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it’s a good friday

It’s 12:44 as I begin to write this post. Approximately 44 minutes ago, some 2,000+ years ago, Jesus declared, “It is finished,” or “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit” depending on which Disciple’s account you read.

The earth shook, the curtain in the Temple was torn in two and darkness filled the sky. At that point, nobody knew the glorious news that would come on the 3rd day when Jesus rose from the dead to appear first to Mary Magdalene.

As I look outside, the sun is shining and I, along with many of you, are preparing for the Easter Sunday celebration…shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc.

How Good it was to stop for a few minutes to read through Matthew 27:33-61 and just…well, think about it.

This day has become known as Good Friday, marked by the horrific act of one man beaten, tortured, insulted, stripped of any humanity, and nailed to a cross to die.

Now, just stop and think about that for a second. Maybe you’ve never seen this acted out in a play or in a movie. Maybe you’ve read the words a bunch of times but they never jumped off the page. Maybe this seems like a fantastic story but it never seemed real. After all, we live in an era where crime, bullying and violence are part of everyday life – just pick up the paper, read the Internet news or watch TV. In many ways, we’ve become desensitized to it until it reaches us personally, and so it becomes easy to sort of gloss over Jesus’ suffering on the cross. We can just look the other direction and not pay any attention to it.

Maybe you’re not sure this Jesus person was even real…

I want you to take a moment to think of an adult male figure in your life who cares about you and is known as a “good person” – someone who would “give a stranger the shirt off his back” (you’ve heard this phrase before).

Now, picture that person being arrested for his good works (doesn’t that sound crazy already?) and then being beaten, stripped of clothing, tortured and whipped to bleeding, denied any first aid or intervention, and then insulted and made fun of on top if it all while your family, friends and neighbors, even the whole city stands by and does nothing. (I wonder if Action News would be there to cover it? Would anyone riot in the streets or protest while holding signs?)

Next, picture that person being sentenced to die on a cross and being forced to carry the cross, on foot, a great distance – weakened, bruised, bloody, and barely able to stand. Every time he stumbles or falls, he’s beaten again.

Then, when the person arrives at the crucifixion spot, he is laid down on the cross while his hands and feet are nailed to it. Can you hear each scream with each spike being driven into his hands and feet. I don’t know about you, but accidentally banging something or spraining something is pain enough let alone the idea of having my hands and feet nailed to a block of wood.

Finally, the cross is lifted high, sunk into the ground, and this person hangs in the hot sun, slowly suffocating as his lungs collapse, until his lungs collapse.

It’s outrageous, isn’t it? Horrific? Ludicrous? We can come up with 100 more adjectives but aside from anything it was or was like, is the fact that it happened. And it happened for you and for me.

2,000+ years ago today Jesus suffered beating, torture and mockery, and died on the cross for my sin and your sin…for the sins that happened before today, the ones we’ll commit today, and the sin that will happen tomorrow. All sin.

He was, and is, our Savior.

Why? Because God loves us more than we can understand in human terms. The infinite and unconditional love God has for us caused Him to send His one and only son Jesus Christ to Earth in human form. Nothing that happened in the story of Jesus was a surprise to God. It was planned before the foundation of the Earth. And God did it all to make a way for us to be reconciled to Him. We can never be good enough on our own. We can never overcome our sins on our own. By believing in Jesus as our Savior we have the opportunity to receive God’s mercy and grace…salvation…eternal life with our Father and Creator, God. (John 3:16)

If you have never recognized Jesus as your Savior, today is a good day to make that decision and it’s as simple as A-B-C. Wherever you are, find a quiet spot. Maybe you’re not used to praying or talking to God. It’s okay. In your own words, simply…

A- Admit that you’re a sinner and you can’t do it on your own (e.g., “God I’m a sinner” or “God, I’ve really screwed up” etc.)

B-Believe that Jesus is your Savior (e.g. “I believe that Jesus died on the cross for me” or “I believe Jesus is real” etc.)

C- Commit your life (e.g. “Please come into my heart and show me how to live for you God” or “Please show me how to live your way God” or “I dedicate my life to you” etc.)

If you just prayed, congratulations and welcome to the family of God! Your name is now written in the book of life and all of Heaven is rejoicing! Tell your pastor, tell a close friend, and get into a Bible believing church that will help you grow in your faith.

Today is, in fact, a very Good Friday. And how glorious Easter Sunday will be when we can celebrate that Jesus is Alive! I pray that He is alive in your heart as well. Please share this post with a friend.

where is Jesus in your life today?

I was just sitting at the kitchen table working on our Thanksgiving grocery list. As I looked at one of the empty chairs across from me, I pictured Jesus sitting there…and then I pictured Him in the chair next to me. What joy! My heart was overflowing! Even though we can’t physically see Him, Jesus is with us every second. “…surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20, NIV) Where is Jesus in your life today?

God is faithful

[cross-posted to www.stepforwardtoday.com]

I was just looking out onto the autumn landscape, savoring a moment of calm and that “settled” feeling that only comes from knowing that God has had his hand on my life from the very beginning. Through every twisting, turning, joyous or horrific moment, He has never left me even before I had a relationship with Him!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a
future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Be encouraged today that whatever road you’re on, whatever circumstance you’re facing, whatever life stage you’re in, God is still with you and He still has a plan for you.

