Once dead, not always dead.

There was a marriage once proclaimed dead but against all odds, it came back to life. The couple found reconciliation and even came out stronger, forgiving each other, owning their parts, acknowledging their weaknesses. The wife was near death more than once but she lived and is a beloved grandmother and mother. The husband was dead in his own sin but he was raised to life through forgiveness and faith which resulted in him living life abundantly.

This couple has seen a lot over the last fifty plus years of marriage. They face new challenges every day but one thing that does not waiver is their faith and hope in the eternal. The husband in this marriage has been known to say for many years “keep the faith eh!”, reminiscent of 2 Timothy 4:7.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

On top of all of it all, this couple has built a legacy in shepherding Christ-following relationships in their children, grandchildren and in discipling relationships.

I for one am a great benefactor of this legacy as the husband and wife in this story are my parents and the day this post was published on their wedding anniversary. The lessons taught and observed in them being humble, putting others first, thinking before speaking, loving others, turning the other cheek, giving, serving, forgiving, and listening resonate with me daily. In these teachings I have become equipped to lead myself, my family, in the workplace and in organizations where I serve. Ultimately their love and sacrifice has equipped me to live fearlessly with eternity in mind and so for that I am grateful beyond words.

Similar to what I’ve seen through my own family, in Acts 9:26-43 we find two “no way!” stories, once dead, now alive.

The believers meet Saul after his conversion but before understanding his major change of heart. This is the guy who set out to punish and kill the believers, yet now is following as they are, and speaking boldly as a proponent of Jesus and the resurrection. He was once dead in his pride and then became more alive than ever after his transformation. He was once the self-proclaimed foremost of sinners and went on to become the foremost in preaching and teaching the Gospel. Saul (Paul) was responsible for writing much of what we know today as The New Testament.

We also learn of a believer named Tabitha who became ill, died, and was washed for burial. People had surrounded her weeping and mourning over the loss. She was dead, no doubt about it. Then Peter arrives at the scene, sends everyone away, and begins to pray. I’m thinking “Why pray now, she’s dead?”… But God.

Peter speaks to Tabitha, telling her to get up, then she opens her eyes and sat up. Dead then alive!

If God can raise the dead, transform my parent’s marriage, guide them through illnesses, transform their hearts and save a sinner like me, there is nothing he cannot do. This resurrecting power is not a magic trick, you can’t buy it, and you cannot even earn it because it is freely given when we choose to put our faith, hope, trust and our life in Jesus.

Why not take one simple step in trusting him today whether for the first time or trusting him more than ever? Start with one area such as your finances, career, marriage, illness, or a broken relationship. If you open your heart and let him work, you will see what might seem dead now come to life eternal.

How could you say “no”?

Today’s reading:  John 17

The setting for our assigned scripture today is the Last Supper.  Judas had departed the gathering to go get the Roman officials to arrest Jesus.  Meanwhile, Jesus was laying it all on the line, trying to prepare his disciples with everything they need to know.

It is easy for me to read this scripture today and see the full picture, so I’m quick to wonder how the disciples were confused and/or missed how everything fit together.  Then I remember.  In the midst of the events they didn’t have the “benefit of hindsight” that I have as I read this story all these years later.  In addition, the disciples were dealing with real-time emotions.  They were scared, confused, sad and timid all at the same time.  Things were happening so fast they didn’t have the luxury to stop and make sense of it all.

Today, let’s take advantage of our place in history and review Jesus’ powerful message from John 17 as a way to “hide his word in our hearts” so when we are in the midst of emotion – scared, confused, sad, timid – we can rely on him to carry us through.

  • God gave Jesus authority over all people so he could give eternal life (John 17:2).
  • Eternal life comes from knowing the one true God and his son Jesus (John 17:3).
  • Jesus came to earth to glorify God and accomplish God’s plan (John 17:4).
  • Jesus and God are one – all he has is God’s and all God has is his (John 17:10).
  • Jesus was leaving earth and returning to God (John 17:11).
  • The world does not know God, and is against followers of Jesus (John 17:14,25).
  • God’s word is truth (John 17:17).
  • God sent Jesus to the world to love people (John 17:23,26).

