Sunday, March 27, 2016

He is not here, He is risen!

Happy Resurrection Sunday, friends! What a day to celebrate!

As I scroll through my social media page, I see countless smiles, families dressed in their best, enjoying this day we call Easter. It makes my heart happy to see the people of God enjoying the day that transformed our lives.

Granted, over two-thousand years ago the disciples were dressed a bit differently and were anxiously awaiting their fate. Some doubted whether or not Jesus would actually do as He said, and rise from the dead. Sure, He had the power to heal and free others, but could He actually be victorious over death?

We’re blessed because we know the end of the story, we know that Jesus did as He said and conquered death, and we know that He reigns victoriously in heaven waiting until God releases Him to catch us all away! This knowledge makes today the most exciting day on the church calendar!

Without today Christmas is pointless.

Without today Lent has no significance.

Without today Palm Sunday was just another time mankind welcomed the wrong Messiah.

Without today Good Friday isn’t good at all.

But because Jesus rose from the dead, we live and all of the previous events are significant.

Today is the day that Christians live for!

Jesus is alive! He fulfilled His purpose and conquered sin, death, and hell.

We have life today because of Jesus’ victory. We have freedom and forgiveness because He made it possible. It is all because of Jesus, and His victory, that we are alive.

Since this day, the body of Christ as been on the move and growing throughout the world. The power of Jesus literally changed the world and is continuing to change lives today. I hope to continue exploring the growth of the church as we journey on throughout the next few weeks together, but today I want to focus on a passage of scripture that speaks to all of us today.

Earlier I mentioned that some of the disciples had trouble believing if Jesus was actually going to do as He said and raise from the dead. Even after Jesus started revealing Himself, some had difficulty believing the testimony of others. To one disciple, Thomas, Jesus said in John 20:29, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

That’s right. This verse speaks to all of us. Unless you have been blessed with the overwhelming gift of seeing Jesus face to face, you fall into this category of those who believe but have not seen. We know, through faith, that Jesus rose from the dead and now sits at the right hand of God the father in heaven.

It is by faith that we love Him, stand on His Word, and share His truth with others. It is by faith that countless Christians, right now, are laying down their lives in death for His namesake. Because of this faith, Jesus says we are blessed. We are blessed for our faith in Him regardless of what our eyes have seen or haven’t seen. We know that Jesus rose again and believe the testimony of those who have gone before us; therefore, in His eyes we are blessed.

The first time we see Jesus will be when He welcomes us into the eternal life He purchased for us with His blood. Whoa.

So, what’s the point to this Resurrection post?

The point is this:

If you know Jesus, I celebrate with you today. I rejoice with you that our sins are forgiven and we are made whole in Jesus. Hallelujah, He is risen! I also encourage you to share this joy and freedom with someone else. After all, Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. Now that you have been found, lead someone else to Him. Take this gospel, this good news, to the broken world around you.

If you do not know Jesus, I welcome you. There is a reason you were drawn to this blog. I believe it is because of the love Jesus has for you. He desires to free you from all sin, shame, and pain. He loves you so much that He went to a cross and battled with hell, all for you. He won the battle for you. He was victorious so that you might live. My role in all of this is merely to remind you that you need only to believe. Recognize that Jesus is who He says He is – Lord of all, Savior of the world, Son of God. Believe that He did exactly as He says – went to the cross, was buried in the tomb, and resurrected three days later with victory over sin, death, and hell. Let Him know that you need salvation from your sin. Jesus is waiting for you. He loves you with a truly everlasting love. Today is the day! What better day to do so than resurrection Sunday! I encourage you to open your heart to Jesus. Open your heart and believe. After all, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Happy Easter, everyone!



He is not here, He is risen!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Focus on Jesus - Part 1

Okay, confession time. I have been struggling with inspiration lately. I keep having ideas that end up in my writing journal but never in a word document. Yesterday, as I sat in my big comfy chair and stared out the window looking at the bright blue sky and cotton-shaped clouds, I settled on a thought. 

This week we should focus on Jesus. I'm sure you're thinking, “this is a Christian encouragement blog, of course we're going to focus on Jesus.” And you would be right to have that thought, but I mean this in a more specific way. This week we should focus on Jesus and the week leading up to His death. 

On the Christian calendar this week is known as “Holy Week.” It is the week when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem for the final time because He would spend this week being tried and killed. For all of us, this is the time that began the rest of our lives, because it was in this week that Jesus died and purchased our freedom from sin with His blood. But, I must stop because I am getting ahead of myself. 

Today I encourage all of us to think about Jesus’ grand entry into Jerusalem. After all, today is Palm Sunday (it received this name because that is what the people waved at Jesus as He rode into town on a donkey). Men, women, and children lined up along the streets and welcomed Jesus into town because they believed Him to be their Messiah. In their minds He would save them from Roman oppression. In reality, He was going to save them from eternal damnation and the greatest enemy this world has ever known – Satan. 

