sunshine

The sun is shining brightly today, and the warmth of a beautiful spring morning makes you want to toss any work aside and simply savor the reminder that indeed warmer days are arriving.  It is a reward of sorts for persevering through the winter season.  The memories of blowing snow, shoveling snow, and frigid temperatures kind of melt away as the sun warms the earth.  It is a reminder that God created an amazing planet for us to live on and enjoy.  A day like today should also remind us that our God is still very much in control of all that happens in this continued challenge of COVID-19.  Things are changing in the way we are dealing with the spread of the virus, which in some instances, causes more frustration and weariness.  Many questions still remain about what tomorrow may bring, but for today the sunshine should encourage us to remember the Creator who holds tomorrow.

The Israelites, God’s chosen people in the Old Testament went through many challenges as a people.  They had prophets who warned them of dangers and consequences of their rebellion against God and His call to serve and worship Him alone.  They had times of fruitfulness and blessing and they had times of destruction and captivity often accompanied by disease, famine, and hardship.  Many times, this is what it took for the people to repent and turn to God.  Many of the prophets who spoke for God are found in the minor prophets of the Old Testament.  One such prophet was Habakkuk. Like other prophets, he had his struggle with God in understanding God’s way of dealing with the people.  In Habakkuk’s short book, he has a discussion with God about God’s methods, specifically the use of the Chaldeans to invade and seize the Israelites.  The bottom line is God helps Habakkuk to understand His sovereign right to deal with Israel as they deserved.  Habakkuk ends his conversation with God with an expression of confidence (Hab. 3:16-17):

“I heard and I trebled within; my lips quivered at the sound.

Rottenness entered my bones; I trembled where I stood.

Now I must wait quietly for the day of distress to come against the people invading us.

Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines,

Though the olive crop fails and fields produce no food,

Though the flocks, disappear from the pen and there are no herds in the stalls,

Yet I will celebrate in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!”

 

We begin a new week with much of the same questions and weariness that we had last week.  We long to experience what we might consider normal.  But we must remind ourselves that in spite of all is taking place each day that we must always turn to our God in praise and worship and rejoice in the God of our salvation!  Regardless, of all that may or may not happen, we can celebrate in the Lord and a beautiful morning with the warmth of the sunshine reminds us that our eternity is yet to come and it will be filled with Sonshine!  Celebrate the God of your salvation today!


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Just One Way?

I don’t really consider myself to be a connoisseur of coffee, but I am picky.  So, to meet my coffee palate on any given day I have various types of coffee and I have different ways to make a cup.  Now, I drink decaf, but it must be dark roast and extra bold.  With a little help from friends I have been finding some good decaf coffee. To make a particular cup depends on the time and the manner of brewing I choose.  If I am in a hurry, I use the Keurig to make a quick cup of whatever Kcup I have, if I will be drinking multiple cups I have an electric percolator to meet the need, if I want a smooth bold taste I use an Aeropress to make a satisfying cup, but If I really want a treat I use an espresso machine to brew a deep rich cup, adding just a little frothed milk and a little dark chocolate to give myself a really morning delight. I am sure there are different ways to make coffee that you use too, as well as different preferences of the coffee roast.

This is so modern culture and truly spoiled.  Yep, I’m spoiled, I’ll admit it.  The problem is that for so many things in our lives we have access to many different ways doing everyday activities, which can become excessive and even demanded as an entitlement.  When we bring that same mindset into the spiritual realm we create a problem.  There are so many different religions and beliefs, churches and practices, theologies and doctrinal dogmas, that in our very self-oriented spirit we’ll use whatever suits us or whatever meets our need or whim for a spiritual fix.  Then we are good with God because we have done a religious practice that has given ourselves a pseudo-spiritual experience.  Again, this is very problematic.