Jesus prayed for his followers.  Take note he was clear that his prayer was not for the world, but was specifically for those who believed in him (John 17:6-8, 20):

    • For their protection and safety (John 17:11,12).
    • That they may be “sanctified”, or set apart, by the truth (John 17:17)
    • That God would take them out of the world and protect them from the evil one (John 17:15).
    • For their unity (John 17:21-23)
    • For them to eventually be re-united with him (John 17:24).
  • Today, after meditating on this passage, I share an old song God put on my heart.  The words are convicting.  Knowing all Jesus has given for you, how could you say “no” to him?

Thorns on His head, spear in His side
yet it was a heartache that made Him cry
He gave His life so you would understand
Is there any way you could say “no” to this Man?

If Christ Himself were standing here
Face full of glory and eyes full tears
He’d hold out His arms with His nail-printed hands
Is there any way you could say “no” to this Man?

How could you look in His tear-stained eyes
Knowing it’s you He’s thinking of?
Would you tell Him you’re not ready to give Him your life?
Could you say you don’t think you need His love?

Jesus is here with His arms open wide
You can see Him with your heart
If you’ll stop looking with your eyes
He’s left it up to you, He’s done all that He can
Is there any way you could say “no” to this Man?

(Mickey Cates and Billy Sprague (1984))

 

Be Careful What You Ask For

John 12:20-36

“Now, my soul is troubled” (Luke 22:27).  This is what Jesus says when confronted with the reality of his life.  The time had come.  The words seem benign as I read them, but they were not.  A troubled soul is filled with turmoil.  Fear, anxiety, even anger fill your body.  It shows physically.  Your heart rate elevates, perspiration is visible, and your body shakes.  In this, most extreme case, Jesus sweat blood! (Luke 22:44).  In this moment, Jesus had two options.  Save himself or glorify God.

You already know what Jesus’ choice was.  The real question is what will your choice be when your soul is troubled?  One option is to tell God, “save me.”  This way, I don’t have to endure the pain.  I can shrink to my comfortable existence, relaxing on the couch watching Netflix.

Make no mistake, God will give you what you ask for.

Instead, what happens if we tell God, “Father, glorify your name?”  (John 12;28).  It’s interesting when I think about it.  That simple phrase releases all the tension.  Not because the situation suddenly resolves, but because it now has a purpose.  A purpose that supersedes my selfish desire and builds up all of mankind.  A purpose that usurps my comfort and expands God’s love.

Make no mistake, God will give you what you ask for.

Believe it or Not

 

Before we begin today, I’m asking for some prayers for Emily and Myles.  Doctors recently told Emily that her life would be cut short because of a recent medical diagnosis.  The medical diagnosis can only be cured on this side of the earth through a miracle from God that we know He is capable of.  Please pray for God’s hand in this time to come.  Pray for Emily and Myles to trust in His plan and will for this situation.  As they embark on their bucket list, pray that their testimony and witness points back to Him along this journey.  Emily said that whatever happens, the Victory is His.  Amen  

Today’s Reading: John 8:27-41

What do you believe? Who do you believe in? Did you know that 3,326 questions were asked in the Bible, according to a quick Google search? But, back to What do you believe?  I know the answer. I know your answer as well. Still, on my best days, I can fall to my sins. Lurking beneath us is the persistent tendency to trust other things besides God. When challenges are faced, do we trust in God or other things?   I can believe more in my efforts, resources, or thinking that I want to believe will make everything Ok.  I’m wrong.

 Do you hear him? Do you see him? Who? The Father of lies. He is always trying to convince you that we can do it on our own. The world has so much to offer. The pleasures available can consume your 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

 In these moments, what do we seek? Who do we seek? As Jesus spoke to the Jews and those who gathered, he reminded them and us about the only way we will be with Him. 

“I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins.”

