Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Today is the Day!

Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead... ~ Matthew 28:5-7b
I love Easter! Of all the special days in the year, celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection brings me the greatest joy and overflows my soul with boundless hope! It is also impossible for me not to be focused on the promise of His return as well. One day...Jesus will come back! 
Jesus’ first visit here on earth was greatly misunderstood by the people during that time as it remains still to this day. The Jewish people were looking for a king...not a servant. Like many today, the people during Jesus’ time must have had many debates and long discussions that included long streams of unanswered questions. Not so unlike today. Perhaps the most common question for all would be...”How could it be that God would wear the skin of mankind and allow himself to be treated with such distain... with such disregard?” 
The power He displayed in calming the sea and winds...healing the sick and even raising the dead, must have created great confusion amid their awe and as we read in God’s Word these miracles even angered many. The Jews and Gentiles who met and heard of Jesus must have asked many times over; “Who is this Jesus? Why does he speak with the authority of God, but look like an ordinary man? How can I be sure He is the One?” 
Feeling both drawn to Jesus and feeling perhaps afraid...it is easier to “do nothing” when given a choice to follow Jesus. 
He (Jesus) said to another person, “Come, follow me.”The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.” ~ Luke 9:59-60 (NLT)
This kind of excuse sounds acceptable to our ears until we understand the real heart of the matter. A choice was given to this man to go with the Messiah! To go with Jesus would mean he would have to leave behind the familiar. He would have to leave behind some of the people he loved and give up some of the things that he thought brought him security. It would cause him to make a sacrifice...give up temporary contentment and acceptance for a life that would surely bring great challenges, trials and even rejection. Sounds like a pretty bad trade until you remember who it is you are going with! 
Is there really any doubt if you believe Jesus... that you can also trust Him? You can trust him not only with your father, but with every person you love. You can trust Him with your life! In fact... your life is what Jesus cares most about!
Which brings me back to Easter...did I mention I love Easter! Here is why...
By Easter morning the grief stricken disciples of Christ had spent three days in deep sorrow and morning over the brutal death of Jesus. (Perhaps like me, you also know what this kind of grief feels like..the unimaginable pain). This is what the followers of Jesus are experiencing... By now all hope is lost...all faith in what they believed to be true has been replaced with fear and unending questions full of doubts. It even appears to them that the religious leaders were right after all...as well as all the people who had rejected Jesus’ call to follow Him. Following Jesus had cost each man the rejection and ridicule from those family members and friends who did not believe Jesus was the Messiah. So in the midst of grief mingled with despair over what to do now... suddenly comes a rapid secession of knocks on the door...it’s Mary Magdalene and she is saying she and Mary has just seen Jesus. He’s alive!
“Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt? Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet.Still they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder. ~ Luke 24:38-41a (NLT)
Easter fills the Christian heart with joy and wonder... and hope. Amazingly...the story doesn’t end here...Jesus is coming back! 
Jesus came to earth the first time he said; “to serve and give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). When Jesus returns in glory, He will be honored, exalted, and bowed down to. “At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:9-10).
Before Jesus’ return we still have time to make the choice of acknowledging His lordship and submitting to Him voluntarily. When Jesus returns, it will be too late to choose, too late to change your mind, too late to receive His gift of eternal life by belief that He died for your sins. Everyone who has not believed and bowed before Him will be forced to bow...even worse...will be then banned from His presence - forever. 
Have you chosen? To refuse to chose is to have chosen already. Dear friends... Choose now, before it is too late. 
For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation. ~ 2 Corinthians 6:2 (Bold type added is mine)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What's In A Name?

Nice / Pleasant / Thoughtful / Considerate / Honest / Trustworthy / Hard- working / Fun / Encouraging / Friendly / Generous / Forgiving /Positive...Mean / Unpleasant / Forgetful / Inconsiderate / Liar / Gossip / Lazy / Difficult / Unkind / Selfish / Self-absorbed / Stingy / Unforgiving / Negative.
Christian / Prays / Believes the Bible / Full of Hope / Lives life as though God is the answer to everything /Naive / Foolish / Delusional / Out of touch / Inconsistent / Hateful / Prejudice /Hypocrite....Lost / Unsaved / Evil / Beyond Reach / Closed -minded / Sinner / Rejected... 
Have you noticed how people (even you and me) tend to instantly label (name) other people? I find that this happen a lot with people we don’t know very well or have just met. It is also something that is done to us! This “name calling” isn’t limited to people who don’t know each other very well... we actually add even more “names” to the people we know best. Like it or not... we will always have people who both know us well and don’t know us at all... give us new names. 
As Christians we understand by God’s Word that the world will not understand our ways. In fact we have examples in the Bible of how some pagan rulers did their own version of “name calling” by attempting to change the names of God’s devoted followers. In Genesis 41:45 we learn that Pharaoh “renamed” Joseph, Zaphenath-Paneah. Giving Joseph this Egyptian name was probably meant to entice him into the Egyptian culture and to sooth the ego of this Ruler who may have been uncomfortable with placing a foreigner and former slave in charge of all of Egypt, second only to himself. This new name is mentioned... but the biblical writer is careful to ignore the name thereafter. Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon would later attempt in much the same way to conform Daniel and His friends to Babylon culture (See Daniel 1:7). The efforts of these Rulers fell short of success in both cases.
Today Christians are pressured to conform to the world as the world attempts to “rename” us too. We are in a constant battle as the world ~ even those with kind intentions ~ attempt to mold us into the image of the world’s culture. Like Joseph, who could not control what other people called him, but remained faithful and dependent on God, we too can keep from adopting what the world says is common and acceptable and remain faithful to God’s teachings.
 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” ~John 15:19
Joseph’s new name was intended to make him “blend in”...unfortunately... the “new” names we as Christians today are labeled with are not usually given to “adopt” us or draw us into closer ties with the world but are given to isolate and disclaim us. How we respond...or rather not respond to these names is vital to our witness of who we are in Christ. The names placed on us that the world gives to Christians should not affect our actions. Whether these names are given to flatter us or insult us, we can choose to ignore the world’s names and rejoice in the fact that God has adopted us and knows our real name...our true identity is found in Him alone. 
Fruit of the Spirit ~ Kind, Faithful, Gentle, Self-Controlled, Loves, Joy-Filled, Patient, Full of Peace.
The sound of some names we are called just sound good...and right to our ears... but the most pleasing sound to my ears will be the sound of Jesus’ voice when he calls me by name and leads me home.
The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. ~ John 10:3 (Bold emphasis is mine)