God did not provide man with a spiritual coffee bar to select what “man” wants.  God provided one man, Jesus Christ, to meet the deepest needs of any human being. God provided only one way to have that need met and that is through a faith-trust relationship with Jesus.  John 14:6 reads, “Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.’”  Then, Jesus in Luke 9:23 defined what it meant to follow Him, “The He said to them all, ‘If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.’”  If a person desires a relationship with God then there is only one way to have that relationship and that is through Jesus Christ His One and Only Son, that died on the cross for our sin and rose again to give eternal life. Good works won’t bring a relationship (Eph. 2:8-9), practicing lots of religious (spiritualized) activity won’t bring a relationship (Mt. 23:27-28), trying to make your own way to God just won’t work (Acts 4:12).  If there is only one way to have a relationship with God and that is through Jesus, then there is only one way to live life, and that is to live like Jesus. To do so we must “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no plans to satisfy the fleshly desires.” Rom. 13:14

We can choose whatever way we want to brew and drink our coffee, but there is just only one way to be saved and follow Jesus – the Jesus way!


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a favorite hymn

“There’s within my heart a melody;

Jesus whispers sweet and low,

‘Fear not, I am with thee, peace, be still,’

In all of life’s ebb and flow.

 

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,

Sweetest name I know,

Fills my ev’ry longing,

Keeps me singing as I go.”

– Luther B. Bridgers

 

As a kid growing up going to church every time the doors were open, I got to listen to and sing a lot of hymns. It was always my favorite part of the worship service, singing with a congregation that wasn’t huge, but sang hymns like they believed the lyrics they voiced.  One of my favorites is the hymn, ‘He Keeps Me Singing.”  The first verse and refrain are written above. You talk about encouragement! This hymn will be  one of the first among many that lift the heart and soul.

The musical melody line is upbeat almost peppy. It is the kind of song you’ll find yourself whistling loud and clear without even thinking about it any time of the day.  Beyond the upbeat tune, the words are very encouraging for those days when things don’t go so well or for a Friday, like today, when you’re glad the work week is over and there is a smile on your face.

Having a melody in your heart brings a joyful countenance, and the lyricss express it is real and present.  The melody in our heart has a wonderful source, our Lord and Savior Jesus, who speaks to us in a gentle and peaceful manner, reminding us not to fear the uncertainties of life because He is with us. His presence brings us peace and  He calls us to be still in our mind and heart even in the midst of the  ups and downs of day.  The refrain is a response of testimony, Jesus, the sweetest name I know, He is the one who satisfies the desires of my soul and keeps me singing as I go. Isn’t that great? Jesus is the source and the center of the melody that is in my heart. I pray that it is true for you today!

 

“He puts a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.”

– Psalm 40:3


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in the desert

Over the last several months I have been doing a lot of walking and I have come to enjoy doing so. I walk a lot of different routes, but my favorite is out through the desert on BLM land near the house. I encounter deer on occasion, Pronghorn often, a host of ground squirrels and observe different species of birds. Plant life from a distance looks the same, yet it has a variety plant species as well. There are different types of rock along the paths I walk. The desert is a peaceful place except when the motorcycles or ATVs roar by. Yet, to walk listening to the sounds of nature makes a great backdrop for communing with and worshiping God. I have many great talks with God as I walk in the desert. I always look forward to walks in the desert with the Lord.

The Israelites when freed from the Egyptians took a long journey through the wilderness, which much of it was desert. Exodus 13:17-18 says God took the Israelites through the desert in order to keep them from turning back if they encountered the Philistines on a much quicker route. There was a lot taking place between God and His people in their departure from Egypt, but one of the most significant things was what God doing in teaching the people to depend on Him and trust Him alone. The people remained obstinate complainers throughout their journey, even demonstrating open rebellion against God at Mt. Sinai. In the desert the people could have turned to God in full trust and learned of His great love, His tremendous provision, and His sovereign rule over everything. But for most part, Israel did not learn about their God and when they came to the Promised Land had no foundation for their faith and trust in God to give them the land, so many perished in a second journey in the desert as a consequence.