‭‭John‬ ‭8:24‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It’s when I surrender when I’m in His words and letting them live in my heart instead of looking to other people to guide, rescue, or protect me. I need always to remember to look to my Heavenly Father. 

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

‭‭John‬ ‭8:31-32‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Many people believe in many things.  Only until we put our trust in Him ultimately will we have peace.  Will we know the truthWill we be able to trust in His victory

Unconditional Forgiveness

 

Today’s Reading:  John 8: 1-20 

Since the beginning of the year, I have become more intentional about my prayers and my request to God and his direction in my life. One action that I have been doing is asking God to show me direction and allow me to work in His favor daily and for Him to direct me to where he wants me to be: spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

A couple weeks ago an acquaintance of mine asked me about my faith journey and what I was doing differently these last couple weeks. I told him that I became more intentional and shared some of my experiences that I have encountered in the last year that has made me who I am today. I also recounted some of the past experiences from over the last several years in which the person who I am today is completely different from the person who I was 10 years ago. I am a person who is more into others and listens more to God‘s will in my life.

Several days later, the same associate came and told me that they were trying to be better and live a more intentional life as well. But they confessed that they had slipped away from their promise and felt remorse and regret. Upon hearing this I gave them encouragement and told them that God is working in them, because they have the acknowledgment of the transgressions and have remorse. This is the beginning of growing. This is the beginning of learning how God forgives us in our transgressions. This is the beginning of a new being.

Many times we feel that when we start something new and we regress we have failed. But that is a trick that the enemy has been reiterating to us for our entire life. The actuality is when we start to acknowledge our failures and start to press toward the better of ourselves we are growing from ignorance and doubt into peace of knowing. This peace does not come easily and freely, there will be some aches and pains.

In today’s reading we see how Jesus gives unconditional forgiveness in the midst of the actual act of sin. We see how his gentleness and compassion overrules all the other frustrations and anxieties that we have in the midst of our sin. How many of our accusers ( our own hidden feelings and items of our past) are standing on the edge right now pointing fingers and accusing us of the things that we know we have done? How many times can we try to run away from our sins but we are still caught in those sins? In the midst of our most sinister sins God and Jesus gives undying unconditional love and forgiveness. This forgiveness is for all.  This forgiveness is available to each of us. 

Be Blessed

 

No More Excuses

 

In our passage today, Luke 9:46-62, we read about 3 different men that talk to Jesus as He travels to Jerusalem. Jesus is walking towards His eventual death on the Cross.

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.
Luke 9:51

Jesus had 3 different conversations with 3 different men along his way.

Conversation #1:

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.
Luke 9:57

This sounds promising. The man will follow Jesus, he wants to do it. It is something we all might say or have said. Of course we want to follow Him.

Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
Luke 9:58

Jesus explains that following Him won’t be easy. He tells him that he may not have a place to sleep. The cost of following Him will be discomfort and loneliness. The cost will be great.

Conversation #2:

He said to another man, “Follow me.”
Luke 9:59

Jesus asked this man to follow Him. He chose Him from the crowd. But what does this man do? He made an excuse.

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
Luke 9:59

Now, this seems like a reasonable excuse. His father died. But, in reality, his father wasn’t dead yet. “Bury my father” meant to go back and take care of him until he died (which could be years down the road).

Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Luke 9:60

Jesus is very clear in his reply to this man. Jesus does not want an excuse, He wants an immediate response. He makes it clear that he does not want the man to follow cultural norms, but to go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.

Conversation #3:
The third person makes a similar request as above.

Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
Luke 9:61

The mans says he wants to follow, but, he gives another excuse. He wants to say “goodbye”.

Jesus replied, “no one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Luke 9:61

The cultural norm at this time was to ask parental permission. Jesus is saying you don’t need permission from anyone. He wants him to keep his focus ahead and not look behind at what he is leaving.

I humbly admit, I can see myself in all 3 of these examples. I say I follow Jesus, I want to follow Jesus, but I find excuses all the time. The reality is that we are called to follow Jesus.