I'm not going to focus on the faults of the people but rather their initial response to Jesus. In John 12:13 we read “So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 

There is so much happening in this small portion of scripture and I look forward to reviewing it together as we enter this Holy Week. Here the people acknowledged Jesus as King. Again, they believed He would save them from their earthly woes. For a man that was simply going to free them from an oppressive government, they waved palm branches, and they laid down their own coats at the donkey’s feet to welcome this man into the city. They sang and shouted His praises; saying hosanna “which signifies salvation (Henry).” All of this for a king of flesh and blood.

We know today that Jesus was more than a mere king. He is the Savior of the world, Lord of all creation, author of perfection, bright and morning star, end and the beginning, and king of all kings! Jesus is almighty God. He defeated Satan and conquered sickness, death, and hell. He is all of this and more!
Yet, when we come to worship Him in corporate or private settings, what does it look like? Is it tainted by obligation? Is it over-shadowed by other responsibilities? Is it “old hat” because we've done it for so long? 

If the people of Jerusalem could “roll out the red carpet” for a man they thought to be a mere king, should we not do the same (if not more) for our Savior? The one who shed His own blood for us? 

My challenge to all of us this week is to focus on Jesus – the king of all kings. If you have trouble breaking out of your mundane worship rituals, try starting this way: “Hosanna, Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Work Cited 
Henry, Matthew. "Commentary on John 12." Blue Letter Bible. 1 Mar, 1996. Web. 20 Mar, 2016. <http://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Jhn/Jhn_012.cfm>.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Job: An Example of Genuine Prayer

Hello Friends! 

A few weeks ago we looked at prayer and how we can use it in our daily routine. I hope that those few notes from Max Lucado were helpful and that you have found yourself spending more time (even if it was only a few extra minutes) talking with God.

This week I would like to continue with that thought and get a bit more personal.
Two of my dear friends and I have been working through the same one year Bible. Together, we completed the book of Job (the Bible we have chosen works through scripture chronologically). As I spoke with one of them recently, we shared our thoughts regarding Job. I was so encouraged by our conversation and I wanted to share it with all of you.

Many times we see one perspective of Job. He was a man who endured losing everything while staying faithful to God and in the end was rewarded with even greater blessings. To someone who has never read the book of Job, he comes across as bit of a spiritual “Superman.” This illustration of Job is not incorrect. He did lost everything. He did remain faithful to God. God did restore Him. But… there’s a lot more to Job than just this neat and clean “though He slay me, yet will I trust Him (Job 13:15)” montage.

Job is one of the most honest characters in the Bible. He tells God exactly how he feels throughout his entire journey. There are moments when Job is handling his loss rather well and others where He feels completely abandoned and frustrated with God.  

Have you ever been in a place like that? A major event happens in your life (loss of a loved one, destroyed dreams, eviction from a home, devastating news from a doctor, etc.) and you are fine with God. You are saying all of the right things, believing and trusting what you know from the Bible and experience, and dealing with your emotions better than anyone expects. Then, out of the blue, you lose that resolve and begin to deal with the raw brokenness. Perhaps you stop talking to God. Maybe you keep talking to Him but it comes out more aggressively. If you’re like me you know the right answers but have immense difficulty applying them to your situation. Well, take heart my friends, you are not alone.

When we read the book of Job we see that he didn’t immediately dust himself off and “get over it.” No, he had genuine conversations with God, asking Him what the purpose was in all of his agony. In chapters 29 – 30 he even whines a bit as he tells God that men who used to praise him now mock him.

Here’s the real “kicker.” What do you think God does during Job’s lament? Does He smite Job down? No. Does He ignore the cries? No. Does He patronize him? No. God listens to Job’s every thought. Then, God responds. Yes, you read that correctly, God responds to Job’s hurt and complaint. God is not offended by Job’s raw emotion.
The same is true for us.

So often we believe that we can only talk to God when we have it all together. We can only tell God the “good” stuff because we’re not supposed to admit that we don’t understand why certain circumstances are taking place in our lives. This is not true. Friends, God is strong enough to handle the hurt of your heart. He already knows what you’re feeling and thinking so why not tell him?

When you come to this level of comfort with God you will notice a greater intimacy with Him developing. It’s just like what happens with you and your husband. After you’re married you can no longer perpetuate the illusion of perfection. The man sees you for all that you are as you do him. When we show God all that we are -- the good, bad, and broken -- we recognize that He is completely trustworthy. Our faith grows as He walks with us through that pain. We become more comfortable in our relationship with Him.

Job learned that God is faithful. God’s plan is perfect. God restored more than what Job lost. This God that Job encountered is the same one who longs to be in relationship with you. He wants to sit and have a forever long conservation with you. He’s ready to hear it all. He’s ready to respond.

The question is, are you? Are you ready to lower your mask of perfection, expose the raw underneath, and begin an authentic journey with God? If you are, now is the time. Just start talking. He’s waiting…

Wave Walker and Saltwater Guzzler

Wow, it's been a long time! I haven't really had much to share or say recently but a few days ago inspiration struck so I though...