What can we learn about the desert? Either you learn about God and how to trust Him or you complain and doubt only to wander aimlessly. You may feel like you are in a spiritual desert right now that seems endless, exhausting, and lifeless. Now is the time to ask God to let the desert come alive with His love, His mercy, His grace, and a give you a new song to sing. God may have you in the desert for this very purpose to draw your focus back to Him and refill you with hope.

The desert can be a beautiful time of renewal when God brings it to life as only He can.  He may continue to teach you for a time as you wander there, but He always has a reason that you can trust is good. Trust God in the desert.

“They will not hunger or thirst,

The scorching heat or sun will not strike them,

For their compassionate one will guide them,

And lead them to springs.”

Isaiah 49:10


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Buy or Sell?

The stock market is one of those things I know very little about.  Maybe you know a lot about it. I hear that we are in a bear market which I understand isn’t a good thing, but corona virus has had its impact on the world economy.  I guess we would rather have a bull market which means a good thing for the economy.  All I know is that the buying and selling of stocks and everything else that goes along with Wall Street takes research, discernment, boldness and in some cases perseverance and longevity to see good returns on investments.  I would not know where to begin with it all.  I do know this, if the market indexes drop so does my retirement fund, if they go up then, it correspondingly does the same.  More than any of the market, I trust God to provide for the future because He holds the future in His Hand, so God also has my “futures” as well!

It is interesting that in God’s economy, He has a stock market as well.  However, it is not a physical market dealing with the likes of what we have been talking about, it is a spiritual market that we are to invest in and not let go of.  Listen to Proverbs 23:23, 

“Buy – and do not sell – truth, wisdom, instruction, and understanding.”

In God’s economy it is a buy only and do not sell strategy.  The strategy for man is to find and obtain with what it takes to know and have truth.  For the believer truth is the person Jesus Christ, you can’t buy Jesus like an item at the store but you can give yourself totally to Him and receive the truth and the truth will set you free.  That’s the supreme commodity.  

In God’s economy we are to buy wisdom.  Again, money can’t “buy” wisdom, but faith and asking the Lord without doubt will bring the blessing of wisdom from God (James 1: 5-8).  Wisdom helps develop maturity in our walk with Jesus. 

In God’s economy we are to buy instruction.  Many people pay a lot of money for education, seminars, and continuing education credits.  To buy instruction is to dig into God’s Word with a receptive spirit to His teaching of commands, principles, ordinances, statutes, and precepts. (Psalm 119, Proverbs) His instruction is essential to spiritual and physical life.

In God’s economy we are to buy understanding.  Understanding comes from obediently walking with Jesus, making application of truth, wisdom and instruction.  When we rely fully on God’s strategy for His economy in our lives, we gain by grace, understanding of His love, purposes, and plans.  We then become one of the richest and most fulfilled people on this earth, being spiritually vested in eternity.

God’s economy has the best retirement plan ever offered to any man, and it is found in Jesus!  Invest where it counts, “Buy – and don’t sell – truth, wisdom, instruction, and understanding”.  


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climbing mountains

A lot of my life has been spent in the mountains, most of that mountain time was spent hunting and climbing peaks.  When we lived in Utah, we lived at the foot of the Wasatch mountains and I climbed all the peaks along the front range from Mount Olympus to Lone Peak.  But when we lived in the Denver metro area, I was able to climb and summit five 14,000′ peaks, it was always exhilarating.  But often it was work that called for endurance and perseverance, one such peak was Longs peak, the northern most 14,000′ peak in Colorado.  Our trail head was about 7.5 miles from the summit, there was a narrow part of the trail toward the top that had a 1500′ drop off one side.  You had to stay focused, you had to pay attention and you had to be physically prepared or else you wouldn’t get far at all and probably end up in disaster.  Yet, if prepared and focused making the summit is a fulfilling joy.

