It’s Resurrection Sunday evening and I’m a little tired from all of my celebrating. I went to Maundy Thursday service, Good Friday service and Easter service at two different churches. After I went to the early service at my church, I was inspired to visit another in the afternoon. It makes sense that I tired feeling , I have spent a ton of time worshipping and praising the Lord. I’ve been to four services over this long weekend and have heard a total of 10 different messages. Each individual message definitely spoke to me. This includes pastors who shared on the each of the seven last words.
Each and every service I went to was extremely powerful. The words were so on point. I know that I know that I know Jesus died and he rose again for me. He certainly died for you too. Redemption has been granted. The resurrection is real. Jesus is alive for us all and in us all who believe, accept and know.
For a moment, I’m going to focus on me. I’m not really taking this as a selfish moment. I am, however, putting myself on blast – a sort of public accountability session. Can I spend this much time with the Lord and in the company of believers, live through so many spiritual and emotional experiences and still be the same ‘Joy” I was? This is not just limited to the services. I’m also counting all of the effort of the Lenten Challenge. It is possible that all of it is just temporary. Should it be? Of course not! There should be some lasting change. Will there be?
Just as I prepared to type these words, I took a moment to check my twitter account. Unwiittingly, my friend Aqua Copeland gave me the answer.
@Favored1Aqua We can’t stay trapped in the same condition, issues, and situations year after year. We have #Resurrection Power!
Clearly, I took on the #LentenChallenge to be transformed. I’m looking for self-improvement and a greater spiritual connection. I’ve created some positive momentum. Will it stick? Or will I simply go back to my old ways? When I had the opportunity to add old stuff back in to my diet after the stroke of midnight, I didn’t miss a beat. Chocolate was popped into my moth. Fish was on plate. Cheesy carbs were also added. While I don’t plan to gorge myself as I have done in the past or eat some of these things all the time, I really have yet to commit myself to plan. I could slip into a new bad habit without focus and effort. I am working and praying on a better path. The evidence will be when I act on it.
How I take care of my body temple is only one aspect of making sure that I’m GospelFit and drawing closer to the Lord and connecting to “Resurrection Power!” Even though, I’m feeling a little tired, I’m also feeling on fire for the Lord. Continually working to build my relationship with the Lord needs to bear some tangible fruit. I’ll be praying, meditating and focusing on translating that feeling into action. What about you?
Mark 15:37-39 (NIV) 37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. 38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
Imagine standing in front of Jesus and finally recognizing that He is the Son of God. It must have been such an awesome experience. I think of the blessing that the centurion had for actually being in the presence of Jesus. It also brings to mind the opportunity that he may have lost. Jesus walked in his midst before while He was alive. Did the centurion know Jesus before the end? Was he changed by that experience? Was he drawn closer to God?
Surely, we know that Sunday is coming! Jesus is near. During this lenten season, we may have taken steps to get ourselves closer to the Lord. We may have faltered. Today ends our Lenten Challenge. However, it does not end our journey. We are standing in the presence of Jesus and we can be transformed.
There are so many levels of transformation during this season. Some of this transformation occurs because we want it to and we are willing to put in the work to be a better disciple for Christ. We are putting time in the Word and with God in Prayer. We also work on taking care of our body temples in a manner that is pleasing to God. For we know that we are to honor God with our temples.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
The ultimate transformation and gift from the Lord is that Jesus died and rose again for you and me. He has cleansed us for now and eternal life. Knowing that we are free from the condemnation of sin is powerful and should help us to lead lives in the abundance that God promised and plans for us. Ultimately, our goal should be to stand in His presence and hear the words, “Well done.”
Luke 23:46 46 Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.
When we are troubled and going through issues or we have a plethora of circumstances that are consuming our time, money, emotions, or attention, it can become difficult to feel like God has EVERYTHING under control. We may become so consumed with what we are GROWING through that we forget to pray. We neglect the power of crying out to our God, Who, yes has everything under control. Can We Talk?!
During this Lenten season we are reminded of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection. Jesus, being fully man felt some of the same emotions that we experience. He experienced rejection, anger, pain, doubt, and fear. In His final minutes on earth, His question to God was, why have You forsaken me. Rest assured that just like with Jesus, God has not forgotten you. He was in control then and He is still in control now. The Word promises that He will never leave or forsake us.
