April 30, 2018
TIME'S A WASTIN'
“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
I love it when God hits me over the head with something I need to learn by presenting the same truth to me several times in three different places in one day:
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16)
Okay, Lord, I understand that we are to make the most of every opportunity, but what does “the days are evil” mean? In search of an answer, I found a couple commentaries and came up with the following treasure:
“Because the days are evil, because the times in which you live are evil, there are many allurements and temptations that would lead you away from that the proper improvement of time . . . and that would draw you into sin . . . to go places where time would be wasted.” (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary)
As I read this quote, I felt I haven’t been caught up with “allurements and temptations” not of God, but in questions of what I should do: “God, what do you want me to do? Lord, should I speak at this event or that one? Lord, do you want me to start another radio program? I’m not sure. I don’t know what I feel I should do.”
It was as if the Lord was reminding me, “Stop wasting time by emotionally spinning and becoming immobilized and paralyzed with your feelings, if you should do this or that. Just get busy for me. I will guide you as you move forward and work. You don’t have an unlimited amount of time.”
I immediately thought of someone I once knew who spent years agonizing over how she was supposed to serve God. She sat at home doing nothing while her emotions led her into inactivity. In the meantime, time was a wastin.’ Tragically, the days she could have been serving Him were lost.
When we spend our days languishing in indecision, we can spend so much time wondering what we should do for Christ that we do nothing at all. We must remember that eternity is closing in, and that we only have a limited amount of time to make a difference. We must also remember there are a myriad of ways to serve Christ and show His love for others. All we have to do is look around and ask God to show us opportunities in our churches, neighborhoods, and even our own homes. The opportunities to serve and use our gifts and talents are limitless.
Perhaps this speaks to you today. If you don’t know what to do, do something. There are plenty of ways He has clearly shown us to serve Him in His Word while you wait on Him for more direction. What do you say? Let’s get busy for Christ. He will guide us as we work for Him and listen to Him.
“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:16)
Look for opportunities to serve those around you today.
April 29, 2018
YOUR BROKENNESS, GOD’S COMPASSION
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,”
The University of Virginia was founded by Thomas Jefferson. A story relates how misbehavior of students led to a riot. When professors tried to restore order, they were attacked. The following day, university’s board held a meeting with the defiant students. As a member of the board, Thomas Jefferson spoke, "This is one of the most painful events of my life." Suddenly, overcome with emotion, he burst into tears. Another board member asked the rioters to come forward and give their names. They did. Later, one of them gave the reason for their confession, "It was not Mr. Jefferson’s words, but his tears."
Just like the student was moved by Jefferson’s brokenness, so God is moved by yours. When you are truly broken and sorry for sins, true repentance is the result.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
Repentance involves confession, but it also involves making a 180-degree turn in lifestyle. God has assured that, for those who come to Him ready to forsake the past and turn over a new leaf, they will be abundantly pardoned. The One who blots out all sins, restores joy and peace to their souls.
April 28, 2018
“To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.”
Capacity is the ability Christ gives me to carry out His commands. And capacity varies from person to person. Some people can get by on five to six hours of sleep while I require seven to eight. Where I get out of balance is when I compare my capacity with someone of greater capacity. Indeed, capacity is meant to provide guardrails, not guilt.
So how can we use capacity to our advantage instead of our disadvantage? How can we understand our limitations and trust the Lord with the results? It starts by being honest about how God has made us. If we can only execute one project with excellence, then we limit ourselves to one.
But isn’t there a way to build capacity at work, at home, and in relationships? Yes, indeed! As you remain faithful with small responsibilities, the Lord and others can trust you with additional tasks. When you manage a small amount of money on a budget, you can be trusted with more resources to steward well. When you treat one individual with a full complement of grace and truth, you build relational capacity for more quality friendships.
Furthermore, you are over capacity when cash in your bank account is overdrawn or when you have written a relational check your emotions cannot cash. Therefore, monitor your capacity in prayer before Jesus. Ask Him for courage to say no to something new so you can say yes to current obligations. As in weight lifting, you can increase your mental, emotional, financial, and relational capacity, but it takes time, focus, and discipline.
The Lord has unlimited capacity for empathy, wisdom, and character. So go to Him for your character-capacity building. Make sure your character capacity keeps up with your success, and you will be able to handle success. Does your heart have the same capacity for humility as your mind does for truth? So build capacity around Christ’s gifts to you.
“Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you.” (2 Corinthians 10:12–13)
What capacities do you have that Christ wants to grow? To whom do you need to say no?
April 27, 2018
PIT CREW HEROES
2 Timothy 1:16
“May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains,”
One of our ministry team is a pretty enthusiastic NASCAR fan. If you're into that sport, then you know that for many years, Jeff Gordon was one of the best in the business.
Several years ago, there was documentary about his pit crew. When they interviewed the head of his pit crew (who, by the way, has a degree in organizational behavior), he revealed just how amazing the work of the pit crew is in a sport where seconds really matter. The pit crew chief said they will change up to 20 tires in one race. Just think of what those speeds must do to a tire! And they change a complete set of four tires in thirteen seconds - that's faster than I can finish off a bite of my dinner!
The driver is the name everyone knows - but the driver knows he's nothing without his pit crew! There are unsung heroes whose support is the key to finishing the race - and not just at a speedway. For every one of us, at one time or another, it's our pit crew that has made the difference in us finishing our race.