He calls us to stand ready to live out God’s commands. He does not want our second best or our excuses. He wants us to be ready to follow. Jesus must come before our comforts, obligations and duties. Our eyes need to be focused forward on Jesus, never looking back to the life we gave up when we gave our life to Jesus.

The decision to follow Jesus is one that we make and then remake over and over again throughout our life. Jesus is a God of mercy. He extends his hands to us continuously, even though we make excuses or reject him. Jesus is calling us daily to follow Him. He does not want our excuses. But through His grace and mercy we get to begin again and follow Him, even when we have an excuse.

 

Up Top

Today’s reading is on Luke 9:28-36.

When’s the last mountaintop moment you had? When you last felt, spiritually, on top of the world? (Maybe physically if you’re actually into mountain climbing or something?) That moment of intense, intentional focus & closeness to God’s presence. Maybe a spiritual conference or church gathering; an intense small group gathering, or much-needed prayer circle; maybe even just a particularly convicting, revealing moment of prayer and revelation of the Lord’s will in your life. Anything come to mind? Do you remember how it made you feel? That comfort, warmth, joy, that you want to hold onto afterwards?

The biblical significance of the mountaintop is a logical one: people drawing close to God in earnest, both metaphorically and literally closer to the heavens, and a significant spiritual closeness occurring. Moses on Mount Sinai receiving God’s commandments; Elijah calling the wrath of God upon Baal’s prophets from Mount Carmel; Jesus’s ascension from the Mount of Olives, foretold by the prophet Zechariah; in the transfiguration of Christ, an occasion described in Luke 9:28, as well as Matthew 17 & Mark 9. Jesus takes Peter, James & John up a mountain, where Christ’s sudden transfiguration occurs, and the full radiance of Heaven’s majesty shines through Him upon the three disciples. Even the likenesses of Moses and Elijah appear to discuss Jesus’s coming death, representing, as Jesus explained in Luke 24:44, “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms” pointing to His death & resurrection. 

Peter mentions setting up three tents for Jesus and His two visitors, basically expressing how much he wants to just stay here in this moment. Peter wants this moment of intense glory, the full radiance and amazement of Christ’s true glory, to be a lasting celebration, to camp out and cherish this holy closeness to God’s work as long as possible. Alas, soon it is over. But not before the disciples have confirmed without a doubt, from the very voice of God, the true nature of Christ.

Interesting, Luke’s telling of the Transfiguration includes one fact, in verse 28, the other apostle’s recollections do not: that Christ had taken them to the mountain specifically to pray. To draw away and have intentional closeness to God, setting their time and effort aside explicitly for talking to Him and being in His presence. Setting aside our time & effort for dedicated prayer and Scripture is such an important practice, especially for experiencing a real, genuine focus on God’s working in our hearts & minds. Especially in moments of sharing that with others, as the three apostles had here to an incredible degree, seeing their dear friend & Savior displaying the full glory of God. But when we experience those spirit-filling moments, when we’re called to listen and hear the truth from God and see His glory, what happens next? Are we expected to stay still and enjoy our blessing from there? No; none of these people, after their mountaintop moments, spent the rest of their life on that mountain. They took the word of God, and what they’d experienced, and went down & shared the joy and might and power they experienced with others. They went and glorified God to the people below and demonstrated the effect God had in their life in those moments.

Lord, I pray a prayer of thanks this morning for sharing with us the glory of your son Jesus Christ, who stepped down to earth to fulfill the laws of Moses and the Prophets, and die for our sin in our place. We thank you that we would be able, at any time, to seek conversation & closeness to you, and that when we do, your word and your glory would be revealed to us. We pray that, in those times between our moments of prayer and Scripture, that we could seek glorification and honor of your word, above all else, to those around us, that they may share in the joy we experience with you.

Champ to Chump…to Champ Again??

Today’s reading is Luke 9:18-27.

