Friday, April 30, 2010

Blessings Outweigh the Problems

Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him.  -Psalms 33:1

The Bible says that we are to praise the Lord, for it is good and fitting for believers to do so.  When we praise the Lord we are doing that which is in full agreement with the Holy Spirit.  Anytime we find ourselves doing anything that is in defiance of the Holy Spirit we will know it immediately.  We will experience a negative kind of conviction in the heart. This is the convicting power of the Spirit.  However, when we are doing what is in agreement with the Spirit of God, then we feel that wonderful and blessed affirmation of being in God’s will and doing that which is pleasing to the Lord.  The Bible says that if we lift up our voices in praise and thanksgiving to God that this is a good and positive pursuit.  Such praise is pleasing to God, fitting for the believer, and in complete agreement with the Holy Spirit.  As followers of Christ, the best place we can be is in a position of harmony with the Holy Spirit.

The problem comes when we start feeling like we don’t have anything to be thankful for, or that we might have some blessings in our lives, but they are overshadowed by the difficulties of life.  Allow me to share an insight into blessings and trials: The trials of life don’t overshadow the blessings.  The blessings overshadow the trials.  The blessings outweigh the trials, problems, heartaches, and frustrations every time.  When we are walking with Jesus Christ we can find that one blessing is greater than 100 problems.  It will outweigh and overpower them all.  Be careful not to confuse or misunderstand that sacred balance.  When we start to view the trials of life as being greater than the blessings of God, then we have gotten our perspective all out of balance.  James 1:2 says to consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds.  In Christ those trials will not destroy us, but will make us stronger when we have come through them.  

When we look at life from the perspective of praising the Lord and being thankful in all circumstances, then our attitude is in full agreement with the Holy Spirit, and we will begin to walk in strength, power, and victory.   

Thursday, April 29, 2010

From Survival to Living the Abundant Life

Praise the Lord.  How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him! -Psalms 147:1

I have found that there are a number of ways in which people approach life.  Some move aggressively forward, some let life just happen, others sort of go with the flow, and still others shut themselves away from the world altogether.  But if I had to narrow those approaches down to two ways of going at life, I would say that most people are either getting by or thriving.  How do we know the difference?  The first involves simply living from day-to-day, trying just to make it through the problems and frustrations that life throws at us, and doing our best to keep everything together.  That describes a lot of people and that approach certainly beats giving up altogether which countless people do all of the time.  This, however, is the problem with the survival approach to life: We can only keep that up for so long.  Eventually we will run out of steam and be unable to continue surviving and holding on.  Believe me when I say that a great number of people are doing just that; holding on for dear life.

There is another approach to life, and this one is advocated in Scripture and is available to all who will seek the Lord.  This approach is to seek after the abundant life in Jesus Christ.  This is not a life free of problems, frustrations, and crises, but rather it is a life characterized by the power of God in the midst of those problems.  Jesus didn’t promise that we wouldn’t have any trials in life, but He did promise that He would empower us through life and all its frustrations.  A personal relationship with Jesus lifts us up beyond a day-to-day survival mentality and places us in the position of walking daily in spiritual victory.  In Christ we can walk in that power, and we cease from surviving life to living the abundant life in Him.   

People are stressed out, burdened, worried, overwhelmed, and discouraged.  But take heart: There is hope in Jesus Christ – not just for surviving, but for living and walking in spiritual victory.  Through faith in Christ the broken heart can be mended, the shattered dreams can be re-visioned, the wounded soul can be healed, and the silenced voice can praise God once again.

Trust Christ today and do not give up. There is always hope in the Lord.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

More Than Conquerors Through Christ

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  -Romans 8:37

Take note of this verse: We are more than conquerors through Christ.  We do not conquer sin, our problems, temptations, frustrations, and heartache through ourselves or our own strength.  Rather, Christ is the ultimate source of our power and strength.  Through faith in Him we rise up from the ashes of defeat and despair and begin living the abundant life which the Lord has promised.  Try to tackle the tough issues of life in our own power and we will fall short every time.

A story is told of how a number of years ago on New Year's Day during the Tournament of Roses parade, a beautiful float suddenly sputtered and quit. It was out of gas. The whole parade was held up until someone could get a can of gas. What made this incident so interesting, and amusing, was that the float represented the Standard Oil Company. With its vast oil resources, its truck was out of gas.  We as Christians often neglect our spiritual maintenance, and though we are "clothed with power" (Luke 24:49) we can easily find ourselves running out of spiritual fuel.  

Be careful not to be so overwhelmed with the trials of life that we take our eyes off the Lord.  Do that and we will quickly become spiritually weak and exhausted - we too might run out of gas, just like the float in the parade.  We have been indeed clothed with power from on high, but it is easy to run out of strength, especially when the difficulties and challenges of life begin to crowd around us.  The Lord offers to His followers a never ending supply of Holy Spirit power for doing not just what has to be done, but for doing the impossible in Christ Jesus.  

Let’s not settle for just getting by; let’s move toward a supernatural movement of Holy Spirit power that leads us to be overcomers and more than conquerors.  God can accomplish His great will, and He will do it through us, in us, and all around us.  

Don’t you want to be a part of that?  We are called in Christ Jesus to move forward in faith.  Don't be a quitter; be a conqueror through Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Reconciled to God Through Christ

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  -Romans 5:6

To be reconciled means that we once were estranged, but we now have been brought together.  That was the situation between us and God.  We were not on good terms with God because of sin, but in Christ Jesus the sin was paid for, and reconciliation took place.  Through Christ we are no longer at odds with God, but rather we have entered into fellowship with Him.  We no longer come to God in fear, but in fellowship.  All of us were totally unable to save ourselves.  We lacked the strength and the power to do so.  No matter how carefully and diligently we might try to keep the law of God we would fail at some point.  We lacked the power to keep the law perfectly.  Only Christ Jesus could accomplish this, and He did so on our behalf.  Think about that for a moment; Christ came and did this for us for no other reason other than His love for us.  No one coerced Him to go to the cross.  Rather, He did so willingly out of pure and genuine love for us.  Christ paid a debt on our behalf that we were unable to pay.  

If you were to look up some synonyms for reconciliation you would find such words as settlement, understanding, squaring off, and resolution.  Jesus did all of that for you and me through His redeeming work on the cross.  He settled our account with God, He brought understanding between us and God, we were made square with God, and the conflict between us and God was resolved.  We have been reconciled.   