In Paul's last letter, written shortly before his death, the great missionary pays tribute to one of his pit crew heroes - a man with the mouthful name of Onesiphorus. At one stressful season of Paul's life, Onesiphorus was the head of his pit crew - and kept Paul rolling. Here's the story of an unsung hero from the Word of God. It's found in 2 Timothy:
“May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me—may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.” (2 Timothy 1:16-18)
Man, we all need an Onesiphorus. We all need to be Onesiphorus - except maybe with a name that's easier to pronounce. You can't control if you HAVE a friend like this - but you can DECIDE TO BE A FRIEND like this!
“Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” (Proverbs 11:25)
You know some people right now who are at a tough time in their race. They're slowing down...they're overheating... they're under heavy pressure...they may not feel like they can finish. And the difference is going to be someone who is willing to step up and be their Pit Crew. Someone like you. Someone who follows the example we just read about. Someone who frequently asks, "Lord, what could I do that would refresh my hurting friend - a call, a note, a meal, babysitting, giving him some time off?"
And notice what Paul wrote... "He often refreshed me." You need to go out of your way to find that person. You need to go out of your way to find out what's wrong. "He searched earnestly for me." We're talking about you being their "be there" person. They need to know you will always be there.
God has a wonderful promise for you if you will be someone's unsung hero in the pit crew who keeps them in the race. The promise is in Hebrews:
“For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.” (Hebrews 6:10)
Submitted by Peggy Lasher
April 26, 2018
PRAYING FOR OTHERS
“praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,”
A hospital chaplain visited a delightful old lady in the hospital. As he approached her bed, he noticed that with the index finger of one hand she was touching, one by one, the fingers of the other, with her eyes closed. When the chaplain spoke to her she opened her eyes and said, "Oh, chaplain, I was just saying my prayers - the prayers my grandmother taught me many years ago."
The chaplain looked puzzled, so she went on to explain, "I hold my hand like this, my thumb towards me. That reminds me to pray for those nearest to me. Then, there is my pointing finger, so I pray for those who point the way to others - teachers, leaders, parents. The next finger is the biggest so I pray for those in high places. After that comes the weakest finger - look it won't stand up by itself - so I pray for the sick and the lonely and the afraid. And this little one - well, last of all I pray for myself."
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
April 25, 2018
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Years ago, I was hospitalized following a life-threatening, 38-foot fall from a bridge. While I was there, the wife of the man in the next bed stopped to speak to me. “My husband just told me what happened to you,” she said. “We believe God spared your life because He wants to use you. We’ve been praying for you.”
I was stunned. I had grown up going to church, but I had never imagined that God would want to be involved in my life. Her words pointed me to a Savior I had heard of but did not know—and marked the beginning of my coming to Christ.
I cherish the memory of those words from a gentle witness who cared enough to say something to a stranger about the God whose love is real. Her words conveyed care and concern, and offered purpose and promise.
Jesus challenged His disciples—and us—to tell others about the love of God:
“…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Through the Holy Spirit, our words and witness can have the power to make an eternal difference in the lives of others.
April 24, 2018
FROM GRIEF TO JOY
”Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.”
Kelly’s pregnancy brought complications, and doctors were concerned. During her long labor, they decided to whisk her away for a Cesarean section. But despite the ordeal, Kelly quickly forgot her pain when she held her newborn son. Joy had replaced anguish. Scripture affirms this truth:
“A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world” (John 16:21)
Jesus used this illustration with His disciples to emphasize that even though they would grieve because He would be leaving soon, that grief would turn to joy when they saw Him again:
“When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:21–22)
Jesus was referring to His death and resurrection—and what followed. After His resurrection, to the disciples’ joy, Jesus spent another forty days walking with and teaching them before ascending and leaving them once again:
“He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3)
Yet Jesus did not leave them grief-stricken. The Holy Spirit would fill them with joy:
“And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 13:52)
Though we have never seen Jesus face to face, as believers we have the assurance that one day we will. In that day, the anguish we face on this earth will be forgotten. But until then, the Lord has not left us without joy—He has given us His Spirit:
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8–9)
TEARS OF COMFORT
“Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
There is a non-verbal language of love that is communicated through compassionate tears. Empathy engages the heart at levels that verbal exchanges may not be able to penetrate. It is when emotion responds to emotion that a grieving soul senses they are cared for and understood. Tears quietly convey the aura that I feel your pain—I hurt because you hurt.
Comfort is the first step in seeking to serve another’s pain. Refrain from truth telling until the heart receives proper care. Fear and anger have to be flushed from a hurting heart before facts can be appropriately applied and comprehended. It’s from a context of love and acceptance that people trust and receive. Tears become a conduit for Christ’s care.
“…Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord,” (2 Kings 20:5)
We mourn with those who mourn so they are not alone. Desperation feeds at the table of aloneness, but security and peace preoccupy the person comforted by a community. It starts with a patient spouse or friend and spills over to sincere souls who believe in Jesus to bring wholeness and healing. Tears shed in love terminate isolation and invite intimacy.
Does your husband, wife or child need a response of compassion, rather than a reaction of passion? Does your team at work need you first to listen and understand, instead of feeling an automatic demand for your agenda? Yes, truth sets free—but the mind comprehends after the heart has been heard. Tears prepare the way for truth’s arrival.
“Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them.” (Ecclesiastes 4:1)
How is your heart? Do you have a safe environment to lay bare your soul? Self-reliance and self-condemnation are obstacles to intimacy with your heavenly Father and with those who love you the most. Dismiss driven discipline—instead practice vulnerable dependency. Replace shame with security in your Savior, and trusting transparency with a caring community. Your tears open your heart to emotional and spiritual healing. Free your soul to speak with moist eyes to your master Jesus—as He lovingly weeps with you.
“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.” (Hebrews 5:7)
Who can you weep with and comfort in Christ? What in your heart needs healing comfort?
April 20, 2018
THE MOTIVATION OF OUR LOVE
1 John 4:19
“We love because he first loved us.”
In the 1920s, Bobby Jones dominated the golfing world, despite being an amateur. In one film about his life, Bobby Jones: “Stroke of Genius”, there is a scene where a professional golfer asks Bobby when he is going to quit being an amateur and grab for the money like everyone else does. Jones answers by explaining that the word amateur comes from the Latin amo—to love. His answer was clear: He played golf because he loved the game. In a similar way we love others because of our heavenly Father’s great love for us.
Almighty God loves with an incredible love. His love has no boundaries or bias. The love of Jesus is limitless to the extent to which He will give us His grace. His love goes behind the enemy’s lines of deceit and rescues those lost in their loveless state of mind. Christ’s love looks for the unloved and offers comfort, care, compassion and forgiveness.
Jesus modeled loving people regardless of their “emotional baggage” or spiritual unbelief. He forgave a women caught in adultery and admonished her to sin no more.
“…And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.’” (John 8:11)
He cared for society’s outcast---a female Samaritan---by offering her the “Living Water” of Himself.
“Jesus answered her [Samaritan woman], ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, "Give me a drink," you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’” (John 4:10)
He patiently taught an inquisitive, but fearful religious leader---Nicodemus---in the need to be born again by the cleansing water of heavenly grace.
“Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’” (John 3:4-5)
Jesus modeled for His disciples how they were to love one another by the way He cared for them with menial, but very meaningful tasks of service. Who do you know caught in sin, who you can love so they can learn of their freedom in Christ?
Why does the Almighty love you with such abandon? One reason is so that you can be a catalyst for Christ’s love. You have the inconceivable opportunity to love others on behalf of the Lord. While a friend or family member may writhe in physical agony or emotional pain, you are an extension of God’s eternal love on earth, because you are extremely loved by God. You have His extra love to administer to other’s loneliness and to their frantic fears.
“But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13)
Love is not received to be stored up in your soul like a savings account, rather to be paid forward to neighbors, work associates and enemies. Love is quick to forgive and slow to criticize. It looks for ways to bless those whose last blessing is long gone. Love grows a relationship into a beautiful garden of green plants, deep-rooted trees and the tantalizing smell of luscious flowers.
Love does not sit still, but searches out souls in need of its care. Take time to regularly receive the love of Jesus into your life. Commune with Christ, the lover of your soul, and you will experience His peace and security. Your rested spirit is positioned to be a robust lover for another hungry heart. Enter into God’s eternal love, so you can deploy it on earth. The Lord loves on you, so you can love on others.
“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16)
Who needs your love and forgiveness who may be hard to love?
April 19, 2018
WORSHIP WHEN WORRIED
“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”
I cannot worship and worry at the same time. When Christ is my focus, they do not coexist, because worship pushes worry into its own wilderness. In my personal and corporate worship, almighty God becomes bigger than life. His holiness heals my heart, His beauty soothes my soul, His majesty humbles my pride, and His glory gets my full attention. Worship re-calibrates my thinking to trust and my emotions to the eternal.
Our worship is meant to move us toward our Master in a manner that transforms our weak faith to a bold proclamation of His faithfulness. Music is a facilitator for our heart to lift itself out of the worries of this world to the calming presence of Christ. As Christ followers we are privileged to approach Him anytime in authentic adoration and praise. We shout with thanksgiving or quietly whisper words of gratitude to our King.
“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody! With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!” (Psalm 98:4–6)
How is your daily and weekly worship? Is it rote or radical? Is it fresh or perfunctory? Worship is a way to wrap your mind around what matters. The cares and competition of this world become strangely dim as heaven comes into full focus in all its splendor. Like a giddy scientist peering through his Hubble telescope, your worship gives you glimpses into His glory. Your eyes of faith fall on the compassionate face of Christ.
Genuine worship focuses on your heavenly Father, but it changes you. You walk away wondering why you ever worried in the first place. You exit your place of worship having left the residue of your sin behind, because you came clean in confession and repentance.
Sin cannot bow at the footstool of Holy God without melting away in fear.
Worship and worry no more, for this is your opportunity to engage God. Worship matters, because the Lord matters. Worship freely, and watch Him free you from worry. Like the sun cutting into a fog-covered bridge, He burns away your mind’s clouded cares. Worship works, because worry cannot coexist in the presence of our King Jesus Christ.
“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28–29)
Do you regularly replace your worry with worship? Do you authentically worship almighty God?
