At the crack of dawn on Sunday, the women came to the tomb carrying the burial spices they had prepared. They found the entrance stone rolled back from the tomb, so they walked in. But once inside, they couldn’t find the body of the Master Jesus.
They were puzzled, wondering what to make of this. Then, out of nowhere it seemed, two men, light cascading over them, stood there. The women were awestruck and bowed down in worship. The men said, “Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery? HE IS NOT HERE, BUT RAISED UP. Remember how he told you when you were still back in Galilee that he had to be handed over to sinners, be killed on a cross, and in three days rise up?” Then they remembered Jesus’ words. Luke 24:1-8
ALLELUIA! He is risen. He’s not dead. Our sins have been forgiven. God has demonstrated His unending, unfathomable, mind-boggling, crazy love for us by sending His son Jesus to die for our sins on the cross.
This is the message of Easter. We have been given NEW LIFE!
We struggle to wrap our arms around the tragedies of this world. It is a paradox that we live in. How can a loving God allow such deep pain and sorrow? If God cares, why does He seem despondent?
But one must not look far into the pages of Scripture for an answer. We see stories of murder, injustice, persecution, wandering Israelites, slave-ridden people, infertility, death, self-righteous religious zealots…and yes, strife amongst family and friends. We read of wars, floods, storms, drought, deserts, and wilderness…with which we all can find some familiarity. Although these stories of old were written in years past, we cannot ignore the common ground. Suffering is a part of life and we should not be surprised when we fall upon it.
It remains a mystery why we must endure hardship and pain while here on this earth, knowing full well that God is able to put an end to it. A sovereign God, who rules on High. A heaven with no pain or sorrow. With hope, we press on with our eyes lifted upward. We know our struggles are not eternal.
This light and momentary affliction is achieving for us an eternal glory, that far outweighs them all. 2 Cor. 5:7
Remember, you are not alone in your suffering. Others before you have suffered too, and are encouraging you to keep going. A great cloud of witnesses are cheering you on, urging you to make it to the finish. Maybe today you can relate to King David whose anguish is apparent in Psalm 22. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? Oh my God, I cry out by day but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: ‘He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him since he delights in him.”
Nearly a millennium later, God answers David’s plea. He sends His Son, a suffering Savior, to be nailed to a tree. He was killed on a hill called Calvary. Rejected. Shamed. and Humiliated. Bearing the sin of this entire world. His feet and hands pierced for our iniquities. We hear Jesus cry out to God with the same words as his forefather David, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Making it clear, we are never alone in our moment of dire circumstance.
No one suffered as much as Jesus. He bore our sin. Our shame. And took our place. Enduring hunger, thirst, pain, rejection, beatings, nakedness, temptation, loneliness, mockery, bereavement, poverty…nothing shy of utter humiliation. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords endured all this for you, simply because He wanted to. When it looks like this world is spiralling out of control, we must remind ourselves that God always is working things together for our good. (Rom. 8:28). In His divine providence, He is working.
Bringing our sin to the surface.
Scraping off superficiality.
Accomplishing a greater purpose.
At the cross, God’s justice was made complete. When asked if God cares about our pain and suffering, we can look to the cross and resolutely say, “That much…that much is how much God cares.” He took my burdens upon Himself. He came here to bear my shame. By keeping my gaze fixed on the cross, my worldview becomes transformed. The only way I can make sense of the evil and suffering in this world is by looking to God who gave up everything to make it all right again.
It was the year 1980.
A mom of four, wild and rambunctious boys had come to know Jesus as her personal Lord and Savior a few months prior. A close friend had invited her to attend a Bible study. And Diann quickly obliged. She was sick and tired of those bible thumping, goody-two-shoe Christians telling her how to live her life. Hmph. What difference would Jesus make anyhow?
With ulterior motives, Diann planned and schemed to convince all the Christians in the room that Jesus wasn’t real. How he was some made-up, imaginary friend that people talked to as a way to cope with life’s difficulties. Why…if He were real…why was her life so hard?