Many years ago when I was a seminary student, my father loaned me some money that I might have some needed repair work done to my car.  After a period of time I saved enough money to repay the loan, wrote my father a check, and mailed it to him.  A few days later I received a letter from my dad containing the check I had sent him.  Enclosed was a note that said, "The money for the repair work was my gift to you.  You need not pay me back.  Don't worry about it - this squares us.  Love, Dad."  The debt I owed had been paid.  The account was settled.  We were square with one another.  The debt had been reconciled.

What a blessing to be "square" with God through Christ Jesus.  The debt has been paid.  Jesus has seen to it that our account has been cleared, and we have been reconciled.  In Christ we can move forward with the assurance that our Heavenly Father loves us, cares for us, and we are reconciled to Him.

Be comforted, O troubled soul.  God loves us, and we have been reconciled through Christ.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Perfect Peace That Comes Through Christ

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.  –Isaiah 26:3 

I love the spring of the year for a number of reasons: warmer temperatures, blue skies, longer days, and everything in bloom.  I can’t get enough of spring.  However, there is one aspect of spring which I am not crazy about, and that is the return of the insects.  Oh yes, we have to tolerate them if we want all the goodness of the season, and I guess they are a small price to pay for all this great weather, but still they can be a nuisance.  The other night I had stepped out onto the carport to let our dog, Ada, out for a little while.  As I stood there I looked down and noticed that a large bug had landed on my shirt right up near my shoulder.  It was one of those awful flying, water-bug, cockroach sort of things, and it was over an inch long. 

Now, how many people would have immediately gone into a screaming and twirling fit of hysteria, beating frantically at the errant pest?  Most of us, maybe?  I don’t know how I did it, but somehow I remained completely calm.  I looked down at this horrible creepy-crawly, and I calmly reached up and flicked it away.  Ada stood happily watching this episode and if dogs could talk she might have commented on my cool handling of the situation.  It was just an insect, right?  No big deal, really.   

Pondering this lead me to consider how wonderful it would be if I could always handle life’s problems in a similar fashion.  Instead of getting all upset, falling apart, and going to pieces, I could remain calm and collected as I trusted in the Lord and relied upon the Holy Spirit to be my guide.  The Scripture reminds us that when we trust in the Lord that He will keep us in perfect peace.  Note the kind of peace the Lord offers: Perfect peace.  This sort of peace lacks nothing, is steady as the storm is raging, and trusts God no matter what.   

My prayer today for you, and for me, is that God would lead us to that perfect peace that is available to all through Christ Jesus.  Christ can handle any problem that comes our way, from bugs on our shirts to pain in our hearts.  He is able to bring us through in victory. 

Do not fall apart and do not panic.  Look to the Lord and trust Him today – in everything. 

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Reaching out in Love to Those Around us

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."  -Matthew 22:36-40 

I grew up in a suburb of Dayton, Ohio and my neighborhood was composed of some colorful people.  Most of them were nice folks.  They would lend a helping hand when needed and would often stop and say hello.  Sadly, my memories of one neighbor in particular are not positive.  Mr. C. lived a few doors down from us and I would sometimes see him walking on the sidewalk going to or from the neighborhood grocery store (I’m just old enough to have lived in the time of Mom and Pop grocery stores which have all but disappeared thanks to the corporate super-market retail chains).  Mr. C. did not ever smile or say hello to me when I would pass him on the sidewalk.  He always kept his head down, his pace quick, and hurried on by.  If someone did say hello he would act as if he hadn’t heard.  Not once did I ever see him out in the yard chatting with a neighbor, and not one time do I remember him sitting on his front porch in the evening as was so common in those days. 

Many years ago I learned that Mr. C. had passed away.  My first thought was, “I wonder how many people attended his funeral?”  I have a suspicion that the number would have been sparse at best.  Mr. C. apparently closed himself off from others and did not allow people into his life.  He did not permit himself to be connected with others, which is a vital part of the human experience.  I have sometimes in my preaching used the word “connectedness” to describe the importance of having relationships in our lives.  Being connected to other people provides a network of support and cooperation thus allowing us to help one another and in turn be helped when the need arises.  Deliberately shutting ourselves off from those around us is indeed a sad way to go through life.  It also goes against what Jesus taught about shining His light to the world. 

Jesus taught that when we love God, our love will then be extended to our neighbors.  We reach out with a helping hand, we demonstrate the love of the Lord which is in us, and in so doing we build connections.  This Christ-centered “connectedness” facilitates our shining forth the love of the Lord to those around us.  I have found that the best therapy for a troubled soul is to reach out in love to those around us.  Smile more often, say hello to a neighbor, do something nice for someone, or take a few moments and pass the time of day with someone who lives close by.  

Do you love the Lord?  Prove it – by loving your neighbor.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Rejoicing Over a Good Report of the Faith

For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.-3 John 3 (KJV)

Why was John rejoicing here?  He was rejoicing because of the good report that was brought to him about Gaius, the church, and the good work and progress that was going on there.  What happens when we don’t hear a good report about a sister church?  It tends to bring sorrow to our hearts.  When I learn of a believer who has gotten his life off track, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a high profile nationally known pastor or a member of a church down the road, my heart grieves over that.

But the reverse is true: When we receive a good report about a church, a believer, or some good work that is being blessed, then we have cause for rejoicing, praise, and thanksgiving.  There a number of churches all around the town of Bristol, Virginia where the church I pastor is located.  My earnest pray is that God will use all these churches to bring about revival in our city – revival that will spill over into all the country.  We are not in competition with any other congregation, but rather we are brothers and sisters in Christ.  If I learn of a congregation in the area that is baptizing people, reaching people for Christ, and proclaiming the gospel, then that is indeed cause for rejoicing.

John rejoiced over the testimony that was given to him about Gaius; that the truth was in him and that he was walking in that truth.  This is what we are to be doing: Walking in the truth that is in us.  When we walk in the truth, then we are living out the gospel of Christ; applying Jesus’ teachings, following His example, and demonstrating His love.  The Lord told us that He had set an example that we can follow.  We are to strive to be like Him in all areas of life.

Rejoicing wins out over complaining every time.  A humble spirit is always preferable to bitterness.  When we seek to take on the attitude of Christ we are blessed.