April 18, 2018
2 Corinthians 3:3
“And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”
Sammy Mason was a stunt pilot and a committed follower of Jesus Christ. He also was a flight instructor at the Santa Paula Airport in California. One day a man came to see him about some flight training, because he had recently purchased an antique Stearman biplane. The man’s name was Steve McQueen. Having conquered auto racing and motocross, the world-famous actor wanted to learn how to fly.
McQueen had been raised by an alcoholic mother who had little to no time for him, and he had spent time at the Boys Republic in Chino Hills. He had ascended to the top in Hollywood and was making millions of dollars, yet there was a big hole in his heart.
McQueen spent hours in the cockpit with Sammy Mason, and he admired him. One day he asked his instructor what his secret was, and Mason told him about his faith in Jesus Christ. Then McQueen asked if he could attend church with him. They went to Ventura Missionary Church, where Pastor Leonard DeWitt preached the gospel and invited people to come to Christ at each service. After a few weeks passed, McQueen had an extended conversation with the pastor, which resulted in McQueen’s committing his life to Jesus Christ.
We have heard of Steve McQueen, but we probably hadn’t heard of Sammy Mason. One person can make all the difference. We all have something to do. We all have a sphere of influence. We want to do what we can while we can.
If you’re a believer, then you are a representative of Christ. You may be the only Christian some people ever will know. It’s been said that Christians are walking epistles, written by God and read by men.
You may be the only Bible that some people ever read.
"Preach the Gospel always. Use words if necessary.” — St. Francis of Assisi
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
April 17, 2018
“For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.”
Even though the years are galloping by, and sometimes I’d like to slow them down, I have joy that sustains me. Each day is a new day given to me by the Lord. With the psalmist, I can say:
“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night,” (Psalm 92:1–2)
Even though my life has its struggles, and the pain and difficulties of others sometimes overwhelm me, God enables me to join the psalmist in singing for joy:
“For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.” (Psalm 92:4)
Joy for blessings given: family, friends, and satisfying work.
Joy because of God’s wondrous creation and His inspired Word.
Joy because Jesus loved us so much He died for our sins.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)
Because of the Lord:
“The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green,” (Psalm 92:12–14)
What fruit is that? No matter our circumstances or season of life, we can be examples of His love through the life we lead and the words we say. There is joy in knowing and living for the Lord and telling others about Him.
April 16, 2018
1 Timothy 2:8
“I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;”
You’re smoothly motoring along, being only moderately attentive, enjoying the beauty of the drive, when you hit it – a speed bump. You’re momentarily jarred by the impact, and your forward motion is impeded. You pay more attention as you proceed.
Sometimes the Christian life is like that. You’re enjoying the beauty of time spent with the Lord in prayer, feel you’re moving forward in your relationships with Him and other people, and then along comes an unexpected spiritual prayer bump. Two of them are posted in today’s verse: anger and quarreling.
You have a choice to make. You can keep going as you were, allowing your spiritual life to slow down, maybe even come to an abrupt stop. Or you can pay more attention to your relationships with God and others, adjusting as you journey on. Confess to the Father what impedes you. Then work to smooth the road with the person you’ve quarreled with or held anger toward. Putting it off only guarantees more prayer bumps ahead.
FAMILY OF FAITH
“For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
Sometimes I forget to thank the Lord for my brothers and sisters in Christ who are like family. They are there to check on me, pray for me, encourage me, and hold me accountable. Blood is thicker than water, but the bond around the blood of Christ can be even thicker. My family in the faith is a gift from God not to be taken for granted.
Are you engaged with a community of Christ followers? Some of your family members may have forsaken you for your faith, but Jesus can more than compensate with those who love Him and His children. You have a family of faith that longs to love you. Have you initiated relationships at church or a Bible study? Look around you to love and be loved.
“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:46-47)
Be with those who want to do the will of their heavenly Father, and you will want to do the will of your heavenly Father. The family of faith is contagious in its commitment to Christ. But how do you respond to relatives who want to pull you away from the presence of Jesus? How do you stay true to the Lord when there is tension over your trust in Him?
You cannot ignore them, even when they are unruly, because God has family in your life to be a reflection of Him. Your behavior may be the only Bible they read, and your words may be the only Jesus they hear. You know better, so you forgive and extend grace while unbelieving family members do not know any better than to be harsh and hold grudges.
Lean into your family of faith so you in turn can lovingly serve your family outside the faith. Moreover, look for believers in your life who need family and invite them into yours. We need each other for the body of Christ is connected and sensitive to one another’s needs. When you have Jesus as a friend, you have a family in the faith. Paul said,
“To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.” (Titus 1:4)
Whom do you count as family in the faith? How can you bless them? Who needs you to be family for them?
April 13, 2018
WORTH THE WAIT
“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”
God has wonderful dreams just for you! On those days when you feel hopeless and abandoned, remember He has not forgotten you. Jeremiah says:
“For I know the plans I have for you…plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Hope is the expectation of the belief that something better is yet to come. Hope is one of His greatest gifts to you. Hope is the promise that He has for your today and your tomorrows.
Your expectations of God and His promises may fall short of His grand plans because He sees the big picture and has in store the best for you. That means He may not always provide the answer you want on your timetable, but He will respond according to His plan. God loves you more than anyone! It’s worth the wait!
Pray with hopeful expectation. Bring your requests confidently to God. Put your hope in the Lord and be prepared for Him to go beyond everything you can imagine!
