Devotional

So, now what?

Now what?

Easter Sunday came and then this morning Monday arrived right on schedule.  All the excitement that went into getting dressed up nice for church yesterday and having a nice meal with family has now left and Monday has showed up.  So we get up and live our lives.  Work needs to be done.  Bills need to be paid.  The kids need to be fed and bathed.  Life continues.  So, now what?

Every Sunday is Easter Sunday

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All dressed in my Sunday best — ready to hunt for eggs. 

The truth is you can experience the same anticipation every Sunday.  Why?  Because every week we celebrate that the tomb was empty.  We celebrate that unlike any other ‘god’ ever conjured up by the minds of men, Jesus Christ is the only one without a grave stone to go visit.  He is alive! We don’t have a memorial day to remember Jesus, we have a Resurrection Day! This makes Him the only one able to forgive us our sins and give us eternal life.

The bigger question then is why?  Why is it that so many people get so excited about this one day every year and the rest of the year forget about Jesus, or at least get indifferent toward Him?  Why is it that the same people who were enthusiastic about singing “He arose!” this past Sunday, won’t be back next week to sing praises to the very same God?  God hasn’t changed.  He is still alive and we are still just as desperate for Him.

Knowing Jesus vs. Knowing About Jesus

It all comes down to knowing Jesus Christ.  In John 17 Jesus said: “Now this is eternal life:  that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent.” (v3)  We need to know Jesus Christ, as in have a personal encounter with Him in our own lives.  Having knowledge allows us to answer questions correctly.  Experiencing Jesus Christ allows Him to touch every area of our life.  Have you experienced Jesus Christ in your life?

I remember what happened when I met Jesus.  I had gone to church and heard the stories.  But I did not ever feel like there was any real connection with God to be had.  It seemed like God was distant and cold and I was just supposed to sort of do some good things and figure it out.  But when I met Jesus Christ, everything changed.  Suddenly there was a hunger in me for more of Him.  I enjoyed singing His praise and wanted to be in Church on Sunday to proclaim that He was alive!  I lived with this new understanding that I had been saved not by my works, but because of Jesus’ death on the cross for me.

So, now what?

So, now what?  Now is the time to grow closer to Jesus.  Now is the time to give Him a chance to show up in your life and change you.  Now is the time to bring all your doubts and fears out and ask Him to answer the questions that you have.  Show up to church worship services.  Get involved in the life of a local church.  See what it is all about and position yourself in a place where God is free to work in you.  Try it out and see what happens.  I know from my own experience that if you let Him, He will change your life.


Embrace The Truth

Truth.  We want to know it and yet so often ignore it.  The truth hurts.  Believe me, I know.  I was just reflecting on my early days of preaching and the feedback I would incur.  Of course nothing is quite as convincing as listening to the recording and realizing that their criticism is right.  But we need to hear and apply truth.

In John 18 Pilate is seeking the truth from Jesus until he finally looks at Jesus in verse 18 and says “What is truth?”  The then walks away.  Why?  Why not wait for a response?

I think that Pilate was getting a little too close to the truth for comfort.  Maybe if I don’t know what the truth is, I can live life however I want.  But Pilate then goes to the crowd and asks them what he should do.  Isn’t that just like the human heart?

 

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What is the truth?   

In our homes we have the Word of God and direct access to God through Christ.  We have no excuse for not knowing and living the truth.  But where do we go?  Popular opinions.  We go to the hot topics of the day and rather than applying Biblical truth to our lives, we look for ways around it.

As we come to Resurrection Sunday this week, may we be surrendered to the truth and embrace the truth.

Jesus, after all, said that He is the truth!  

 

Receive God’s Peace

There are two words that cause many problems for life.  “What if” If we would be able to eliminate those words, our level of stress would decrease. I mean consider all of the ways this comes up: “What if I get sick and my family needs me?  What if my car breaks down and I miss my important meeting?  What if I get robbed while walking downtown?” There are so many possibilities out there that our mind, if allowed to run free with all the possibilities, will run us ragged.  What does the Bible tells us about this?

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Philippians 4:6

The cure for anxiety is prayer.  God wants us to bring everything to Him in prayer and then leave it in His hands.  He is the one who can actually do something about it anyway! God is so gracious to us in this because not only will He take our anxiety from us, but He will then replace it with His peace.

“And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  – Philippians 4:7

Are you feeling anxious today?   Take it to the Lord in prayer and receive His perfect peace.

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Take it to the Lord and receive peace 

To Know Jesus

The issue of church growth seems to haunt every pastor at some point.  Why?  Because so much is being said about it.  I was at a conference this weekend where during one of the break-out sessions I was told all kinds of methods about church growth.  I must be honest; I struggle with that.  I have a real problem with the methods when I read what Scripture tells us.  Listen to this:

“What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” – Philippians 3:8

It seems to me that by far the greatest thing I can offer someone is Jesus Christ.  We must share the Gospel.  He is the draw.  He is the need.  Knowing Jesus is the goal of life!