Rejoice in the Lord and give thanks for the power of the Holy Spirit which is working in the lives of those around us.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Praying for the Soul to Prosper

The elder unto the well beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.  Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. -3 John 1, 2 (KJV)

Gaius was an elder in the early church; a man who could be trusted and depended upon to be faithful.  John stated that his prayer for him and for all of the faithful was that they would be blessed in all areas of their lives.  Quite often our prayers for one another are that we would do well, be blessed, and that the Lord would bring about increase in our lives.  If I had a friend, and he had a business, and that business began to grow, thrive, and prosper, and my friend was giving glory to God and continuing to work hard and be honest, then I would rejoice with my friend.  Because of my friend’s hard work and honesty God was bringing an increase into his life.

Unfortunately, we know that it doesn’t always happen that way.  As a part of life we encounter financial problems, personal difficulties, health issues, and trials of all varieties.  But those kinds of circumstances do not negate God’s blessings.  Even in the hard times the blessings of God can still rest upon us.  It’s during those trying times that we must do as the old song suggests and count our many blessings, because they are still there.  John’s prayer and hope were that all of his friend’s life would prosper as his soul was prospering.  Now, here we need to examine this more closely.  How does the soul prosper?  This happens in a number of ways: we have the peace of God in our hearts, we have joy in the midst of trials, we are filling our hearts and minds with the Word of God, and the light of Jesus Christ is shining brightly from us.  When those kinds of evidences of God’s Spirit are working in our lives, then our souls are prospering.  The soul can prosper regardless of the circumstances of our lives.  Even in the darkest hour and the most terrible trials of life the soul can prosper through God's grace, peace, and presence.  Christ brings to our hearts the assurance that we are not alone, and through His power we will overcome.

The invitation is for us to draw near to the Lord, experience His presence, feel His grace upon us, and have the peace of Christ in us.  In Jesus Christ the soul prospers.  We can face each day with the strength and power of the Holy Spirit which brings hope and rejoicing in the midst of life's struggles.

Taker heart; the Lord is with you. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Who Will Stand in the Gap?

I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.  –Ezekiel 22:30 

I have read that many years ago when the North American continent was first being settled that Buffalo roamed in herds too numerous to count.  It has been said that when they crossed the valleys of the west that they would cover the ground as far as the eye could see.  Today, if you see a Buffalo it is a rarity.  We want to stop and look because we so seldom see them and they have become so scarce.

In the book of Ezekiel the Lord said that He looked far and wide to find someone who would take up the responsibility of being a defender of faith, righteousness, godliness, and the commandments.  Someone was needed to stand in the gap and hold back the coming wrath that was about to be poured out upon the people.  However, no such faithful person could be found.  The faithful and righteous had become as scarce as the Buffalo of the American west.  How it must have grieved the heart of God to find such faithlessness among His people.  What do you think God is seeing when He looks upon the world today?  Is He seeing faithfulness, or have the righteous and faithful, those who seek the Lord, become a rarity?  If we truly desire that revival come to our country and to the world, then we must pray that peoples’ hearts will be open to a wondrous and blessed movement of God’s Spirit. 

Even in a world where godly and sincere followers of Christ are becoming scarce we can experience a powerful movement of the Holy Spirit.  The Lord is ever calling us to deeper faith and commitment to Him.  When we take up that challenge and resolve to be the one willing to stand in the gap then the result is personal renewal.  From this personal revival a tide of faith will flow affecting everyone around us.  The Lord is calling us to be faithful.  Who will stand in that gap? 

When the Lord calls, let us be found faithful and ready to serve.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Making Prayer a Priority

But I cry to you for help, O Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you. –Psalm 88:13 

During a conversation recently with a Christian brother, he told me something about himself which I thought was intriguing: He confessed that unless he had his daily prayer and Bible study time first thing in the morning that there was a strong possibility that he would not get around to it that day.  This insight into his daily routine is a common problem for many followers of Christ.  When we fail to make our daily prayer time a top priority we can easily become so involved in other tasks that we end up not praying at all that day.  How many times have we got up, intended to spend time alone with the Lord, and before we knew it we were doing everything but that?  It’s happened to me, and if we are honest we’ll admit it has happened to most of us at one time or another.

David of the Old Testament understood the power of prayer, and he also knew that beginning his day with time alone with God was vitally important.  David was a man who carefully guarded the personal time he spent with God.  We do well to emulate such a commitment to daily prayer.  All of the other tasks and responsibilities have their place and are no doubt important.  However, we cannot function at the level of faith the Lord intends apart from daily time in prayer and in God’s Word.  Beginning the day in prayer is like a spiritual injection of God’s power into the heart of our being.  By faith we can walk through the day having had our spirits lifted and our spiritual batteries revved up.  The result is a more positive outlook, a more balanced approach to the day, and a more spiritual perspective on life and all its problems.   

Make time to pray every morning.  Also spend some time meditating on God’s Word and letting its truths speak to your heart.  This does in fact take time and commitment, but the benefits are greater than I can possibly express here; you simply have to experience them for yourself.   

When we make our way to that quiet place each morning, rest assured that the Lord will meet with us there.  He will offer wonderful words of life, grace, peace, comfort, and joy.  A time of prayer will always be the best way to begin the day.  Spiritual victory waits when we walk forward having been alone for a while with the Lord.
Why not begin today?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Where Will You Make Your Stand?

By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  -Romans 5:2 (KJV)

Look closely at this verse where it refers to our stand in Jesus Christ.  Our hope is based upon Jesus Christ and upon Him we stand.  This idea of taking a stand is an old metaphor isn’t it?  It’s symbolic of where our belief and our affections rest.  Where do you stand on the issue of…?  (You finish the sentence).  We make our stand on some cause, belief, or ideology, and that becomes a focal point of how we will move forward.  When Jesus is the basis of our stand, then we know we are standing on solid ground.  We put our faith in Jesus Christ and we take our stand upon Him.  But let’s take this a step further: We take our stand upon Christ, but will we die for Him?  Let me use another figure of speech: What is your hill on which you are willing to die? 

I have told my sons over the years, in moments of exasperation, when they were upset about something and would not back away from what I knew was a bad idea, “This isn’t a hill on which to die.”  And they looked at me like I was crazy.  The question is, where will we make our stand, and what will be our final stand?  There are principles and beliefs upon which we will not budge.  We are willing to take that fight all the way to the end.  There will be no compromise and no surrender on the issue.  For believers, at the top of the list must be our certain affirmation that Jesus is the Son of God, and He is the only way to salvation.  Right alongside that is the firm belief that the Bible is God’s Holy and inspired Word – every last word of it 100% true and accurate.  Countless people down through the ages made that their hill on which to die, and they did indeed die upon that hill of faith.  They were tortured, crucified, hung by the neck, burned at the stake, fed to lions, beheaded, and halved and quartered.  They would not back down from their steadfast belief that Jesus is the Son of God.  Indeed, the world was not worthy of them.  The memory of their faith remains as shining examples of those who would not deny Christ and were faithful - even unto death.