April 12, 2018
OUT OF PLACE
“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.”
Theologian Richard John Neuhaus stated that Christians are by their nature a people out of place. You are not a citizen of this world; your true home is with God. You are a stranger in a strange land – an exile.
Chapter 29 of Jeremiah is a letter to exiles. The people of Judah had been taken captive to Babylon. Their world was dark. They were warned to be wary of false-hope givers. They knew not to expect anything good from the Babylonian government. But in the middle of their exile, they received a message of hope. God had a plan…to bring them back and restore their future. You, too, have a letter from the Lord, and it is a Bible full of hope and restoration.
Don’t despair when you look at the bleakness of this earthly place. Find encouragement in being reconciled to God through Christ. Know that all future hope is in Him. Keep your prayers tied to the Lord’s will and His plans. They will not be thwarted!
April 11, 2018
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
Imagine that I dump 10,000 plastic eggs in your back yard. I assure you that inside one of those hollow eggs is a check for $1 Million dollars with your name on it. Would you get discouraged if you opened the first 100 eggs without finding the check? How about the first 1000 eggs? Of course not ! You'd just keep opening those eggs, just waiting for the moment when you'd find the check.
Paul knew the meaning of the word "suffering." He had been beaten, stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked, starved, and rejected. And yet Paul said that his sufferings were nothing compared to the glory that would come. In other words, Paul had opened a lot of empty eggs, but he never gave up or got discouraged. He believed that something great was in his future - God's glory revealed in him.
Perhaps it feels to you as if your life has been nothing but empty eggs. You've already opened 99000 of them and you're not sure you've got the will to go on. Let me encourage you today. Don't give up. I don't want to trivialize the challenges you are facing, but I do want to help you put them into perspective. They are only temporary, and God has something much greater in store for you. Compared to the glory that will be revealed in us one day, our suffering doesn't merit discouragement.
Hang on. Don't give up. Keep going. One day God will replace your discouragement with incomparable glory!
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
April 10, 2018
MAKING THE MOST OF LIFE
"So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom."
One afternoon in 2010 I drove to a cemetery near my home. I wanted voices from the past to speak to me through the messages on their headstones. I parked my car in a shady spot then walked carefully and quietly where husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, and friends were buried:
"Beloved husband and father"
"My life is not over. Yesterday was not the end."
"Gone too soon; never forgotten.”
After about twenty minutes and pondering each headstone, I listed the years of my life from my current age to 100, each year scribbled inside tiny squares on a lined piece of notebook paper. I finished, then stared at the page. When reduced to single years on a single page, the brevity of life felt overwhelming. “That’s it? That’s all there is?” (Or could be, depending on how long the Lord keeps me alive.) Jesus’ words came to mind:
“...you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)
Some of the lives represented in the cemetery were long, some were short—but all had the opportunity to make a difference for God in the time they had been given. Urgency shot through my heart as I looked out once more over the headstones. “I don’t have long! The chance they had to make a difference on the earth is over, but I still have a chance. My chance is now! I need to make the most of my time to make a difference for Christ and to love others to heaven.”
There is something in every person alive that longs to know that their presence on the earth matters. No one, when lying on their death bed hopes to say, “I wasted my days.” Rather, they want the dash on their headstone in-between their birth and death to mean something.
But what does it mean to make a difference? What does it mean to live a life of significance? When Jesus gave us the two greatest commandments, he said:
“… 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matthew 22:37-39)
“Love God and love others.” Since these are the two greatest commandments, we can be certain that anything we do that falls into the “Love God” or “Love others” categories is measured by God with favor. Whatever you do, do it with all of your heart as unto the Lord:
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24)
Keep love in mind and when you get home to heaven, and someone is looking over your headstone, you will hear God say. . .
“…‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” (Matthew 25:23)
List your years on a piece of paper and ponder how you want to live out the remainder of your days.
April 9, 2018
WITNESS IN NATURE
“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
Lord Howe Island is a small paradise of white sands and crystal waters off Australia’s east coast. When I visited some years ago, I was struck by its beauty. Here, one could swim with turtles and with fish like the shimmering trevally, while moon wrasses drifted nearby, flashing their neon colors like a billboard. In its lagoon, I found coral reefs full of bright orange clownfish and yellow-striped butterfly fish that rushed to kiss my hand. Overwhelmed by such splendor, I couldn’t help but worship God.
The apostle Paul gives the reason for my response. Creation at its best reveals something of God’s nature:
“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)
The wonders of Lord Howe Island were giving me a glimpse of His own power and beauty. When the prophet Ezekiel encountered God, he was shown a radiant Being seated on a blue throne surrounded by glorious colors:
“And there came a voice from above the expanse over their heads. When they stood still, they let down their wings. And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire;[a] and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.” (Ezekiel 1:25–28)
The apostle John saw something similar: God sparkling like precious stones, encircled by an emerald rainbow:
“At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald.” (Revelation 4:2–3)
When God reveals Himself, He is found to be not only good and powerful but beautiful too. Creation reflects this beauty the way a piece of art reflects its artist. Nature often gets worshiped instead of God:
“because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” (Romans 1:25)
What a tragedy. Instead, may earth’s crystal waters and shimmering creatures point us to the One standing behind them who is more powerful and beautiful than anything in this world.
