a warhorse or on a donkey. It might seem strange to think of a king riding a donkey. I would guess most of us, if not all of us, picture a king riding into a city on a white stallion clad in royal attire, but that wasn’t always the case. In biblical times, the way a king entered a city represented the reason (the why and how) he came. If the king came ready for war, he entered on a warhorse. But, if the king came in peace, he entered on a donkey.

Jesus entering Jerusalem riding on a donkey was a symbol of peace and one prophesized nearly 500 years earlier by the prophet Zechariah (see: Zech 9:9). Jesus entering into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, was indeed a peaceful entrance. This peace Christ brought is not temporal, earthly peace, but peace between God and humanity. Through Christ coming and death on a cross the chasm between God and humanity, due to sin could be bridged. Once and for all humanity’s sin would be paid for all people. Jesus came to redeem us. He came as the “Prince of Peace” (Isa 9:6).  The Triumphal Entry displays Jesus coming in peace to offer peace.

As if this is not enough there is even more revealed in this account found in the Gospels (see: Matt 21:9-11). Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem occurred during Passover. In Exodus 12 we discover the origin of Passover. After about 400 years of God’s people living in Egypt the last of which was spent as slaves under the harsh regime of the current Pharaoh, God heard the cry of His people and sent Moses to lead them out of bondage. Pharaoh stubbornly refuses to let God’s people go. Even after nine plagues, he refuses to let them go. God has one last plague that will prove to break Pharaoh. Before the last plague, God has some very important details that Israel must do to be protected, which sets this plague apart as very different from the others. God initiates a new beginning for Israel as a nation and instructs them to choose an unblemished one-year-old lamb and bring it into their house for four days, and on the evening of the fourth each family would take their lamb and kill it and wipe the blood on the doorposts of their houses. Those who followed the command would be protected, and the angel of the Lord would “pass over” them and only inflict the last plague on those without blood stained doorpost.

As Jesus entered into Jerusalem, there was another significant event taking place. The priestly shepherds who kept watch over the Passover lambs were leading them into Jerusalem. Think about it, the same day Jesus, who John the Baptist proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29), was entering Jerusalem was the same day the unblemished lambs were brought from the fields of Bethlehem and brought into Jerusalem.  Four days later the lambs would be sacrificed, just as Christ would be on the cross.

You see Jesus, is indeed, the once and for all Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus was unblemished just as the Passover lambs, for He was without sin. Jesus’ blood would be poured out on the cross just as the sacrificial lambs’ blood was poured out. Jesus was our substitute and died in our place on the cross as the Passover lambs were a substitute for the people of Israel and died in place of their firstborn. The Triumphal Entry introduces Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!”

When Jesus died on the cross, He died on our behalf. He paid the price for our sin and provided a way for us to experience eternal peace, to be redeemed and restored to God. He died that we may be made alive, having abundant life. The Triumphal Entry reveals more than palm branches, a donkey, and an excited crowd. He came in peace and died to bring us salvation and peace so that we can truly be alive, experiencing abundant life.

Only trusting in Christ can save you from the consequences of sin, which is death. Only His sacrifice as the “Lamb of God” can bring you salvation and peace. As we remember that entry of Christ into Jerusalem, those many years ago, I hope we do so with great gratitude for His sacrifice and love for us that allows us to know Him and that we are spurred on to make Him known. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!