There are other mountains in life that can be daunting and yet they are placed there by the Lord for us to climb to reach the summit.  The summit often becomes a milestone of our spiritual growth in the Lord.  But those mountain climbs can be demanding.  You may encounter a swift running river that must be crossed, challenges that call you to overcome fear or inexperience in order to continue the climb.  You may encounter wild animals that present danger, could be relationships with people that are uncertain as to whether they are discouraging or encouraging.  You can find yourself with uncertain footing, like making decisions that need a solid foundation to be made right.  All the way to the summit you must persevere, one step at a time remaining focused on the trail, the surrounding environment and most importantly the goal of the summit.

Paul talked about a goal, a true summit in Phil. 2:13-14, “Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”

As we deal with what seems a continuously changing upheaval in life because of the corona virus, the trail of the climb becomes foggy and even more perilous.  This is the time though to trust our safe and secure “Sherpa guide” the Holy Spirit to guide each us on each step up the trail.  We must keep climbing striving to reach the summit, the goal promised by God’s heavenly call in Jesus.  If we lose sight here, we could easily stumble.  We don’t know what is up each steep ascent, but we must persevere in faith that God has prepared the way.  Our fitness comes through prayer and the Word, so essential to staying focused.  You may not hike mountain trails, but if you are a follower of Jesus you are on the climb of your life.  Don’t let the pandemic, regardless of how long it affects your physical life, keep you from climbing the spiritual mountain God has called you to climb.


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rainy days and mondays

For those who remember the Carpenters, a singing brother and sister duo from years ago, this song was one that they made popular.  It seems fitting for the current circumstances we deal with daily.  We don’t have many rainy days here on the high desert but there are those regular Mondays.  The complete gist of the song is dealing with feeling sad, bored, isolated with little to get enthused about.  So, the catch line is “rainy days and Mondays always get me down.”

The song does have one glimmer of hope in the lyrics.

“Funny, but it seems I always end up here with you,

 Nice to know somebody loves me,

 Funny, but it seems that it’s the only thing to do,

 Run and find the one who loves me.”

Songwriters: Paul Williams/Roger S Nichols; Universal Music Publishing Group

The lyrics at this point are probably speaking of a close friend possibly a boyfriend.  But the song certainly coveys the mental and emotional challenges that people face when isolation feeds a despairing loneliness.  Not everyone feels the emotional drain of isolation, emptiness, or “the blues”, the same way.  But the feelings are real and can be tough to deal with.

I like the idea of knowing that somebody loves you.  That is the reality for the follower of Jesus Christ.  Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead to demonstrate His great love for you.  Jesus’ love for us is not contingent upon our emotions or feelings, it is based on His gracious, loving character and nature.  Sometimes it is difficult to sense His love and find comfort, but that is when we need to open God’s Word and find a Psalm, or other scripture that reminds us of His great love. (Psalm 63, 136) It is also encouraging to know that we matter to Him. “Casting all your cares on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 Then we find in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  As followers of Jesus we do have someone who loves us and desires to see us through those times when we just don’t feel like anyone cares, or those times when just feel isolated and alone.  So, when things get to be rainy days and Mondays, run to the one who loves you!


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Still Trusting?

“Be gracious to me, God, be gracious to me,

For I take refuge in You.

I will seek refuge in the shadow of Your wings

Until danger passes.

I call to God Most High,

to God who fulfills His purpose for me.”

– Psalm 57:1-2

 

Sometimes it is easy to feel like there will be no end to circumstances and it begins to wear on you.  Maybe not so much physically, but mentally, emotionally and even spiritually. Like at the present with the continuation of the uncertainty of so much surrounding the corona virus.  The social distancing and change of routine that persist and continues without any sight of when things might return to a sense of normal makes one weary.  In times like this when despair or despondency is knocking on your mental, emotional, and spiritual door is the time to lean the most on our Heavenly Father to see us through.