April 8, 2018
THE SIN OF BEING TOO SERIOUS
“Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD. Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!”
There is a sin of being too serious when my pride drives the tone of words and the tenor of my attitude. The sin of being too serious manifests itself with me being the center of attention: my agenda, my desires, my needs and most of all, my way. Selfish and self focused, I can even attempt to leverage the Lord’s name in seeking to gain a conversational edge or influencing an outcome. There are serious matters I need to take seriously: sin, salvation, heaven and hell, all call me to humble myself before the mighty hand of God. Gratefully, humility leads to trust and joy!
The woes of the wicked come from a distorted love that is self focused, not God focused. A selfish love fails on all occasions, while the unfailing love of the Lord surrounds those who trust in Him with the success of sweet peace and gladness. A life that releases its expectations is lifted up into the presence of angels on high, while a life bent on having its own way is dragged down into the dirge of demons. Pride fuels the sin of becoming too serious. Humility frees the heart to rest in righteousness and not brandish self-righteousness as a sword of self-serving seriousness.
“In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.” (Psalm 119:14)
There is an otherworldly joy that accompanies a heart that follows hard after Christ’s commands. A hard heart congratulates itself and celebrates what it has acquired in the riches of this world, but a soft heart sings with thanksgiving to the only One---Jesus, who provides true riches! Joyful obedience to Jesus is attractive, not overly concerned with perfection, but trusts God’s grace to fill in the gaps of an imperfect life. Guilt free because of grace. Shame free because of salvation. Greed free because of generosity. Fear free because of trust. Faith and love refresh the soul.
Have you lost the joy of your salvation? Is the joy of the Lord your strength or has your faith become stale? Remember when you didn’t know any better than to gladly and gratefully obey God, and then something hard happened. The church let you down. A Christian failed you. Life was not fair. You were penalized for your faith. Or, you began to feel superior and demandingly serious, expecting others to become more like you and your ways. Perhaps you should start by taking yourself less seriously and the Lord more seriously. Humility finds freedom in faith and offers freedom to those around them. Grace creates a glad, grateful, obedient heart. Seriously---smile!
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.” (Psalm 51:12-13)
In what area of your life do you need to give yourself permission to not take so serious and instead enjoy your freedom in Christ?
April 7, 2018
SPRING TO LIFE
“…that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.”
Any day now, gardeners everywhere will develop a fever – spring fever, that is. It’s that special time when gardening gloves whisper your name and the grass winks as you walk by. Many have an overwhelming desire to dig, plant, water, and nurture what lies dormant and grey into thriving life, beauty and aroma.
In the Bible, the Holy Spirit is likened to a divine gardener. At times, the seeds of faith may be lying quietly in your heart enduring the winter of a seemingly insurmountable disappointment or challenge. Yet when you respond to the voice encouraging you to pray, read Scripture or worship in song, you suddenly sense resurrection and find the hope of new life in your heart.
That same Spirit is moving today…seeking people of faith who are willing to let the divine gardener cultivate the soil of their devotion. Will you faithfully plant the seeds of hope for the next generation? The prayers you offer for them today will be the blessings they see tomorrow. Intercede, that they would experience a revived desire to know God and the life He brings.
April 6, 2018
“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;”
A man's daughter had asked the local pastor to come and pray with her father. When the pastor arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows. An empty chair sat beside his bed.
The pastor assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit. "I guess you were expecting me," he said.
"No, who are you?", said the father. "I am the new pastor at your church," he replied. "When I saw the empty chair, I figured you knew I was going to show up."
"Oh yeah, the chair," said the bedridden man. "Would you mind closing the door?" Puzzled, the pastor shut the door. "I have never told anyone this, not even my daughter," said the man. "But all of my life I have never known how to pray. At church I used to hear the preacher talk about prayer, but it went right over my head."
"I abandoned any attempt at prayer," the old man continued, "until one day about four years ago my best friend said to me, Joe, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with JESUS. Here is what I suggest. Sit down in a chair, place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see JESUS on the chair. It's not spooky because he promised:
“… And behold, I am with you always …” (Matthew 28:20)
Then just speak to HIM and listen in the same way you're doing with me right now'.
"So, I tried it and I liked it so much that I have been doing it a couple of hours every day since. I'm careful though, if my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she'd either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to a funny farm."
The pastor was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old man to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him and returned to the church.
Two nights later the daughter called to tell the pastor that her daddy had died that afternoon. "Did he die in peace?" he asked. "Yes, when I left the house about two o'clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me he loved me and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead.
But there was something strange about his death. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on the chair beside the bed." What do you make of that ?"
The pastor wiped a tear from his eye and said, "I wish we all could go that way".
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
April 5, 2018
GOD KNOWS YOU BETTER THAN YOU KNOW YOURSELF
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.”
The Bible reminds us over and over again of the comfort and peace that comes from being known and loved by God. We are truly known and perfectly loved, even more clearly and truly than we know and love ourselves! In fact, it is often quite difficult for us to know ourselves well, to discern clearly our longings, needs, and deepest desires.
Simply put, what we think we need and actually need is not always one in the same. This is especially true in times of pain or suffering. We want to flag Jesus down and say, “Come over here! I’m hurting and need you to fix this right now!” And Jesus does want to heal us and comfort us, yet he desires to heal our deepest longings and truest needs, and does so even if we don’t know what that need is.