“…He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

fork in the road

We’ve all been through circumstances where we’ve come to the proverbial “fork in the road” – that moment of decision that would dictate our path forward on a particular issue or in a particular circumstance.

With ever-changing cultural norms and often volatile socio-political climate, we, as Believers, are under increasing pressure to give into what’s popular and relevant versus taking “the path less traveled” and standing firm in our faith. After all, what’s more appealing: Being ridiculed, ostracized and potentially killed? Or living a life of pleasure, power, success and popularity?

It’s much easier to go along with the majority in order to fit in and not make waves. But at what cost? As we seek to be culturally relevant from a Biblical perspective versus relevant for the sake of fitting in, we must remember to not forsake God’s teachings to us – the Scriptures – His instruction manual for our daily living: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…” (2 Tim 3:16) Nowhere in the Bible are we instructed to pick out whatever we feel looks good, as if God’s Word were a spiritual buffet of choices.

God knew we would have difficult decisions to make. He knew that standing up and living our lives according to His Word would be “the road less traveled” and go against what’s popular and accepted. “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matt 10:22) and “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Eph 6:11)

This world is temporary and will one day cease to exist. Our home is Heaven where we will worship our Creator, our Father, the Author and Perfecter of our Faith – forever. People are fickle and seek what is profitable for themselves, but Jesus “is the same yesterday, today, forever.” (Heb 13:8).

Every sacrifice we make here, even though painful, gut-wrenching, and beyond our ability to comprehend, is worth seeing HIM face-to-face, living our lives in Eternity. Until that day, “‘Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” (1 Cor 16:13)

persevering

“…But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the Word, retain it, and by PERSEVERING produce a crop.” – Luke 8:15, emphasis added

Did you notice the key: “by PERSEVERING produce a crop”?

Let’s take a look Webster’s definition of the root word ‘persevere':
1. to continue doing something or trying to do something even though it is difficult
2. to persist in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counterinfluences, opposition, or discouragement

If we look at the Greek root from the Strong’s reference, the word for perseverance is “hupomone” (pronounced hoop-om-an-ay). Hupomone can be broken into 2 parts: Hypo=under and Meno=remain, endure. The full definition is “endurance; steadfastness, especially as God enables the believer to “remain (endure) under” the challenges He allots in life.”

As Christians, we have a responsibility to not just hear the Word of God casually and go about our business, but to RETAIN the Word and live out the teachings of the Word, regardless of our circumstances; to persevere in the difficult times when we feel discouraged, disliked, maligned in some way, frustrated, faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, etc.

God did not promise us our journey would be easy. Instead, He said “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

[Hebrews 13:5 “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” ]

[Joshua 1:5 “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.”]

alive in the shadows

Are you alive in Christ but still living in a shadow of the past?

Maybe Jesus has been your Savior for years but you’re still holding onto secret hurts, secret circumstances, secret regrets. Are you protecting a person or situation that should be brought into the light? Has the enemy convinced you that everybody will look at you differently if they knew your secret? Are you overwhelmed thinking about what will happen if you were to tell someone?

I can relate to you and it was timely that our Pastor began a mini-series on “Restoration” yesterday. I have experienced incredible worship and the power of Jesus in my life in spite of living in a shadow.

Why settle? Why not keep running forward and be as sold out as possible and experience an even deeper level of worship and relationship with Christ by fully letting go…putting audible words to that last chain so it can be broken…being willing to to not be afraid and trust God for the outcome?

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and DO NOT BE AFRAID.” (John 14:27- with emphasis added)

signs all around

I see the news…the world events…the signs all around us and I say, “Come, Lord Jesus!” The evil that is being perpetrated around the globe has no boundaries, defies description & crushes my heart. This is not the future I want for our family or anyone else and yet we will walk through whatever circumstances come upon us, knowing that God goes with us & Jesus has gone before us. We can have faith and peace in all situations because “We are not of those that shrink back and are destroyed, but are those that Believe and are saved” (Hebrews 10:39).

Friends: Jesus is our only hope and Heaven is our home. There is no other way! “I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) If you don’t know Jesus as your savior, ask me, ask another Believer, ask your Pastor, but ASK!

faithfulness

[cross-posted to www.stepforwardtoday.com]

Focus on faithfulness and obedience in every task God gives you to do, no matter how small or insignificant it might appear. Maybe God gave you a big-picture vision and you have no idea how to get there. Don’t get mired down, worry, or lose heart. Focus on serving Him one step at a time, even if you’re on Step #1,247 wondering where the road is going to lead or when God is going to move. You never know what God will do next and He will direct your steps in HIS timing!

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” (Luke 16:10)

dusting off God’s Word

Do you have a Bible? Is there dust on it? Is it easily accessible or is there stuff piled on top if it? It’s time to get one if you don’t have one, or dust if off/dig it out. Take some time and read God’s Word – his love letter to us & basic instructions for life. Attend a body of worship and savor the preaching and Biblical teaching. There will come a time when we won’t have this luxury and we’ll need to rely on the Scripture that’s been engraved in our hearts and minds.

“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, ” when I will send a famine through the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.” (Amos 8:11-12)