It seems to me that when this all began and there was more initial anxiety and fear, we knew that we had to trust God for safety, protection, wisdom, and peace.  But guess what?  We still must trust God with all our being, but now we must trust God for encouragement!  Now more than ever, we must trust God “until danger passes.”  We trust God for encouragement to stand fast in our thought life, our emotional stability, and spiritually fully depending on God’s love and grace.  We simply follow Paul’s instruction in Phil. 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable – if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy – dwell on these things!”  There you have it!  Read the Psalms, like Psalm 57, turn on Christian music and sing along, loudly, write a few encouraging notes to friends, or family members, count your blessings, most importantly keep trusting God.  He’ll meet your need so that you can confidently finish out Psalm 57, go ahead read it out loud right now with exuberance!

 

“My heart is confident, God my heart is confident.

I will sing; I will sing praises.

Wake up my soul! Wake up heart and lyre!

I will wake up the dawn.

I will praise You, Lord, among the peoples;

I will sing praises to You among the nations.

For Your faithful love is as high as the heavens;

Your faithfulness reaches the clouds.

God, be exalted above the heavens;

let Your glory be over the whole earth.”

– Psalm 57:7-11


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Grateful!

“I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you,

always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer,

because of your partnership in the gospel

from the first day until now.”

Philippians 1:3-5

 

Paul was always praying for the people in the churches he served in teaching and preaching the Gospel.  I understand his sentiment.  I do my best to pray for our church family regularly, with joy and gratitude.  Every family that is a part of the EBC family is important to the body of Christ, but also important to me.

 

I want to take today and simply say thank you church family for being faithful to God financially during these strange and challenging times.  Many of you have continued to give and be faithful stewards as partners with God and each other in the Gospel.  I fully trust God to provide for the work of ministry at EBC through His people. I thank God for each of you who are faithfully continuing to give tithes and offerings and I thank you for being faithful to God.

 

It is also my prayer that God will keep everyone safe and healthy through the pandemic.  God is to be praised for His sheltering and protective hands as we muddle through the unknown.  If there are prayer needs you have please let me know, or if you need to talk about the mental, emotional, or  spiritual struggle you may have due to challenges from the virus.  I’ll be glad to talk with you.  Email me (pastor@emmanuelrockspringswy.org) or call me (307-922-3068).  We’ll talk, pray, and seek God’s wisdom, discernment, promises, encouragement and grace.

 

Keep the faith.  Continue to trust God to provide all that is needed during the following days.  God is good, and He is faithful, His mercies are new every morning!

 

Reminders:

The church sent out a communication survey, if you can complete that survey for us, we would be appreciative.

If you desire to mail a check or other material to the church remember our new MAILING address:  3309 Sweetwater Dr. 82901

Check your Instant Church Directory listing and make sure all information is correct

Oh yeah, have a blessed and joyous day!


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perspective

Right now, is an interesting time to go to the store.  Normally, I like going to the grocery store and buying groceries.  I am one of those guys who hunts the best deal using coupons, paper and digital.  I read labels checking for sodium amounts, saturated fat content and the like.  Its like a safari.  But not anymore, it is an anxious sprint to get in and out with as little contact, even eye contact, as possible.  To go in you feel like someone didn’t get the memo about social distancing, as a matter of fact it looks like the place to gather for escaped hospital patients and wannabe bank robbers, you know all those masks!  I get in the store with all these people and my sanitary wipes and all I see is inconvenience to me completing my store agenda with little impedance.  I survive wondering what is wrong with all these people.