In the medical field, doctors often talk about treating the underlying issue rather than simply focusing on the presenting symptom. I wonder if this is true of our spiritual lives as well? Could it be that Jesus, the Great Physician, wants to free us from our sorrow and pain, yet does so by working his healing into the core of our very being? And in light of this, what does it mean for us to be calm in the midst of chaos, peaceful in the most unlikely of places?
Since God knows us better than we even know ourselves, we are free to take a deep breath, open our hands, and with humble hearts say to God, “Even in the midst of chaos and great pain, I trust that you know my deepest need. So I won’t try and run past you or tell you what’s best. I choose to instead acknowledge my limitations and weakness, trusting that you are always working for my good.”
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:14)
In the mystery and beauty of God’s wisdom, instead of simply erasing pain and brokenness, he heals it by taking it upon himself and transforming it in the process. We see this perfectly and powerfully on the cross as Jesus takes death upon himself so that through it he can speak life and victory.
Take heart today and trust that the thing in your life that feels like it might be your undoing can instead be something you offer to God for healing and restoration. Though it may seem improbable or even impossible, nothing is too great for a God who knows you better than you know yourself!
What trial are you facing that you need to hand over to God with an open hand, trusting in his goodness and care for you?
April 4, 2018
YOU ARE A MAGNIFICENT CREATION!
“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”
I have “Grandma’s Rights”. Perhaps you’ve heard of them. They are the rights every woman gets when she has grandchildren. When a grandchild is born, she automatically receives the right to blab on about how wonderful her grands are, show absolute strangers pictures of her cuties, and brag about all the wonderful things they are accomplishing. Love does that to you. It makes you proud.
One of the wonderful things my grandson, Hudson, has accomplished recently is ascending stairs. He’s not quite a year old, but my son-in-law says he’s going to be a mountain climber one day.
In an effort to capture these special memories, I have been writing letters in a journal to Hudson to give to him when he is a young man. Today, I am sharing my most recent entry, not just to brag, but to bless you. Because, what I share with Hudson is true of you, too.
Grandpa and I talked to your mom and dad on the phone last weekend and your dad said, "Hudson probably climbs the stairs ten times a day.”
I just think it’s incredible how the Lord made people and animals and all of creation. You don’t have to tell a fish to swim, a plant to grow, a duck to quack, or a baby to roll, scoot, crawl, and then climb stairs. It just happens—and it’s utterly wondrous and beautiful!
“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:31)
As life goes on, it will be that you won’t believe your magnificence, wonder and the marvelous creation you are, knitted together by the hand of God in your mother’s womb:
"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb." (Psalm 139:13)
And, there will even be times you see yourself through a dark lens created by the evil one designed for your destruction:
“And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.’” (Revelation 12:10)
But God is your champion, Dear One, cheering you on as the creation He has made. Satan will attack you, coming against you in your thoughts, telling you that you are a failure, a loser, that what you do is insignificant, that you aren’t worth loving, that you are rejectable, that you have to perform to earn God’s love, or any number of lies.But you must remember that these lies are simply untrue. You are created. And God loves His creation.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
You are God’s fingerprint:
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27)
Never forget that, no matter what your failures, sin, the world, the devil, or people tell you. Believe the truth about who you are, and you will act out your true identity as a beloved child of God. Then, the world around you will see God’s glory.
I love you,
You are a wonderful creation of God too, made on purpose just the way you are. Just think about that. How marvelous!
“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”(Colossians 1:16)
Share what you learned today with someone else.
April 3-4, 2018
THE STORY OF THE THREE TREES
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[a] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Once there were three trees on a hill in the woods. They were discussing their hopes and dreams when the first tree said, "Someday I hope to be a treasure chest. I could be filled with gold, silver and precious gems. I could be decorated with intricate carving and everyone would see the beauty."
Then the second tree said, "Someday I will be a mighty ship. I will take kings and queens across the waters and sail to the corners of the world. Everyone will feel safe in me because of the strength of my hull."
Finally the third tree said, "I want to grow to be the tallest and straightest tree in the forest. People will see me on top of the hill and look up to my branches, and think of the heavens and God and how close to them I am reaching. I will be the greatest tree of all time and people will always remember me."
After a few years of praying that their dreams would come true, a group of woodsmen came upon the trees. When one came to the first tree he said, "This looks like a strong tree, I think I should be able to sell the wood to a carpenter" and he began cutting it down. The tree was happy, because he knew that the carpenter would make him into a treasure chest.
At the second tree a woodsman said, "This looks like a strong tree, I should be able to sell it to the shipyard." The second tree was happy because he knew he was on his way to becoming a mighty ship.
When the woodsmen came upon the third tree, the tree was frightened because he knew that if they cut him down his dreams would not come true.
One of the woodsmen said, "I don't need anything special from my tree so I'll take this one", and he cut it down."
When the first tree arrived at the carpenters, he was made into a feed box for animals. He was then placed in a barn and filled with hay. This was not at all what he had prayed for.
The second tree was cut and made into a small fishing boat. His dreams of being a mighty ship and carrying kings had come to an end. The third tree was cut into large pieces and left alone in the dark. The years went by, and the trees forgot about their dreams.