The women in the bible study handed Diann a bible that day, and she began to read. She planned to read it from cover-to-cover and undermine its authenticity at their next meeting. She wrote down her arguments and continued to muse…“I bet I can change everyone’s mind.”
But, funny thing…she couldn’t put the good book down. It continued to draw her in. As if someone were personally speaking directly to her. Addressing her concerns. Peeling her heart open wide.
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26
And now that she had met Jesus, she wanted her family to know Him as well. When she heard Billy Graham was coming to Reno to speak, she asked her husband if he would go along for the ride.
Packing two of their teenage boys, her husband Jim agreed to the 45-minute drive. His plan was to drop them off at the Coliseum while he hung out at the neighbouring casino with the all-you-can-eat ribeye.
However, upon arriving, he decided to go in for a bit. Just to hear the music from a converted rock star. He would slip out in a few minutes. Purposefully picking a seat in the very last row.
But then Billy Graham got on stage and Jim felt glued to his seat, unable to go anywhere. He listened to every word from his mouth…and when an altar call was given, Jim walked forward to give His life to the Lord.
When he turned around, he saw that his two boys came forward too. I know this story well…because this is my husband’s testimony. Jim and Diann are his mom and dad.
Thank you, Billy Graham!
Here is the sermon they listened to…so many years ago. Enjoy!
I haven’t written a blog post in like forever (or so it seems)…but I thought I would give you a reason. I have been taking this discipleship class at my church and studying theology so that I can write even better blogs that are based on sound doctrine. Studying and preparing for the class have zapped away the hours that I typically would spend writing to you. But during this process, I have learned that it is really important for all of us as believers to have a biblically sound theology rooted deeply in God’s Word.
What is theology?
Theology is more than deep-rooted knowledge of the Bible. It is knowledge about God that impacts our thinking, feeling, and doing. And the only way we gain rightful knowledge about God is through His Word.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Why is it important?
Theology enables us to think rightly about God. We have to have our facts correct. As believers, we want our thinking about God to be in line with His character and His attributes as revealed in His Word. We have to ensure that our thinking lines up with the truth and accurately reflects Scripture. Whenever my thinking towards God is contrary to His Word, I know that I am out of line. For example, in Exodus 34:6-7, God describes Himself to Moses by saying, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” Therefore, anytime my thinking towards God is contrary to His character…anytime I think the Lord is unloving or quick to anger, or is being unfair, or stingy…it is my thinking that has gone awry. We must seek to know the truth. We must dig into God’s Word. We must long to know God first-hand.
Theology results in right relationship and affection towards God. Without relationship, theology is dead, legalistic, mundane, and boring. It becomes task-oriented rather than relationship oriented. Correct theology desires to know God personally, not merely facts about Him.
Theology results in right action. When we begin to experience God, it affects the way we live. It begins to pour out from our lives in every moment. How we parent. How we spend our time. It impacts the decisions we make and the things we truly value. It is reflected in how we spend our money and what we do in our spare time. Whether you realize it or not…you are living for something. And your behaviour comes out of what you believe.
This morning as I read Romans 1:1 I was struck by the description Paul uses for Himself. It reads, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.” Paul’s extraordinary life of sacrifice reveals that he truly believed that he was set apart. He lived with great purpose. He preached with great confidence and conviction that Jesus is the way of salvation. Not a phoney baloney, half-hearted, mediocre, boring message. This is THE message of God becoming man in order to save a broken, sinful, complicated people like you and me.
When it begins to settle in that Jesus came to die for your sins and give you eternal life, in return you want to live differently. You want to know God and live a life that is set apart for Him.
Let’s become a people that love God and live devoted to Him in the new year!
Waiting and enduring is extremely hard. But I promise you–weaning ourselves off the ways of this world and onto the richness of God’s glory is worth it. Do not grow weary in the wait.
We were created with a desire to be happy. There is nothing wrong with this desire. We do not need to repress or deny it. The problem, however, is we are far too easily satisfied with the things of this world. We sell short, rather than holding out for the greater reward.