If we get sidetracked, we start to look a lot like the Judaizers Paul was referring to in Philippians 3.  They worked very hard to earn God’s favor. But let’s be honest, any attempt at cleaning up our own sin just smears it.  It is like all of those times I have sent one of my kids to the bathroom to clean up after eating something sticky.  Sure they try hard, but they get it everywhere else.

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Let Jesus clean up the mess!

Would you say that your heart considers everything else a loss next to knowing Jesus?  If not, what needs to change?  

Listen Without Complaining

It appears that hardwired in every child is an ability to never quite hear what their parents say.  It is almost as if everything that is said to a child must be immediately met with “what?” even if they physically heard what you said.  The struggle to communicate to them and see results is quite intense.

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I am sorry, are you talking? 

I have lamented this many times to people and never really thought it applied to me anymore.  Certainly I have grown up, right?  Then I read Numbers 14.  In Numbers 14 Moses is leading the Israelites along after freeing them from Egyptian slavery.  One might think that they would be willing to listen well to God because He has powerfully showed up. He rescued them.

Instead they complain.  They grumble against God.  They wish they were back in Egypt.  They even decide to vote in a leader to take them back!  Basically they look at God and say “yes, I know you are demonstrating your love for us, but I don’t really think you love us.”  They are in one sense hearing and seeing God act out a radical love for them and in the very next breath complaining that they aren’t slaves anymore.

I have been guilty of this.  I have had times when things just weren’t going my way, and even though I saw God minister to me in His grace during those times, I still complained about it.   I still questioned God there.  I guess adults are just older kids.

When Jesus hung on the cross, people around him mocked him and even cast lots for his clothing. In a most dramatic fashion, they did not hear what was being said.   Even though He had shown the kingdom of God to them in the flesh, they just did not listen.  They would rather do things their own way and in doing rejected the only means of freedom.

The challenge is this:  Do not get so caught up in religious tradition that you miss the message of Christ to you.   I pray that as we enter into this coming season leading up to Easter Sunday that we would hear loud and clear the voice of God “I love you.”

 

If only….

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Keep walking….don’t go back

If only….

Those two words can capture much regret, disappointment, and sadness.  If only I had said something else.  If only I had not acted on that impulse.  If only I was able to go back and change that moment.  Scenes get replayed and wounds get opened again and again.

Isn’t it interesting how the human heart works?  One moment God is clearly leading you and you are rejoicing, but the moment a challenge comes, you wonder where He is.  Have we really gotten so weak that resistance of any kind makes us retreat?  I guess it really isn’t new, though, is it? In Exodus 16 Moses had just freed the people from slavery.  This was no vacation in the Caribbean; they were slaves.  But the minute it got hard, they complained.  The grumbled.  They criticized their leader.  I mean, really?  Listen to yourselves!   They even fantasized about going back!  They remembered the food they ate there forgetting that it cost them their freedom. (and probably wasn’t as good as they claimed)  They longed for their chains because at least they knew what was next.

But this is not the journey that Jesus Christ calls us to.  The Christian life is not one of ease and luxury.  It is a life of sacrifice and trial.  There will be pain.  There will be challenges.  Your character will be attacked for no reason.  What do we do?  We do not go back to the chains.  The freedom that He bought for us broke those.  Instead, we keep walking hand-in-hand with our Savior.  It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Do not go back to slavery again.

When It Rains….

It occurs to me that those who say “when it rains, it pours” have never actually seen it rain because it more often than not does not pour when it rains. What a mess it would be if it always poured when it rained!  But what do we remember?  We remember the times that it poured.  The water comes down so hard that puddles form in our yards and anyone that was caught outside looks like they were dunked in the lake.  And then the next time there is a hint of rain we think it will happen again.

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When it rains…..

There is something about the human brain that processes those negative things in a way that gives them more of an impact.  We remember them.  We dwell on them.  We relive them.  This is why I remember my times of discouragement vividly, even though I have been encouraged on more occasions.  I have more good days than bad days.

I was reading through Exodus and it turns out this is nothing new.  Moses was told by God to deliver the Israelites from slavery.  You would think that when God told him that He would accomplish this and go with him that the people would be excited.  They have been in slavery for a while now and would no doubt appreciate the good news.  Well…not exactly. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to hear it, they just couldn’t.

Moses reported this to the Israelites but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and cruel bondage.” Exodus 6:9  

Discouragement is a powerful emotion.   Despite what God had told them and even the history lesson he gave them to prove it to them, they still could not see any sort of hope in their circumstances.  The pain was just too big and real.  Have you been there?  Do you know anyone there today?

Who can you encourage today?  There are people in the midst of their own person downpour right now looking for hope.  Can you offer some encouragement to them?  Remember that often the most helpful thing you can do is be there.

Are you discouraged?  Look for hope in your life today.   Listen to what the Lord says and be encouraged:

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10

Remember that in the story of Moses, God did accomplish what He said He would do.  God has not left you. He has not ignored you.  He is not sick of you.  Look to Him today and realize that sometimes when it rains it doesn’t pour.