Here, in Luke 9:18-20, Peter correctly states the Jesus is the Christ when Jesus asks him who He is. I would imagine this was one of Peter’s prouder moments. Can you imagine Jesus basically saying to you, “You nailed it!” Have you ever had one of those spiritual mountaintop moments where you felt like you did the right thing?  Maybe you spoke the Gospel or encouragement to someone who needed it, helped a homeless person, gave an amount more than normal to the church for a certain special offering or building project, or stood strong and avoided a temptation. However, we know it’s pretty easy in this world to go from champ to chump very quickly!

Peter experiences this when in both Mark 8 and Matthew 16 he tells Jesus that he cannot be crucified. Remember, Peter knows Jesus is Messiah. But, He and the other Jews incorrectly thought the Messiah would be an earthly king and save them from Roman impression. How many times do we think we know God’s plan, but His is different?! Jesus goes so far as to say to Peter, “Get behind me Satan..” in both Mark 8:33 and Matthew 16:23. Can you imagine Jesus saying that to you? We see again in Mark 14:30 Jesus foretells of Peter’s future mistake saying Peter will deny Him 3 times before the rooster crows twice to which Peter replies in Mark 14:31 he will not and will die with Jesus. We all know what happens!

Pastor Mike Baker spoke on this topic in his 1/16/2022 sermon at Eastview Christian Church. He asked the question, how do we proceed in life know the challenges and temptations which will come?

  1. With humility (1 Corinthians 10:12)
  2. With resistance (James 4:7)
  3. With the Resurrection in Mind (John 16:1)

For more on this topic, check out his sermon here. https://youtu.be/kYrRXVt8-Ns

I specifically like all the ways he says we can face Satan with resistance. Jesus tells us in Luke 8:23-27 that we need to deny ourselves and take up our cross. However, most of us deny Jesus, rather than ourselves, in the following 3 ways Pastor Mike speaks of.

  1. With our silence
  2. With our lifestyle
  3. With our Disassociation of God’s Church

However, Jesus still went to the cross for you and for me…even though He knew what we would do just like Peter. Despite Him knowing Peter’s failures, He told Peter he would build His church on Peter in Matthew 16:18.

Let me ask you a question, how can God use you despite your past..and even future…failures? What I love about Mark 14:30 telling of Peter’s failures and that he would deny Jesus is that Mark was telling the Gospel story through the eyes of Peter. Peter himself was telling of his failure. Why? He knew you and me would need to know God can still use us despite our failures and mistakes.

Are your past missteps holding you back? Or, have you moved on and God is using you, but have you told those mistakes to others who may need to hear your story so that they can themselves move past their own mistakes so God can in turn use them? I believe all of our entire stories are part of God’s plan and bigger story of His Gospel. There are no edits that should be removed from our story. Are we vulnerable enough like Peter to tell those to others to help them? The best leaders and coaches I’ve had are not the ones that seem perfect, but the ones who can relate to me because they have had the same challenges. We have all gone from champ to chump at one time or another like Peter. Let’s share our story with others as part of God’s greater Gospel story to impact them for His Kingdom. We can let them know God can still use them for big things. Most importantly, we can let them know we are all champs in the end and will spend eternity with Him in Heaven when we believe in Jesus and His forgiveness on the cross and Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Our Provider

The day has finally come. Your daughter, who you have been instructing for the past 9 months finally turns 16 and is able to drive off in the car all by herself. All the teaching is over, you get to let her drive off all by herself.

All the steps for learning to drive solo have taken place. Driver’s ED√ , hours behind the wheel√,  practice in all types of weather√,  permit √, test passed √ .  You have done all you can do to teach her how to drive successfully. Eventually you have to let go and trust that she will be able to drive solo. Are you ready to send her out to drive all by herself?

We see this today in our reading of Luke 9:1-17. Jesus decided it was time for the 12 disciples to drive solo. Up until now, they had been observers and hearers. They had sat while Jesus taught crowds of people, listening to his message and methods day after day, week after week. Now it is time for them to be sent out to minister, all by themselves.

One day Jesus called together his twelve disciples and gave them power and authority to cast out all demons and to heal all diseases. Then he sent them out to tell everyone abut the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
Luke 9:1-2

Jesus instructs them to take nothing for their mission.