You were made for more. There is more. But will you believe it with all of your heart? Will you live it out with all of your might?
When we dig deep into God’s Word, we quickly see that God’s way are counter-intuitive to our own. His ways are different from the ways of this world. Here are just a few examples:
- God rewards those who seek Him. Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
- It is better to give than to receive. Acts 20:35, “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
- Suffering is worth it. Philippians 3:8, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
- Heaven is real. John 20:29, “Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
- God wants your joy to be full and complete. John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
- God wants to give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4,“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
God wants you to be happy. He wants to be your greatest treasure. He wants to make your joy complete in Him. God is not about less satisfaction, less happiness, less joy…He is all about more. And the only way we will get there is by experiencing God in His Word and in prayer.
Be honest with yourself today. Is God your greatest delight? Do you really want to know God more? Spend some time reflecting and going to the throne room in prayer.
God allows situations into our lives to test-drive our faith. In other words, testy people or unlikeable circumstances may be permitted into our lives in order for us to put our faith into action.
Do we really believe what we say? Or are we just talking the talk and not walking the walk?
For example, let’s say I wanted to buy a new car. First of all, I would sit down with my husband Coby and talk about what we could afford. Then, I would spend countless hours meandering through the worldwide web looking at cars that would best suite our family. And of course, I would probably glance at a few options that may not be a good choice, but nonetheless, are quite tempting. I would also read some car reviews by actual owners and peruse the Consumer Magazine car rating (just because my dad always told me to). And then, the day would come that my hubby and I would drive to the car dealer and look at the car we wanted. We would try out the seats and the beautiful amenities. Satellite radio. Sun-roof. Internet for the kids. The car salesman would now be hounding us and we would comply by asking to take it for a test drive. Why? Because we want to know first-hand how the car handles. We don’t want to just hear it from somebody else.
In much the same way, you can say you believe in God. You can memorize a few bible verses and sing a few worship songs. You can go to church and even be arm-twisted into serving in the kid’s area. You can take a bible study class. You can even be extremely bold and tell someone else you believe in God. You can go through the all the motions. But you will never know God in the deep, rich, abundant way that you should until you experience Him for yourself. It must become personal.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
God tests our faith to produce steadfastness, which is also translated as endurance. It comes from the Greek word hypomonḗ and is defined as “a remaining behind, a patient enduring.” Not getting out in the lead. Not running your own show. Patiently enduring the challenges God allots in our lives so that (keep reading James 1:2-4)”…steadfastness will have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Isn’t that what we all are after? A mature faith. A steadfast faith. Perfect and complete, lacking nothing. One more verse…
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:6-7
May you find hope in knowing that our trials are but for a little while. They are temporary. They will not last forever. And yes, we will be grieved by our various trials, but we can hold on to this truth: “We are tested so that the genuineness of our faith may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” God allows us to be tested over and over again so that we become seasoned faith walkers.
- So that we grow deep roots.
- So that we are not easily shaken.
- So that we are tenacious and steadfast in our pursuit of Him.
Stick in there, my friend. Heaven is worth this crazy ride!
“The job of a football coach is to make men do what they don’t want to do in order to achieve what they’ve always wanted to be.” Tom Landry
The same could be said of Christianity! It will take some work. Elbow grease will be required. If we want to look more like Jesus, it will require from us spiritual discipline. Things like reading God’s Word, praying, fasting, listening, and doing. Growing into godliness requires much patience and time…but it is worth the effort! Everything we do to look more like Jesus is worth our time.
“…discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness. 1 Timothy 4:7
Waiting is an essential ingredient to the process of prayer. When we fail to see prayer as a process rather than an end result, we become discouraged and frustrated and downright mad. It is during this time that many of us drop-out. We forget about the importance of prayer. We begin to think that God is not there. Prayer is useless. It is a waste of our time.
However, when we see waiting as part of God’s refining process in our lives, our perspective changes. We see waiting from a new point of view. We see that during the wait God is changing us and transforming us and making our desires be in line with His. Prayer removes us from our time bound, earthly thinking and helps us see things from a heavenly view.