Jesus walked in a challenging time as well.  Anywhere he went he faced challenges to who He was, the Messiah, a King, a farce?  He also encountered lots of people continuously making requests for healing and other miracles.  There is one encounter that causes me to seriously reflect upon my humanistic and egocentric perspective of people.  Jesus had been ministering in Judea where he departed and started toward Galilee, but this time He had to travel through Samaria.  Jews didn’t do that during this time, Samaritans were lesser people, mixed breed they could bring defilement.  Jesus following the Father’s plan led the disciples onward.  They reached a place called Sychar near Jacob’s well.  Jesus was tired from the journey and sat down there in the middle of the day.  The disciples went to get something to eat.  A woman came to the well at midday, which wasn’t the normal time women would come to get water.  The encounter continues with Jesus asking for drink and engaging in a conversation about her spiritual need and her life and how He could meet her need.  It even had some theological discussion as well.  The bottom line is that the encounter of the woman with Jesus was life changing for her.  It is what happens next that I want us to see.  The disciples come back from town pretty confused about what Jesus was doing with this Samaritan woman, after all she was an inconvenience to their agenda.  She goes and tells the townspeople about Jesus, then all these Samaritan people come out to see Jesus and then believe that He is the Savior of the world.  Jesus did not see people as inconvenience to Him, the scripture says, “…open your eyes and look at the fields, because they are ready for harvest.” John 4:35b Jesus had the right perspective, he saw the fields of people ready to be harvested, that is brought into the Kingdom of God.

How incriminating can it be to look at the fields and see inconvenience, like me in the store, when like Jesus I should see the harvest and if nothing else, pray for every person I pass by that their spiritual eyes would be open to the Savior of the world.  It is all a matter of perspective., His perspective!


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Different temporarily?

As I think about the church and about each of you and hear various reports or stories about how current restrictions and practices could bring possible changes in the way we live in the future, I try to make some determination about what that might mean.  Could the fears of COVID-19 continue to cause what are predominantly temporary changes into permanent changes in the way social community interacts?  It’s possible I guess, but uncertain as to what that might be.  The more significant question for me is how will it affect the church, the family of God in how they interact?  My prayer is that it will not have any drastic impact on how we relate in our church family community, but the reality is, that it is possible for there to be some effect on the body of believers.

At this point it is all conjecture and may prove out to be very moot concerns.  But a concern that is not moot is the question for us as a body of believers, is what can our current experience teach us about how we are to live out our faith through the body of Christ?

We are a small church that likes our routine, we like everything to stay the same in how we worship, how we minister, and how we share Christ with the lost.  It is understandable to have this mindset.  In the current situation we have had to make major adjustments in how we function as a church, it is extremely different.  Yet maybe in this experience we can understand what it is like for brothers and sisters in Christ in other nations where being a Christian is illegal, or gathering in groups is illegal?  I am not inferring that it is the same but maybe we can have a little more insight about the persecuted church that exists all around this world.  Could it be a taste of what future generations of Christians in our country could face?  I do not know.

What I keep thinking about though is are we as a church truly committed to be the body of Christ?  Part of that answer is in Jesus’ instruction to the disciples before ascending to heaven, “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 everything I have commanded you.  And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Mt. 28:19-20

If this is the mandate for believers and disciples of Jesus, then it must be the mandate for the body of believers as the body of Christ.  My challenge during this time is in evaluating how well do we reach people for Christ? How well do we disciple new and maturing followers of Jesus?  This is a priority concern as we look to gather as the body of Christ once again, as we seek to carry out the commission to share Christ and disciple believers.  Will this time create an urgency for EBC in doing intentionally and purposefully the things that matter most in God’s Kingdom, even in a different manner?  It is my prayer that we will seek God to hear His voice in aligning our church to His purpose and plan so that we are eternally different in all we do.  Think about it, and pray about it.


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Taking life for granted

“Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring – what your life will be! 
For you are like a vapor that appears for as little while,
then vanishes.” James 4:14

 

One of the things this time of social distancing and non-gathering causes is reflection.    Reflection on what our lives are about, what our priorities are, what truly is important.  The verse in James tells us that we do not know or control what tomorrow will bring and that our lives are very brief.  This could be a cause for despondency and despair, or it could be the catalyst to motivate us to appreciate every day and seek to live life to the fullest.