“Take nothing for your journey,” he instructed them. “Don’t take a walking stick, a traveler’s bag, food, money, or even a change of clothes.
Luke 9:3

Can you imagine getting ready to leave for a trip and not packing a bag? When I leave for a trip I have a huge list of things I “need” and want to make sure I don’t forget. It takes much prepping and time to get ready to leave.

But why does Jesus tell them to take nothing? He gives them these instructions for a purpose. He wants his disciples to learn how to trust him to provide for them.

This is one of the most important lessons we can learn, that God will provide for our needs. It takes away a great deal of anxiety and fear.

So they began their circuit of the villages, preaching the Good News and healing the sick.
Luke 9:6

We are not told exactly how long the disciples are out on mission, but imagine the stories they had to tell when they returned. They finally were on their own and they got to come home to tell Jesus about everything they were able to do and how God used them. Jesus got to take them to a town called Bethsaida and listen to all their stories.

When the apostles returned, they told Jesus everything they had done. Then he slipped quietly away with them toward the town of Bethsaida.
Luke 9:10

These 12 men were so excited to tell about their ministry, but then Jesus shows them that anything is possible. As they were meeting with Jesus, a crowd found them and joined them. As the day went on, the crowds became hungry.

Feeding the crowds seemed like too much for the disciples. They wanted to send them home. But Jesus had different plans. He told the disciples to feed them.

Jesus tells the disciples how to distribute the five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus breaks the bread and hands the food to the disciples. Through their connection to Jesus, the disciples provide enough food for each person present, with twelve baskets left over. No details of how this actually happened are given.

The first 6 verses in this chapter of Luke tell how Jesus has commissioned the disciples to share the kingdom message. Now, in the following verses, they become aware of what they can actually do through Christ. Jesus shows them that they have access to his authority through his power.

There is a lesson for both the disciples and the people gathered here who received the food. The disciples are amazed at the provision of food and the people are amazed at the provider.

These verses teach us that whatever we are doing, feeding the masses, healing the sick, or giving encouragement, the only effective way to do ministry is to keep Jesus at the center. He is our provider.

Let’s GO!!

Luke 8:40-56

Our culture celebrates intensity.  It’s a description of having great energy, strength, and concentration.  Most of the time, I pride myself on being intense.  That’s true at work and in the pool.  To win in either of those environments, intensity is required.  It keeps me from being distracted and allows me to achieve my goals.  At least, that’s what I thought.

Not long ago, I was confronted by a co-worker.  She pulled me aside and asked, “Is everything ok?”  “yes,” I responded. “I am doing great.  Why do you ask?”  “you just don’t seem like yourself lately.”

What happened? I was trying to focus.  I saw my big goal slipping away and the year was almost over.  I dove headlong into intensity.

Today, we have an opportunity to compare my story to Jesus.   In Luke 8:40-56,  Jesus is approached by a man named Jairus.  His daughter is dying.  Hearing this, Jesus agreed to go home with him and heal his daughter.  Now, don’t forget, this girl is dying.  This is an emergency!  Call the ambulance, clear the way and get there fast!  This requires intensity.

As Jesus and Jairus head off to save the girl, Jesus gets hung up.  Not because someone is holding him back, but because he wants to find someone?  Seriously, Jesus halts all forward progress saying, “who touched me” (v45).  At that moment, she is the only thing that matters.  Everything else can wait.  Even a dying daughter.

My first impulse is to think that Jesus stopped to heal the woman, but he did not.  She was already healed.  Verse 44 makes it clear that her healing was immediate.  So, what gives?   If the woman was already healed, wasn’t his work with her already done?  Why would Jesus break his focus here?  He didn’t.  His focus was and will always be the same.

I falsely assumed that Jesus’ goal was to get things done.  That is wrong.  Jesus doesn’t care about what gets done.  He cares about life.  That means that he would never let someone go unnoticed and unloved.

I wonder what the world will look like when change our goals to be like Jesus.  What will happen when we decide to see others?  What will their world become when we choose to stop and love them?  It’s time to stop and see.