A stand upon faith in Jesus Christ results in faithfulness in a faithless world, being steadfast while others are falling away, and remaining focused upon Christ as the storms of life rage around us.  A firm stand upon Christ brings about the power of God in us; power that leads to victorious Christian living.

Where will you take your stand today?  Will it be upon the solid rock of Jesus Christ, or the shifting sands of the world?  Make the right choice; take your stand upon Jesus Christ.  He will not let you down - ever.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Hope That Brings Peace With God

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. -Romans 5:1

Hope is one of those subjects that we as believers ought to come back to most often.  Without hope a person has nothing to live for.  Hope drives us forward.  Hope keeps us motivated to keep going and keep trying even when we feel like giving up.  The Scripture teaches that since we have been brought into a personal relationship with Christ that we are now at peace with God.  I am sure you have heard it said that someone has made peace with God.  The implication is that we settle anything that exists between us and God which might hinder either our relationship with Him or our very salvation.  For some, they have spent their lives in rebellion against God.  They have rejected God, never sought Him, pushed Him away, and refused to believe.  But as they reached the end of life, or faced some major life crisis, they made peace with God.  They confessed belief, confessed their sin, and received Christ as Savior.

There might also be believers who have kept something in their hearts for a long time.  Whatever it was, it caused problems in their relationship with the Lord.  Finally they could bear it no longer, so they confessed it to God and made peace with Him.  The hope that God will offer forgiveness, compassion, and mercy is a powerful force isn’t it?  That hope leads us to seek to settle with God whatever it is that stands between us and Him.  Faith in Christ grants us access into the grace of God.  We then enter into an entirely new understanding of what constitutes true hope.  We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  

If we are going to truly rejoice, then we must have something to rejoice about.  We typically don’t rejoice when something bad happens, but rather we tend to rejoice over the positive and happy occurrences of life.  However, the Scripture says to rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4).  In Christ we don’t have to wait around for something good to happen, instead we can rejoice in all circumstances all of the time.  Such rejoicing stems from that blessed hope we have in the Lord Jesus.  Hope that is based not on human design, but rather true hope in Christ which is based upon the divine power of the Almighty.  

No matter how dark, desperate, and hopeless life may seem right now, never forget that in Jesus Christ there is hope.  That blessed hope is certain, secure, and readily available to all who believe.
Rise up from hopelessness, and through Christ enter into a new understanding of hope; the true hope the Lord Jesus offers - hope that will always be there and will forever remain. 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Power of God that Stirs the Heart

Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth, sing praise to the Lord, Selah.  To him who rides the ancient skies above, who thunders with mighty voice.  Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power is in the skies. -Psalm 68:32-34

 This Psalm is all about the power of God at work in the lives of His people.  In this Psalm of praise it says that God’s enemies will be scattered and that they will be blown away like smoke, and they will melt like wax before a fire (Vv. 1, 2) .  That is extremely powerful imagery.  Nothing and no one can stand against God.  For us that includes anything that stands in the way of walking forward in the victory which the Lord intends for us to have.  Our problems, our fears, worries, failures, will fall powerless in the presence of Almighty God.  He is greater and more powerful than any problem we will ever face.  Whatever we are facing, rest assured that God can handle it and He can take care of it.  This is where faith comes in; we trust God no matter what, look to Him, and stand firmly upon Him – Christ Jesus our rock, our fortress, and our deliverer.
When we fail to look to God and seek His strength in the trials we face then we are much like an ancient warrior who steps onto a battlefield without proper weapons.  How long do you think he would last in the heat of battle without shield, sword, helmet, breastplate, and coverings for his arms and legs?  He would not last anytime at all, for he would be utterly defenseless and at the mercy of his enemies.  The power of God so stirs the heart and not only can we fight the battles, but we can lift our voices in praise to God as we do so.  “Sing unto God all ye kingdoms of the earth.”  The call is to lift our voices to God and exalt and praise His holy name.

Singing requires a certain amount of energy doesn’t it?  A singer who leads in worship and sings in a worship setting has to have energy and motivation to do that.  The Holy Spirit provides exactly what is needed to accomplish praise.  

The power of God so stirs the human heart that even the most sorrowful and dejected heart can spring forth praise and rejoicing to Almighty God. 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

God's Power Transforms our Weaknesses into Strength

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. –Romans 8:26 
Dealing with our weaknesses can be a frustrating experience.  Our weaknesses leave us feeling frustrated, defeated, vulnerable, and off balance.  Conversely, strength is exhilarating: our hearts soar, our spirits are lifted, and our capacity for accomplishment appears to be limitless.  However, even the strongest among us can fall victim to weakness.  The person we thought would never fail may do just that.  The one who we believed was a rock of stability may encounter a crisis that leaves him an emotional wreck.  Someone may be watching me or you and believing that we are living, breathing examples of what spiritual strength and steadiness looks like.  What would they think if they saw us in moments of weakness, when we were afraid, exhausted, and ready to give up?  Would they chastise us for our tears?  Would they think less of us?  I don’t think so, for even those who look up to us find comfort in knowing that we struggle just like everyone else.  Still, it’s unnerving to discover that even our heroes have weaknesses.

We are admonished in Scripture to avail ourselves to the power of God during those times of weakness.  We cease from trying to accomplish God’s will on our strength and instead seek God’s strength and power.  When we come against that wall of emotion, fatigue, and frustration we can come to God in simple and humble obedience.  We may feel so overwhelmed that we honestly don’t know what to pray.  The promise of God is that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groans that human language cannot express.  This is the redemptive work of Christ in us: Holy Spirit power – God’s divine power coming through and being perfected in us.  Through Christ our weaknesses are transformed into strengths.    

Do you not believe it?  The next time you feel so overcome with emotion that you don’t know what or how to pray, simply begin praying and allow the Lord to intercede on your behalf.  The result will be a wondrous outpouring of God’s power which lifts us up in times of pain and sorrow.  You may not find the words, but that’s okay.  Get alone with God, seek His face, and let the Holy Spirit do the work. 