What does that mean for the believer?  To live life to the fullest!  It sounds good.    Jesus said in John 10:10b, “…I have come so they may have life and have it in abundance.”     To have life abundant doesn’t mean a lot of success, popularity, wealth, possessions or stuff but rather to truly experience living on this earth as God originally created it to be.    A life of meaningful and peaceful fellowship with God our creator.    What is amazing is that in a sin torn world Jesus says He has come to give to abundant life to those who believe.  I see that to mean that if we submit to Jesus in loving obedience as Lord, we will experience the abundant life regardless of the circumstances.

Paul said something very important in Gal. 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  Wait, that sounds contrary to abundant life.    But Paul echoed that his life was consistent with Jesus’ call to “…deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23 Here is the truth we can assimilate into our thinking.    For a believer to genuinely follow Jesus they must deny their right to control their life, they must take up their cross because they are crucified with Christ, then   through the Holy Spirit, Jesus lives in us enabling us to follow  Him.  The way that we follow is by faith in Jesus, His Word, His promises, obeying His commands, which are not burdensome.  In this manner of living we experience abundant life, because now our thinking, our attitudes, and our behaviors are shaped and guided by His Spirit to be like Him. 

The amazing thing beyond this is that we are Jesus’ hands, feet, and voice for sharing with other people that Jesus gives life  that is abundant.  When they  trust Jesus to follow Him,   then we  can walk with them in His wisdom to help them  experience the joy of following Jesus.  That is abundant living!  We cannot  afford to miss the abundant life in Jesus, because we take life for granted.


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What’s next?

That is probably a question that is on everyone’s mind?  What’s next?  What is going to be the next challenge to deal with concerning the corona virus?  How will it continue to impact how I live?  These kinds of questions may be the ones that primarily swirl in our minds, and occasionally we ask to another person wanting to know the answer to the same questions.  It is in times like this, that we need solid facts, friendly affirmation, and wisdom to determine the manner we are to live each day.  But finding that today is difficult, so we continue to wonder. 

It is the day after the resurrection day for the disciples, they have seen Jesus, and have been instructed to head for Galilee.  I believe that they also asked the question, “What’s next?” as well.  Before the crucifixion, their life with Jesus had settled into a routine of going from town to town healing people, casting out demons, teaching people about the Kingdom of God.  They went to feast and Holy days with Jesus, they encountered intense discussions with the Jewish leaders.  They traveled together, ate together, learned together, and shared life together.  But now their relationship with Jesus was going to change, not completely, but it would be different in what would be next?  I am sure that on their minds, was the activity of the Jewish leaders to capture and imprison them or even have them put to death.  Life on earth would be different, how would they live?

Of course, from the book of John, chapter 21 we see the beautiful unfolding of renewal in the relationship between Jesus and His disciples over a prepared breakfast meal. Jesus instructed the disciples on what they were to do; that is be His witnesses and make disciples, but they were not to do it on their own.  They were to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit, that would bring power, wisdom, and might to carry out the purpose of God to share the Gospel of Jesus from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the very ends of the earth.  Without the Spirit, they would not be able to live the new life and purpose Jesus had prepared them for.  It would be challenging, it would be daunting, it would be uncertain, it would be a genuine life of faith and dependence on God to provide, wisdom, sustenance, health, and power to do His work.

What’s next?  I don’t know, but what I do know is that we must keep a genuine faith and trust in God and pray for wisdom and direction in all that we do.  We must allow God’s Holy Spirit to encourage and lead our thinking and resolve to honor Jesus each day.  We want to ask, “What’s next?”  God whispers, “just live today in my grace and I’ll take care of tomorrow.”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and do not rely on your own understanding;

in all your ways know Him,

and He will make your paths straight.”