As we press through this last week of the Lenten Challenge, take comfort in knowing that whatever you are GROWING through God is with you. He knew that you would have these challenges before you today. He is not caught off guard or surprised by your circumstances. God didn’t get busy and when He turned His attention back again, there was Jesus on the cross. His plan for Jesus and His plan for reconciling our hearts back to His was predestined. Your life in Him is predestined. God knows that you are able through Him to handle all the challenges you face. Trust Him to heal and handle the issues, situations, and circumstances in your world. He is still in control. He is as close as your next whispered prayer.
John 19:17-18 17 and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew[a] is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.
Are you in a period of testing right now? We know that tests and trials are designed by God to make us and mold us. We are made stronger by the tests and trials that we endure. You’ve heard folks say, that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Our tests are not designed to kill us be to strenghten our faith. Passing our tests allows us to move to the next level in God, teaching us and preparing us for what lies ahead. Can We Talk?!
As believers, it does not matter who you are and what your relationship is with the Lord you WILL face tests and trials. Our faith is tested when we go through trials. In the 1st chapter of James, he tells us to count it all joy when we face trials of any kind. He goes on to say that the testing of our faith PRODUCES perseverance. And when perseverance has finished its work in us we will be mature and complete, lacking anything.
Today, you might find yourself restless or discontent. You may be ready to give up or quit. Remember that God may testing you to teach you how to stay. He may be teaching you how to stand in the midst of adversity and uncertainty. If you quit you have forfeited the benefits of perseverance AND God will not be able to bless you at the next level, that next level blessing that will require you to know how to stay.
So if you are praying for a spouse and God is testing your staying power, He won’t send that spouse until you learn how to stay. Marriage requires staying power. If you are praying for that great career that can help you get out of debt, give you purpose, and help you care for your family, but you quit every job you get, God won’t bless you with that career until you learn how stay. Jobs come and go. Careers require staying power. TODAY you may be learning how to stay and stand through TOMORROW’s lengthy sickness of a loved one, a rocky marriage, or through the antics and confusion of a wayward child. Do you have what it takes to stay?
What is God trying to teach you today? It will bless you in the future. Surrender so that you can move to next level of your life. Learn how to stay. Learn how to stand in the face of obstacles and opposition. He will be standing right by your side.
“I will declare your name to my people in the assembly I will praise you.You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!” Psalm 22:22-23
Psalm 22 gives a simple 3 step road map for any time in our lives that we face discouragement or trials….
1. Discouragement: In verses 1-10 the psalmist, David expresses complaints of discouragement.
2. Prayer: Beginning in verse 11 all the way through verse 21, we see David in prayer for deliverance.
3. Praise: Beginning in verse 22 we see David praise God in the congregation because the answers to his private prayers of deliverance deserved a public testimony…
Today, we focus on praise.
God wonderfully delivers us in the quiet moments when we are hurting, and we must be prepared to offer public praise for his care.
Give God praises for mercies and redemption in your life today…
Redemption is the reason for praise: All our praises should center around the work of redemption. The suffering of the Redeemer was graciously accepted as a full satisfaction for sin. Though it was offered for sinful men, the Father did not despise it for our sakes. This and this alone should be the focus and reason for our thanksgiving.
Because of His righteousness, and not any of our own, we should declare Christ to be the foundation of all our hopes, and the fountain of all our joys. Redemption by Christ is the Lord’s own doing.
Humility is the manner in which we praise: With redemption as the reason for our praise, all humble, gracious hearts should have a full satisfaction and happiness in him. Those that hunger and thirst after righteousness in Christ do not labor for that which does not satisfies- we remain humble and turn from pride. With hearts of humility, those that turn to God, will be found praising and worshipping before him.
Let every tongue confess that he is Lord. High and low, rich and poor, bond and free, meet in Christ. Seeing we cannot keep alive our own souls, it is our wisdom, by obedient faith, to commit our souls to Christ, who is able to save and keep them alive forever.
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9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. 10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:9-10
When we look at verse 9 what comes to your mind? To me it says hang in there. When we want to do something good do not get so tired of doing well that we just stop and fail. I remember when I was in college and being chronic anemic I was always so tired, however, I pushed myself so hard to stay up, finish, and turn in a project. For anyone that does not know how this affects the body, mind and ability to complete any activity, it makes you sleepy all of the time, better yet fatigued and you have slept all night, but you want to go right back to bed as soon as you wake up.