Our weaknesses can, by the power of God, become strengths.  Spiritual victory will then follow.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Removing the Stain

Although you wash yourself with soda and use an abundance of soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me," declares the Sovereign Lord.  –Jeremiah 2:22

In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.  –Hebrews 9:22

Of all the colorful characters of my youth, one stands out in my memory.  Bobby was a head taller than all the boys in my 8th grade class.  In fact, by the time we got to High School, Bobby was as large in stature as any male teacher at the school.  Bobby came from a troubled home life and as far as I could tell he pretty much raised himself.  He rarely got into fights because no one in his right mind would have challenged him.  By the time we were in the 10th grade, Bobby had begun to drink, use drugs, and have run-ins with the law.  However, my memories of Bobby are that he had a gentle side to his personality.  He could by funny, likeable, and he was always nice to me, and for that I was certainly grateful.

On one occasion Bobby showed up at school with a homemade tattoo on his forearm.  Back in the mid-seventies this was popular for a time, and some of the students who had the nerve to do so, had these horribly amateur tattoos done with sewing needles and Indian ink.  Bobby’s tattoo was of a cross accentuated with three lines flowing upward from the top.  A couple of months later Bobby came to school with a painful looking scar where his homemade tattoo had once been.  I asked him what had happened.  He explained that he had grown tired of the tattoo and had applied sandpaper to his arm until the tattoo was gone.  It was gone all right, but the memory of that painful looking scar remains in my thoughts even today.

Countless people have long been trying to come up with a way to remove the stain of sin from their lives.  That stain reminds them of bad decisions, poor judgment, broken relationships, and ruined lives.  Like applying sandpaper to their own skin, they come up with all sorts of attempts to remove the stain: drugs, alcohol, sex, and money.  However, all of those only fuel the feelings of regret and futility.  Only through faith in Jesus Christ can the stain of sin be completely removed.  Because of His redemptive work of grace, Christ can wash us clean of the sin that so haunts us.

Look to the Lord today.  Jesus can take the deepest, darkest stains, and make them white as snow. 

Trust in Him without delay.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Recognizing Christ as Savior and Lord

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. -John 1:10-13

Imagine someone coming up to you somewhere and saying hello and asking how you were doing, but for the life of you, you could not recall who the person was.  You hate to say “do I know you?” especially when the person is so confident that he knows you.  That would be a most uncomfortable situation.  Here we see what it’s like when the Lord came into the world.  He came to people seeking to save that which was lost, and those He came seeking have said, “Do I know you?  No; I don’t know you.”  People continue to treat the Lord as someone who they do not recognize.  

Let's take this verse a step further and point out that this can be applied to the greater human family – the human race.  We are also the Lord’s own, but so many still do not recognize Him as Lord.  Here we see the great and wonderful gift given to those who do recognize that Jesus is the Son of God: We receive power to become the Sons and daughters of God.  We believe on His name; we receive Him as Savior and Lord, the Holy Spirit is given, and we are transformed into His children.  We had to first receive Him as Savior and Lord.  To receive Him means that we welcomed the Lord into our hearts.  We did not shut Him out, we did not refuse Him, and neither did we refuse to answer as He knocked upon the door of our hearts.  Rather, we received Him.  We received Him and the Lord accepted us – as we are, sinners in need of salvation.   

Having received Christ we were given power which comes through the great and blessed work of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit comforts, guides, helps, lifts up, provides discernment, and brings to mind what the Lord has said.  But consider this also: The Holy Spirit motivates believers to do the work of the kingdom.  I am certain that someone reading this either has received, or knows someone who has received, a B-12 shot.  I take B-12 in a vitamin form, and I believe it gives me some added energy.  This is similar to one of the functions of the Holy Spirit: He provides us with the motivation and energy to do Kingdom work.  When we aren’t feeling motivated to do the Lord’s work, the Holy Spirit will empower us to go forward with a kind of supernatural energy and strength.  Acts 1:8 says that we will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon us and we will be His witnesses.  This power is of a supernatural kind.  Such power is available only to those who have received the Lord Jesus.  

We cannot receive Him unless we have first believed upon Him.  According to the Scripture, we become born of God.  This is something accomplished only through faith in God.  Having received Him as Lord we find salvation through Him. 

Be sure to recognize who Jesus truly is: Savior, Lord, Redeemer, and friend.  Open your heart and receive Him today.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hope in the Midst of the Storm

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.  -Romans 5:5

Something that Jesus brought to the world, and what the world desperately needs, is hope.  The Lord has brought hope in the midst of life’s struggles.  Without hope we will not have much to live for.  Jesus is the true and ultimate source of hope.  What happens if someone becomes hope-less?  That individual is in trouble; watch him carefully and get him to a Dr. right away.  Hope moves us forward when we might otherwise have given up.  True hope in Christ understands that even though the situation may look bleak, God will work everything out –  one way or another.  Paul summed it up in Philippians 1:21: “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  When narrowing down the three most powerfully motivating factors in our lives, the Word of God includes hope as one of them: “But these three remain: faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love” (I Corinthians 13:13). 

As long as we have Christ we have hope.  The hope the Lord brings to our lives is hope that will sustain us when the going gets rough.  During a storm we take cover, hang on, and keep holding on because we have hope that the storm will soon be over.  That hope compels us to not give up, but to keep holding on.  Such is the nature of our hope in Jesus Christ.  What happens, however, when we feel our strength to hold on is almost gone?  Shall we give up, call it quits, or lose hope?  The answer is, absolutely not.  Keep holding onto the Lord, for He is holding onto us.  Christ will not let us go.

Whatever storm you are facing right now remember that God loves you and will help you through.  Christ will empower us through faith to hold fast to His powerful hand even when we feel like giving up.

Do not surrender, and do not give up.  The storm will soon be over.  Light is about to break upon the horizon.  In Jesus there is hope.

Trust the Lord and He will bring us through.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

From New Birth to Resurrection

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  – I Peter 1:3
One of the most marvelous aspects of a relationship with Jesus Christ is that we can be positively affected in every area of our lives.  From the new birth to walking in the power of the resurrection, we can move forward in confident faith that the Lord is with us and that we can live daily in spiritual victory.  Is this to say that we won’t still have some setbacks along the way?  The answer is, certainly not.  We will indeed meet with problems, trials, heartaches, frustrations, and failures of all sorts.  The good news, however, is that in Christ we now have a resource that was previously unavailable.  We have the power of the Holy Spirit to pick us up when we fall, place our feet back on track, and get us moving forward again in the right direction.