- Read Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
- Read Romans 8:24, “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?”
- Read 2 Corinthians 4:18, “As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
- Read 2 Corinthians 5:7, “for we walk by faith, not by sight.”
What do these verses teach you about faith and hope?
We can trust that when God brings waiting periods into our life, it is for our good. It may appear that God is holding back and hoarding His riches. We may be tempted to think that we must convince God to let go of His resources and play nice. Possibly you view prayer as a means to pry riches out of God’s reluctant hands. When we start thinking God is stingy, mean, outdated, far away, reluctant, or apathetic…we should be alerted to go back to God’s Word. For starters, what we see in our earthly realm is only an appearance. It is not the full-truth. It doesn’t include what is happening in the heavenly realm. And secondly, we need to assure that our thinking is in line with the Word of God.
Listen to what God’s Word says. God lavishes on us the riches of His grace. Ephesians 1:7-8 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight. He richly blesses all who call on Him. Romans 10:12, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.”
It pleases God to do you good. I’m going to say that again because I have a feeling this may not be settling well with some of you today. You may not believe this to be true…it pleases God to do you good.
It gives God great joy to give you every good thing. –sue a. allen
There is this thing called the wait. We pray. We wait. And it is during this time that we often feel anxious, frustrated, discouraged, and without hope. We forget of God’s provision. We wonder if He will answer our call. Living a praying life requires a 180° turn from our natural, human inclination. It means doing things God’s way, which may or may not make any sense. It may mean going against popular opinion. It may mean taking a stand against our flesh by letting go, yielding, and admitting we need help. And for most of us…no, let me rephrase that…for all of us, admitting we need help is hard.
I have a five-year old named Comerson. Many of you have heard me talk about him before. And I have noticed a particular trait in him: IMPATIENCE. If you tell him we are going to go do something, he has no concept of why he has to wait. He doesn’t comprehend time like my older children. If I tell him he is going to have a playdate with his buddy tomorrow, he thinks tomorrow is right now. Pronto. On the double. He will pester me to get ready. To get in the car. And drive him down the street so that he can play. In all honesty, I would have been much better off by keeping my mouth shut than to tell him about any of our future plans. Why? Because he cannot comprehend that today is not tomorrow. He doesn’t understand the concept of time.
I think we can all relate. We have our mind set on what we want and how we want it to come to fruition. We have a dream. A plan. An idea. We don’t understand why we cannot have it immediately. We don’t see the goodness of time.
In his opening remarks to his very first sermon, better known as the Beatitudes, Jesus addresses how we are to approach God. Matthew 5:3 says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The word “poor” means ptōxós (from ptōssō, “to crouch or cower like a beggar”) – properly, bent over; (figuratively) deeply destitute, completely lacking resources (earthly wealth) – i.e. helpless as a beggar. I wonder how often we view prayer in this way. I wonder how often we feel utterly destitute and helpless without God. I wonder what hinders us from being “poor in spirit.”
Until we recognize the blessedness of being wholly dependent on God, we won’t live with the abundance that is available to us. Our helplessness is a blessing. Being dependent on God is for our good.
Why is waiting so good for us? What is God accomplishing with us during this time? What idols are being revealed?
All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.
6-7 When we suffer for Jesus, it works out for your healing and salvation. If we are treated well, given a helping hand and encouraging word, that also works to your benefit, spurring you on, face forward, unflinching. Your hard times are also our hard times. When we see that you’re just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you’re going to make it, no doubt about it.
8-11 We don’t want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation—I don’t want you in the dark about that either. I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God’s deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part.
2 Corinthians 1:3-11
As I have watched my friends and family struggle through this unthinkable storm named Harvey, I have also been encouraged by the ferocity of their faith. Thank you, Houston for showing our nation how to work together. Thank you for giving God glory in the midst of the storm. Thank you for showing us that God can (and will) carry you through.
I have seen Christ in you this past week…and I just want to say Thank You!
You are loved.
You are cherished.
You are being prayed for.