Proverbs 3:5-6


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Resurrection Day

“Open the gates of righteousness for me;
I will enter through them and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the Lord’s gate;
the righteous will enter through it.
I will give thanks to you because you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
This came from the Lord;
it is wondrous in our sight.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Psalm 118:19-24
 
This Psalm seems so fitting to our celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Many of the Psalms have Messianic undertones foreshadowing the life and work of Jesus.   On this very strange day in 2020, I sit in a church that will be void of people entering to praise God and celebrate the resurrection as the body of Christ.  Yet we can enter into the gates of God’s presence, the privilege that Jesus made possible.  In His presence even if from our kitchen table, or our living room we can give thanks to God for His wonderful and blessed Salvation through Jesus His One and only Son.  His Son who was rejected as the Messiah and Redeemer by those who had Him crucified, is the very One who has become the eternal cornerstone of redemption with His resurrection from the dead.  It was all a part of God’s perfect plan to draw a lost and rebellious mankind back into relationship with Him.  So on a day like today set aside to commemorate and celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, even if we must do it from our homes, we can proclaim with enthusiasm and confidence that this is the day that the Lord has made and we will rejoice and be glad in it.
 
Father God, you are the Almighty Sovereign Creator of all things, You are the One who sustains all life through
Your providence.  You are to be praised and worshiped alone.  With grateful hearts we say thank you for
Jesus’ death, His burial, and specifically today His resurrection.  Thank you Jesus for bringing hope to hopelessness,
righteousness to the unrighteous, and the gift of eternal life.  Indeed, you have risen and brought new life to
to the lost and dying.  May our thoughts continuously be on You as we walk through this day that you have made. 
All in Jesus Name, Amen.
 

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The day after and the day before

Traditionally Jesus death has been accepted and observed on a Friday, also a day known as the day of preparation on which the Jews made preparation for the Sabbath on Saturday the 7th day of the week.  The Sabbath was to be a day of rest consecrated to Yahweh after all, following six days of creation He rested as well.  You always wonder though, just how much rest the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem had on this Sabbath day.  In reading the Gospels you get the sense that they were pretty uptight with the continuing saga of this Jesus they just had crucified the day before.  They were also active in trying to make sure the disciples of Jesus could not carry out any deceptive plot about a resurrection.

Isn’t it interesting, that on the day after they were able to get Jesus crucified and see Him die they had no peace, they had no satisfaction, they had no assurance of doing what was right?  There was that underlying possibility that they were wrong.  And all of this on the day after.

The disciples had their own issues, it was supposed to be a Sabbath for them as well.  However, they were scattered and hiding in fear just trying to make sense of all that happened.  If Jesus was the Messiah, and they believed He was, then why was He crucified, and why was He dead?  In their minds this was not the way it was supposed to take place.  What would be next?  Had they misunderstood their Master and teacher? This Saturday, this Sabbath, this day in between was causing quite the unrest.

We sometimes find ourselves in the day after with our world in upheaval trying to make sense of all that is happening.  We have expectations for life to go a certain way then all of a sudden out of nowhere comes a powerful storm or a corona virus that creates chaos, uncertainty, and all other types of negative emotional responses.  It can be a scary time, just ask the Jewish leaders, or ask the disciples about Jesus death and what they felt on the day after it happened.

We have the blessing at looking back on their circumstances realizing it wasn’t just the day after it was the day before!  The Jewish leaders would discover Jesus was changing everything by His resurrection, and the disciples would begin to understand the Kingdom that Jesus brought to them, as it was confirmed through the Master’s resurrection.  For the Jewish leaders they would see a continuing threat to their way of relating to God through the Law, attempting to crush what was truly God’s work.  The disciples empowered by the Holy Spirit carried the Good News of a risen Savior and the promise of everlasting life to all who would believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord.

But on the day after and the day before it was confusing and unsettled, but God was in control and already had tomorrow well in hand.  Be encouraged friends, it may be a Saturday for you as you struggle through all that is taking place in life right now, but remember it actually is the day before and God has it well under control.

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.

You will have suffering in this world.  Be courageous!

I have conquered the world.”

–Jesus in John 16:33


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