I recall when I was a teenager growing up in Dayton, Ohio, that I went driving by myself for the first time in the downtown area.  Like many larger cities, most of the streets downtown are one-way.  I don’t how it happened, but somehow I ended up heading the wrong direction on a one-way street.  I had a horrible feeling that something was terribly amiss when I saw all the traffic coming right toward me.  I also remember someone on the sidewalk yelling at me, “Hey!  We got a one-way!  We got a one-way!” I quickly got the message, pulled to the side of the street and turned the car around.  What a relief to be going the right way. 

Walking daily with the Lord Jesus, and heading in the right direction, begins with receiving Him as Savior.  We experience the new birth in that we are given a brand new start on life.  The old is gone and we are able to walk forward with a clean slate.  As we begin to grow in the Lord we start to walk in that blessed resurrection power.  This power will sustain us and empower us as we traverse through the dark and difficult times of life.    

In Jesus we have received the new birth.  Now begin to walk daily in the blessed power of the resurrection which is available to all who will believe.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Access to the Riches of God's Word

He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.  He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day..."  -Luke 24:44-46

The Bible says that after the resurrection the Lord Jesus opened the disciples’ minds that they might understand the Scriptures.  This is about comprehending what the Lord is telling us in His Word and then knowing how to apply it to our lives.  God gave us His Word that we might do just that: Comprehend it and apply it to our lives – every aspect of our lives.  When we come to faith in Jesus no aspect of our lives is to remain untouched.  The Lord reaches us at the deepest level of our being and moves us toward a life perspective that we had previously been denied access.  The Word of God has the power to accomplish this when we allow the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and apply the Word to our lives.  This access to the blessed and divine truths of God’s Holy Word is a wonderful and joyous experience – and can empower us to walk in spiritual victory every day.

I am embarrassed to admit this, but I have never been to our nation’s capitol.  I am yet to visit Washington, DC and see the monuments and all those historic places that are there.  I would very much like to go and while there I would like to tour the White House, or at least as much as the public is allowed to see.  Can you imagine me touring the White House and about the time the tour is over I ask someone, a guard perhaps, “Might I have a private audience with the President?  Just for a few minutes – a cup of coffee with him maybe?” What are the odds of my request being granted?  Not too good, right?  I simply don’t have that kind of access.  However, in Jesus Christ we now have direct access to God the Father.  He is willing at any moment to drop whatever He is doing and talk with me – or you, or anyone who will by faith call upon His name.  

Since we have access to the Father through Christ, we also have access to His Word.  You see, we once were denied access to the deeper truths of God’s Word, but in Jesus Christ we are now partakers of the riches of God’s grace.  This was where the Lord was leading His disciples that day of the resurrection.  They were permitted access to that which was previously unavailable for them.  The resurrection made it possible.

Because of the resurrection we now have access to the Holy Scripture as the true Word of God.  It’s not just some book of fanciful stories, but rather it is the true, inspired, and Holy Word of God.  We must take it up and apply it’s riches to our hearts.  

Let’s have hearts and minds that are open to do just that. 

Sunday, April 11, 2010

God's Blessings in the Midst of Life's Struggles

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said: "Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?  -II Samuel 7:18 
The Bible shows that David of the Old Testament spent some time wondering why the Lord had chosen to pour such blessings out upon him.  Some in David’s place might have been wondering the opposite: Why had God allowed such calamity to fall upon them?  However, David knew that the trouble he had faced over the years was overshadowed by the grace of God which had so prevailed in his life.  David was practicing his belief in a divine principle: God is able to work victories in the present and the future as He has in the past.  Knowing this always gives us hope in the face of new problems and challenges. 

Why is it that when we face some new trial, challenge, or crisis that we somehow forget that God has brought us through similar situations before?  We are tempted to panic and think that nothing we have encountered before is anything like the present problem.  Consider that while the problem may be new, the power of God to empower us through it has not changed.  As God has moved, worked, comforted, and strengthened us in the past He can and will do so again.  Nothing surprises God; He has seen it all before.  Conversely, we are utterly stunned when some new dilemma comes crashing up into our faces.  The tendency is to focus our energies on how we will solve the problem.  Walking in the power of the Holy Spirit involves handing the situation over to God and then trusting that He will bring healing and resolution. 

When all is said and done we too can seek the Lord with an attitude that says, “Who am I, Lord, that you have chosen to pour your blessings out upon me?”  Like David these blessings will come even as the enemy is encamped all around us.  We are called to take on that faith stance that says, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies, thou annointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over” (Psalm 23:5, KJV).  Right in the midst of the trials of life we can stop and experience the wealth of God’s blessing and grace – overflowing into our lives. 

Whatever you are facing today, stop and offer praise and thanks to God.  He has brought us through all sorts of problems in the past; He will do so again. 

God will again bring healing and victory. 

Praise His holy name!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

God Will Help us Through the Storm

Moses replied, "When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to the Lord. The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail, so you may know that the earth is the Lord's.  –Exodus 9:29 

I watched a news program recently about a hailstorm that struck in a region of the Midwest.  The storm was so severe and the hail so damaging that numerous people were injured when they were caught outside during the storm.  The news photos showed people with terrible looking welts along their arms and faces where they had been struck with the hail.  That was a dangerous situation and no doubt painful and frightening.  Consider that life is like that sometimes: painful, frightening, and dangerous.  We often feel like we are being bombarded by the storms of life as we face all sorts of problems and trials.  Fortunately, we have a refuge in the Lord.  He is always willing to spread His comfort over us and around us and to lend us aide and strength until the storm has passed.

The Scripture says that when the Pharaoh of Egypt refused to allow the people of Israel to be released from slavery that God sent a series of plagues upon the land.  One of those plagues was a hailstorm that fell with such force that any person or animal caught in it was killed.  Having seen the damage a hailstorm can inflict we can easily imagine a storm of that magnitude falling and wreaking all sorts of havoc.  Fortunately for the Egyptians, Moses prayed to God and the hailstorm ended as did the thunder and lightning.    

When we find ourselves facing the storms of life we can look to God in faith, knowing that He will bring comfort and eventually deliverance.  No matter how dark and severe the storm may seem, we can look to God, seek His power, and find refuge.  Like Moses, we can lift our hands in prayer and praise to God while knowing that He is Lord, and He will be with us until the storm passes by.

Whatever storm of life you are facing today, know that in the Lord there is hope.  Look to the Lord Jesus in the faith and hope that He will never leave us nor forsake us.  The Lord is with us to help, strengthen, guide, and comfort. 
God will help us through the storm.  Always look to Him, and always seek His power. 