How does this tie in with our Lenten challenge you ask? Well let me tell you. At times, the journey is trying while we eat and drink all of the things that we usually would not consume on a daily basis. At times, we may have been tempted to get tired and slack off. We may have been tempted to have that cake, pie, or that chocolate that we were craving. Just remember, with constant prayer, we can overcome any temptations that will keep us weary and not finishing our challenge.
Hang in there everyone…you are not alone in the challenge-we can finish strong our blessings are well on their way.
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“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 28:1-2
Although some of the early books of the Old Testament can be a real challenge to read through (Leviticus, anyone?), Deuteronomy 28 has always held my attention. And for good reason: it presents God’s offer of blessings and curses to the children of Israel, and, by extension, to us, the children of promise in Christ.
It’s easy to get caught up in the heady aroma of the blessings laid out in verses 3 to 14, but then our attention tends to wane as we wade through nearly 50 verses of calamitous curses. Who needs to hear these prophetic tales of woe when the promise of the good life is spread out before us like a veritable feast of Belshazzar?
But let’s go back to verses 1 and 2 for a minute. They set the stage for the entire chapter, laying out obedience and blessing as two sides of the same coin:
If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God.
Some versions use the words “diligently obey” and “observe carefully.” And that four-letter word “obey” crops up twice in those two verses.
I see a progression here:
• To be blessed, we must obey.
• To obey, we must hear.
• To hear, we must be attentive.
• To be attentive, we must eliminate distractions, lofty thoughts, and the daily dust that gathers and clouds our vision and passion for God.
There doesn’t seem to be any room for partial obedience, which we know is no obedience at all.
But wait, you say! God knows my heart! To which I respond by pointing you to Jeremiah 17:9:”The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”We deceive ourselves if we think that we can give God less than full obedience and expect to reap the benefits of His unconditional love. No obedience, no blessing. To the misguided thought that we can collect blessings and not obey, God gently and consistently says: “no.”
Consider what it means to be blessed by the God of the Universe. To be in covenant with the God of wonders and majesty. He is faithful in all His dealings with us. He stays true to His part of the covenant sealed by Jesus’s blood. He simply asks for faithfulness from us. In a word, obedience.
And look at what the power of the blessing confers on us!
* The covering of the Most High God;
* Freedom from evil and curses;
* Perpetual increase and favor; and
* Long life: shalom and pleroma.
Friends, as we approach the end of this Lenten season, may we be reminded of the sum of all of God’s gentle entreaties to us as He seeks to bless us each day:
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11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”[a] 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:11-13
One of the advantages of observing Lent is the opportunity to strip away what might be hindering our Christian walk and to focus on what really matters: our relationship with Jesus and the immense sacrifice He made to reconcile us to the Father.
Although I love the comforting words of Romans 8, the beauty of Romans 10 is how it demystifies the “what” and “who” of salvation. We are saved by grace through faith, manifested in our verbal confession (saying it is so) that Jesus is Lord of our lives. The God of the universe offers this salvation to anyone–no prerequisites–who calls on Him. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Rom. 10:13)
Who could ask for anything more?
But very often, we make our salvation far more complicated than it needs to be. Think about how in the Old Testament, the Jews piled on, in addition to the Ten Commandments, more than 600 rules that needed to be adhered to. Or consider several present-day denominations that enforce a strict code of behavior and dress that goes way beyond what is described in the New Testament.
I love Jesus for making things plain and simple for us. We come to Him in our sin-stained condition. He does not discriminate in pouring out His love on us. To use current language, he is an equal-opportunity God. In the words of the old hymn, “whosoever will may come.” All are invited to His table.
My prayer for this Lenten period is that we, like the children Jesus encouraged us to emulate, would come to Him anew, accepting afresh the gift of salvation He freely offers. Regardless of who or what we are, we have the assurance that the Son of God will throw no “shade” on us.
Rather, He calls us to a life in which, as we serve and honor Him, gladly sharing the Good News of the gift of salvation, we will “shine . . . like stars in the sky.” (Phil 2:15).