Then one day, a man and woman came to the barn. She gave birth and they placed the baby in the hay in the feed box that was made from the first tree. The man wished that he could have made a crib for the baby, but this manger would have to do. The tree could feel the importance of this event and knew that it had held the greatest treasure of all time.
Years later, a group of men got in the fishing boat made from the second tree. One of them was tired and went to sleep. While they were out on the water, a great storm arose and the tree didn't think it was strong enough to keep the men safe. The men woke the sleeping man, and he stood and said "Peace" and the storm stopped. At this time, the tree knew that it had carried the King of Kings in its boat.
Finally, someone came and got the third tree. It was carried through the streets as the people mocked the man who was carrying it.
When they came to a stop, the man was nailed to the tree and raised in the air to die at the top of a hill. When Sunday came, the tree came to realize that it was strong enough to stand at the top of the hill and be as close to God as was possible, because Jesus had been crucified on it.
The moral of this story is that when things don't seem to be going your way, always know that God has a plan for you. If you place your trust in Him, He will give you great gifts. Each of the trees got what they wanted, just not in the way they had imagined.
We don't always know what God's plans are for us. We just know that His ways are not our ways, but His ways are always best.
The Daily Encourager
Submitted by Peggy Lasher Bentley
April 2, 2018
AFTER THE RESURRECTION
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Christians around the world have spent a lot of time over the last few weeks pondering the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ death and resurrection. During Easter week, we read the familiar stories of the Triumphal Entry, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion . . . and then with the Resurrection on Easter Sunday, the story ends. Right?
Not quite. While the Gospels of Matthew and Mark end shortly after the Resurrection, Luke and John provide extra detail about what Jesus did during the time between his resurrection and his ascent into heaven. If your Gospel reading stopped at the Resurrection, you’re missing out on several interesting stories.
Luke and John both describe at length Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearances to his followers. (Mark mentions these briefly as well.) Jesus’ appearance before “doubting Thomas” and the other disciples (in John and in Luke) are well known and contain a number of little details.
“So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (John 20:25)
“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you.'” (John 20:19)
A minor sentence, but one that communicates the terror and bewilderment that must have plagued the disciples in the immediate aftermath of Jesus’ crucifixion. If you had been one of Jesus’ disciples, what might you have done in this situation—reeling from the death of your teacher, fearing for your life, and wondering if everything you believed in was really true?
“And he said to them, 'Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?'” (Luke 24:38)
The Gospel of Luke also describes an encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus:
“…saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (Luke 24:34)
With tantalizing but confused rumors of the empty tomb still spreading, Jesus appears in disguise to a pair of his followers. After visiting with and teaching them for some time, Jesus reveals himself in a beautifully-described scene:
“When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’” (Luke 24:30-32)
The Gospel of John provides a few more memorable stories. First, Jesus (again, unrecognized at first) performs his last recorded miracle, overwhelming the disciples’ fishing nets with a huge catch.
“Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn.’” (John 21:10-11)
At is at this time that Jesus gives Peter the famous charge to “Feed my sheep.” Matthew and Mark both close with the “Great Commission,” Jesus’ instructions to his disciples to go out into the world and spread the good news of salvation:
“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20)
“And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.’” (Mark 16:15)
These passages have long been the basis of the Christian emphasis on sharing the Gospel with the world through evangelism and missionary work.
Mark and Luke describe Jesus’ Ascension, as “taken up into heaven”, after speaking to his disciples a final time:
“So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.” (Mark 16:19)
“...two men in white robes stood by them and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.'" (Acts 1:10-11)
It is clear from the Gospel accounts that the story of Jesus reaches its culmination with the Resurrection. But the tidbits we do get about the post-Resurrection days not only satisfy some of our curiosity about how Jesus’ Resurrection was received by his followers, but also give us the evangelistic direction that guides Christ-followers to this day.
April 1, 2018
HE IS ALIVE!
"Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again'”. Then they remembered his words." Luke 24:5–8
He is alive, I am forgiven and my soul has been set free. He is alive and I am forgiven, my joy I cannot contain. He is alive and I am forgiven, my faith is here to stay. He is alive and I am forgiven, my love flows deep and wide. He is alive and I am forgiven because He did what He promised—He arose after three days. He is alive! He is alive! He is alive!
What emotions did the friends and disciples of Jesus feel when they realized He was real? Certainly, they were surprised by the joy of knowing Jesus was back, even larger than in life. Even though they had watched Him raise Lazarus after four days of death, their faith had forgotten. But now they were glad again because God raised His Son to life:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” (1 Peter 1:3)
If you look for Jesus among the dead you will not find Him. He has left the cold cemetery and risen to be with the warm love of His Father. Dead churches cannot claim the calming presence of Christ because they have forsaken the faith required to recognize Him. Look for the Lord among the living, those who live out their faith with bold grace.
Remember the words of Jesus, and your faith will resound with reassurance:
“When I [John] saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.’” (Revelation 1:17-18)
You serve a risen Savior who lives in your life by faith. Take Him at His Word, and joy will fill your innermost being as you celebrate His appearance almost two thousand years ago. Enjoy Jesus, anticipating your Lord’s second return.
“so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:28)
How can you reassure your faith with the reality of a risen Savior? Where are the places you can find Christ among the living? What words of Jesus do you need to constantly remember?