Friday, April 9, 2010

Being Completely Honest With God

Save me, O God, by your name; vindicate me by your might.  Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth. Strangers are attacking me; ruthless men seek my life— men without regard for God. –Psalm 54:1-3

Someone might read this Psalm and think it presumptuous that David would tell God to listen to his prayer.  Just who does he think he is, anyway?  What is amazing about this verse, and the concept it conveys, is that God is, in fact, willing to do just that.  The Lord was willing to listen to King David in his time of need, and the Lord will listen to us when we call upon Him.  God is never too busy to take the time to listen to us about whatever it is that is troubling us.  Do you know something else?  I don’t believe for a moment that God is offended in the least when we cry out to Him with the anguish that is in our hearts and say something like, “Oh Lord, hear my prayer!  Listen to me right now!” Such boldness might throw us off and perhaps ruffle our feathers, but believe me when I say that Almighty God is much stronger than that.  Nothing surprises God, nothing rattles His nerves, and unlike us He is never caught with His emotional guard down.

As time goes by I realize more and more that God is not interested in how flowery we can pray, but rather how honest we can pray.  Are we truly willing to tell God exactly how we feel?  Are we ready to open our hearts and confess to God the deepest and perhaps the darkest part of our souls?  Long ago I stopped worrying that God might disown me if I confessed to Him my darkest fears and failings.  The Lord, our strength, our rock, our strong and mighty tower, and our hope, can surely handle it.  God can not only handle it, but He can bring comfort in the midst of whatever has been burdening us. 

The Lord Jesus reminded us to take heart, for He has overcome the world (John 16:33).  Since Christ has overcome, then as His followers we too can overcome whatever trials we are facing.  That process of walking forward in victory can take a toll, however.  We can grow weary, distressed, fearful, and overwhelmed.  We might even go through a period where we start to wonder if God is hearing us when we pray.  And then in desperation we cry out, “Lord, hear my prayer!” just like David did when he was feeling the weight of his struggles.  When that happens does God say, “Hey, hey, now; don’t you talk to me that way.”?  Not at all; in that moment the Lord wraps His arms around us and gently reminds us that He has been with us all along. 

Reach out to the Lord today.  It’s okay to tell Him exactly how you feel.  He will understand.  And He will offer help and comfort.  

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Accepting God's Help in Times of Trouble

Hear my prayer, O Lord, listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping. For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were.  Look away from me, that I may rejoice again before I depart and am no more.  –Psalm 39:12, 13
Grief and sorrow can cause people to behave in ways that go against human nature.  We are created by God to be social beings; we need interaction with other people and we thrive on human contact.  Were we to remove from our lives this vital component of the human experience, all aspects of life are thrown out of balance.  One of the results of facing problems that seem to not go away is the removing of ourselves from those who might otherwise have offered comfort.  “Leave me alone,” we find ourselves saying.  “I can do this all by myself.  I don’t need anyone.” We then cut off interaction with others thus placing our well-being in a perilous condition.  

Cutting ourselves off from contact with other people is the last place we would ever want to be when facing the trials of life.  Have you ever needed some time alone?  Certainly you have.  We all need some time away by ourselves to think things through and contemplate what we are facing.  However, to completely isolate ourselves from everyone else is a dangerous practice.    

David of the Old Testament was a man familiar with grief, sorrow, and suffering.  Many times he found himself facing overwhelming odds and personal struggles.  However, something David always had going for him was a network of support.  Fortunately for him, David always had people in his life that cared for him.  He also maintained a relationship with God.  During his darkest and most desperate hours he continually looked to God for help and strength.  But even David struggled with wondering why God had allowed his problems to come to him in the first place; to the point of actually asking God to look away from him and in essence leave him alone. 

Whatever you are facing today, remember that God loves you, cares for you, and is concerned about what you are facing.  Do not make the mistake of taking on a self-imposed isolation from God or other people.  God will come to our aide and He will strategically place in our lives people who want to reach out to us.  Let them in, open your heart, and accept the support that comes our way during the trials of life.  As plants need water, so we need the healing rain of God’s love in our lives. 

God is with us, and He will place in our lives caring people who will encourage us in our times of need.  Keep going, continue trusting in the Lord. 

Never give up.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Seeking God's Strength Through Prayer

Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.  –Psalm 4:1 

The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.  –Psalm 6:9
I recall a number of years ago when I attended a conference led by Henry Blackaby and his son Richard.  During one of the sessions Richard Blackaby shared something that truly hit home to me.  He told the story of a pastor he knew who had become so burned out that he had left the ministry.  Dr. Blackaby asked the man how much time he had spent in prayer while he was still in the ministry.  The man replied, “Prayer?  I didn’t have time to pray!  How could I be expected to keep up with all of my responsibilities and still make time to pray?”
This scenario demonstrates the importance of prayer and how easy someone can justify not making time to practice it.  Had this brother spent more time in prayer he would not have not felt so stressed.  Furthermore, he may well have found the strength and courage needed to remain the ministry.
For the last two months I have stood alongside my wife Andrea as she has engaged in a serious battle with cancer.  Throughout her treatments she has been nauseated, fatigued, and at times discouraged.  But through it all her faith has remained constant as she has trusted God for strength and healing.  As for me, numerous people have asked me how I am doing.  Their concern for me during this time is deeply touching.  The power and strength I have for getting up every morning, heading into the day, and seeking to be a help and comfort to my wife is found through daily prayer.  Time with God in which I draw from the strength of the Holy Spirit and the encouragement of God’s Word is my power source for keeping me moving forward.  Were it not for prayer I would surely grow so weak and discouraged that I would not be able to function.

Even in the best of times we need the spiritual strength that comes through communion with God.  Then when the trials of life come our way we are better equipped to stand firm and not grow discouraged.
The Lord is our strength, our help, our power, our Redeemer, and our hope.  Do not give up on prayer and you will not give up.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Walking Forward in the Power of the Resurrection

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.  -John 20:30, 31

I was reading this past week about some events that are said to have changed the world.  And while that’s a broad category, there are indeed some events that have taken place that changed forever the way we look at the world around us.  Because this happened, our lives are affected and to some extent changed.  

–The invention of gunpowder.  This was discovered around 850 AD by Chinese alchemists who were actually trying to concoct an elixir that would increase lifespan.  Their invention would become the basis for almost every weapon used in warfare from then on – even into the modern era.