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Image courtesy of A Lamp Unto My Path
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, You would have known my Father also. From now on you know him and have seen him” John 14:6–7
How can we know the way to God? Only through Jesus. This is one of the most basic and important passages in Scripture yet so often we fail to live this out….
THE WAY: Jesus says he is the ONLY way to God the Father. In a world with seemingly unlimited choices, some people may argue today that this way is too narrow. But in reality, we know it is wide enough for the whole world, if the world chooses to accept it.
Jesus is the way because he is both God and man. As the way, Jesus is our path to the Father. By uniting our lives with his, we are united with God. Instead of worrying about how limited it sounds to have only one way, we should be saying, “Thank you, God for providing a sure way to get to you!” Trust Jesus to take you to the Father, and all the benefits of being God’s child will be yours.
THE TRUTH: As the truth, Jesus is the reality of all God’s promises. The sanctity of truth is a theme that we find taught over and over again in the Bible. Jesus refers to Satan as a “liar and the father of lies” (8:44), which helps us understand that falsehood is unholy while truth-telling accords with the Lord’s character.
Reflect for a moment on what we know about truth:
• Psalm 119:160 explains that the Word of God is truth.
• Psalm 145:18 makes it plain that the Lord will come near and bless only those who call upon Him in truth.
Yet we do not know the truth if we make no attempt to live it out:
• Truth is something that we can practice (1 John 3:18)
• Faithfulness to the Lord means that we are concerned to walk in His true way (Ps. 86:11).
Walking in His true way is not perfect obedience this side of heaven, but a life of repentance when we see how far short we fall of His standards (1 John 1:5–10).
THE LIFE: Ultimately, once you accept Jesus as the only way to the Father, you can then begin to take hold of the reality of the truth of all God’s promises. It is in this that- as the way and the truth Jesus gives us life, both now and most important, for eternity.
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“None of the sins that person has committed will be remembered against them. They have done what is just and right; they will surely live. Ezekiel 33:16
When I read these words, I instantly felt mercy, grace, love, strength, freedom, power, and relief. The type of relief that comes when you know and can say that God has not given up on me; there is still an opportunity for change. Change first must begin within us, before it manifest to the outside. When I read this scripture, I used to think along the lines of the obvious sins, like violating the 10 commandments, but what about the sins that we commit against ourselves.
We often forget how special we are. We are divine masterpieces, formed in love; corrupted and deformed by sin; but reformed by grace. That is what Ezekiel 33:16 is telling me. However, sometimes we forget that about ourselves. In Psalm 139:13 King David wrote: “you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
We have been formed in love and are divine masterpieces. Sadly, we don’t always see ourselves that way. Instead of thanking God for the body he has given us, we wish we had a smaller nose, bigger hands, more hair, less hair, to be smarter, popular, etc. But God made each of us the way he wanted us to be and he did so in love.
One of our greatest sins is not having love for ourselves and when we do not love ourselves, how can we truly say we love one another and love God. Take a minute and remember the last time, the words that you spoke over yourself were not the most positive. Have you said, oh, I am too fat, I can’t do this, I got big, this that, or something else. Has there been something that God has required of you, and knew it was God’s voice and you have not done it. Have you cut yourself off from someone and let pride keep you away because maybe they would not understand, or even care? Have you decided that life really is not going to change, and you have stopped, praying fasting and trusting? Or even thinking about stuff and situations and ending the thoughts, so what, who cares if I do or don’t… you fill in the blank. You are not alone; many of us have fallen into despair one time or another. The danger is staying in any of these scenarios.
God is patiently waiting for us to start the process of self-love, for our repentance, and recognize that no matter what our physical features are, our mental state is – if we repent in our heart, God will remind us of His great love for us, deliver us from our bondage, and reform us into God’s own likeness – the blinders are removed from our eyes, the ever eluding joy is now all over us, and whatever sins we have committed will no longer be remembered and held against us.
The awesome thing is that God isn’t asking us to do that which he doesn’t give us the power to do. We can love ourselves; we can truly remove that pain, and love ourselves, then love our neighbors and truly love God. And as we are repentant of our negative self-talk, we have a guarantee of God’s love that sends the Holy Spirit into our lives to facilitate our changes. The more we began to let go, receive God in all of God’s glory, we will want to sing with David: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14a) and the past will no longer be remembered. Live Victoriously.