–The Black Death of the 14th CE.  As the Bubonic Plague swept Europe, an estimated 75 million people died.  That lead to changes in the way people viewed God, the church, disease, and life in general.
–The discovery of sugar.  Suddenly this white crystal substance made nearly everything taste better, and everyone wanted it.  With the demand for sugar in the 1600’s, the slave trade in the Americas brought millions of Africans to this continent.  According US News and World Report, the average American consumes around (brace yourselves) 140 lbs. of sugar every year.  As a side note, we are only consuming around 8 lbs of broccoli every year and around 25 lbs of lettuce.
The Declaration of Independence signed by the Founding Fathers in 1776.  This one act would forever affect the history of the United Stated and would have implications for the entire planet as we have become a leading world power.

All of those are significant in their own way, and the list could go on and on.  However, one event stands above them all: The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  No event in human history has so changed the world, so changed mankind, and so affected people on a personal basis as has this one event.  The world will view it as inconsequential or perhaps mere myth and fable.  But to the faithful, it has brought salvation, life, and we see it as historical fact.

Another Easter season has come and gone.  Thanks be to God that we serve a Risen Savior.  Resolve to walk forward in the power of the resurrection each and every day.  In Christ and by His power we can face tomorrow with confidence, for the Lord is with us. 

Monday, April 5, 2010

Hallelujah, Christ arose!

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.  –John 20:19, 20 

Surprised, awestruck, overwhelmed, glad, overjoyed.  None of these truly do justice to what I felt when I saw the Risen Lord.  We had come together to discuss what had taken place and to consider the events of that morning –  the empty tomb and the testimony of the women who had first been there.  They had seen angels who told them that the Lord had risen from the dead.  Mary told of how that she had seen the Lord herself – she saw Him and spoke to Him!  We knew there was only one explanation: Either Mary had gone stark raving mad or the Lord was alive.  Against all reason I was holding to the latter belief.

There were only ten of us gathered.  Thomas had gone for the day on an errand; Judas we had not seen nor had we any information of his whereabouts.  The ten of us sat huddled in the darkened room talking quietly among ourselves.  The door was barred and locked – I had secured it myself.  All I can say is that suddenly the Lord stood among us.  Gone was the pale deathly look I had seen upon His face when He had breathed His last.  He was alive.  Of that there can be no doubt.  His words brought peace, comfort, and joy to our hearts.  We gathered around Him in a solemn and sacred sort of celebration.  No one asked, but He knew our thoughts and willingly drew back His garment that we might see the scar in His side where the spear had pierced Him.  He also showed us the nail scars in His hands and feet.  None of us needed to ask if He was truly the Lord; we knew that beyond all doubt.    

Where will we go from here?  I saw the Lord die, I witnessed the empty tomb, I saw Him alive, and I felt the power of the blessed Holy Spirit as He breathed upon my face.  I also know that He has forgiven me.  He understands my weaknesses, my impulsiveness.  He will never bring it up again nor will He ever hold it against me.  Having seen Him alive I know that there is hope for tomorrow.  Oh that the world might know that hope that I feel!
We must tell others.   

We must go and let everyone know that our Savior lives. 

Hallelujah, Christ arose! 

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Eye Witness Reflections on the Empty Tomb

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!" So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 
-John 1:1-9

Never have I seen a woman in such a state.  Mary had run the entire distance from the tomb to the place where John and I were staying.  We heard her frantic beating on the door and we had feared the worst.  As she told her astonishing account I could hear John behind me hurriedly pulling his cloak around himself.  Without a word he pushed past Mary and me in the doorway and ran toward the tomb, his footfalls upon the dusty street fading as he ran.  I too picked up my cloak and pulling it over my head ran after him.  We met few people on the street at that early hour – more the better.  I was a wanted man.  However I had greater matters to attend.

Mary’s account of going to the tomb, the stone rolled away, visions of angels pronouncing that the Lord had arose, and the tomb itself empty was all nearly too much to comprehend.  When I arrived, John was already there, kneeling down and looking into the tomb.  There was not a guard in sight.  All of them had fled.  I then entered the tomb and found the burial cloth where His body had been.  It was as Mary had said; the tomb was empty and the body of the Lord was not there.

John came into the tomb behind me and seeing the linen burial cloth proclaimed that a miracle had taken place, and he believed it with all of his heart.  
 “Simon,” he said to me; “The Lord has indeed risen.” 
I was trying my best to understand as we left the tomb and went our way.  Somehow my steps were lighter and my heart more hopeful than ever before.  If the Lord was alive then there was still hope; hope for me, hope for all who will believe, and hope for the world.

We will wait.  I know what I saw. 
The tomb was empty.   

The Lord will appear to us.   

He lives. I am certain of it!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Meditations of an Eye Witness

When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, "This fellow is one of them." Again he denied it.  After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, "Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean." He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, "I don't know this man you're talking about."  Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: "Before the rooster
crows twice you will disown me three times." And he broke down and wept.  –Mark 14:68-72 

I only thought I knew of sorrow and regret.  I knew nothing!  Never have I felt such grief, pain, and remorse.  Oh, I had been one to boast, hadn’t I?  All those promises I made meant nothing: that I would never abandon Him, that I would die for Him and with Him, and that though all the world turn away I would not.  In the end I denied Him –  not once but three times, just as He had said.  How could a man walk so close to the Lord, talk with Him, see the miracles, hear His voice, be a partaker of the riches of His love, and then so quickly abandon Him?  I have paced back and forth in my small room for hours.  We are supposed to be out telling the Good News, not hiding in fear.  They are looking for me.  I am a wanted man, for I have assaulted the servant of the High Priest.  When find they me will arrest me too.  That would serve me right.  Sleep eludes me, my thoughts wander, mourning consumes me, and I fear all is lost. 

How can my Lord be dead?  We listened to His words of life and rising on the third day.  What have I missed?  He was the hope of Israel!  He was the hope of the world!  I was there.  Somehow they did not notice me in the confusion of it all, but I was there.  Those words are burned into my mind: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Could such grace be extended to me?  To one who had disowned Him when He needed me the most?  I have tried all night to pray, but I cannot find the words.  The Scriptures are in my mind, the blessed promises of God, but I am ill of heart and spirit – I can never recover from what has been done. 

Tomorrow, yes tomorrow, I will come out of hiding and I will go to the tomb.  I will see for myself.  “On the third day I will rise again,” He said.
I wait.   

God help me.
God help us all.