Easter…It is More Blessed to Receive

My dear brothers and sisters in God’s Kingdom;

We are in a special week-end: Easter, and for the occasion, allow me to share a thought from the Wisdom that Jesus gave. Easter is typically full of Christian events. Church shows and performances of all kinds, Easter eggs hunt (still trying to wrap my mind around that), concerts, etc.

For some settings, just preparing for Easter can take weeks, or sometimes months. As a church, we certainly do not want to drop the ball on Easter. Our performance must be spot on. We have a plan to invite the community, and perhaps get some of them to start attending church, reaching those who are “lost” in our communities. We will have cookout, bible theme games, story-telling, reenactment, etc. We will give our best, and as so, we will have honored Jesus.

But sometimes…it is more blessed to receive than to give.

Remember the exchange between Jesus and Marta.

Luke 10:38-40 – Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

But look at how Jesus replied:

Luke 10:41,42 – But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

On that day, Mary had chosen to receive from Jesus, rather than being too busy trying to give Him something. What you give Him will perish one day (your church performance, etc.), but what He gives you, His Word, is gold, and will never perish. 

Matthew 5:18 – …truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

In this potentially busy week-end, allow me to invite you to find time just for you and your Lord. Invite Him, and ask to receive His Word. You will have chosen the “good portion”, that which will never be taken away from you. Easter was the greatest gift He gave us: His Life. Easter is time to receive.

May you all blessed by the Father through the Spirit, in the name above all names: Jesus, our Lord.

Happy Easter. 😊

Amen.

Start praying for bigger things…

Dear Children of the Kingdom;

May the grace, mercy and peace of Jesus be with you. As we enter the popular week-end of Easter, with all its festivities and often elaborate church performances, allow me to focus your attention on a more humble, but far more substantial act: Prayer. Prayer is your lifeline to Jesus. Today, I would like to exhort you to make full use of prayer, moving beyond the elementary needs we so often express to God through it. Among those are the need for good health for us and our families, prosperity in all things, and safety.

If your prayers are limited to those elementary things, then you are missing a great deal about what prayer can, and was always meant to provide.

Look at what the Apostle Paul said about Himself and Timothy to the Colossians:

Colossians 1:9,10 – And so, from the day we heard [of your love in the Spirit], we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

What a powerful confession. Paul and Timothy prayed constantly for the Colossians, not for their families, jobs, health, etc. but so that they might filled with the knowledge of God’s will so that they would be able to walk worthy of Him by bearing all the fruits that Jesus and His Father so long for.

You see, this is making full use of what prayer is supposed to be about…Father, cause me to grow in You, that I may fully understand Your Will, so that I will be bearing all of those fruits You so desire!

The secret of a deep relationship with Christ, the secret for abounding in all those fruits Jesus look for, is prayer. It is not your many acts of charity, it is not your bible study, it is not your observance of the Sabbath, it is not your tithing, and it might not even be what role you will play at your church’s Easter performance. Any of those things could be fine. But they amount to nothing unless you have a real relationship with the One who is our very lifeline…Jesus. And not just prayer, but what you pray for, is the greatest instrument yet given to us to grow in that intimate relationship. For that kind of prayer can only be made by a heart that really loves.

Does not the word say…

1 Corinthians 13:1 – If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Do not be satisfied with where you are in your spiritual journey. Instead, continue to strive to know Your Lord more, to know the Father more. Pray for bigger things. I say, Pray! Seek bigger things, spiritual and eternal things. Can you imagine for a minute the joy of God our Father when He hears such prayers? Can you imagine the joy of our Lord Jesus when He hears that what you really want is to be just like Him and spent time with Him?  As you first seek the Kingdom of God, did not Jesus promise that all your needs will be met (Matthew 6:33)?

As we celebrate the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus this Easter, let us strive to honor Him, not just with our words and performances, but with our heart.

May you therefore be encouraged to start praying for bigger things…

May Jesus be glorified in our lives, today and forever.

Amen.

Our greatest challenge…Staying Awake!

Dear family of God;

May the peace of our Lord Jesus be with you. Allow me to submit to you that one of our greatest challenges is to stay awake. Spiritually awake.

1 Thessalonians 5:2,5 – …you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night…you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.

For some, waiting on the Lord and being vigilant is a vivid daily reality. Such as those who live in a dangerous country, especially where being a Christian is synonymous to living with the fear imprisonment or death. Or the very poor, who wakes up not knowing whether he will have something to eat that day. Or the chronically sick, whose disabilities are the constant struggles of their lives.

But for many, like many of us in “developed” countries like the USA, or the many of us who never have to worry about whether we will have something to eat, waiting on the Lord and being vigilant amount to little more than fighting our daily, personal desires of the flesh. And outside of our personal fight against sin – which we discussed previously – all is smooth sailing, every day. There is no danger of imprisonment, our churches are generally fine, modern Christian concerts from popular bands are typically sold out, and we are not persecuted simply for wearing a Christian T-shirt or a cross. Eating today is a non-issue: Should we eat organic or out…that is our challenge! Looks like we got the good deal…or did we?

We are like the guard of a castle where no threat ever occurs. Every day is the same, smooth and quiet. Staying awake IS one of our greatest challenges. Just staying awake. Our faith might be rotting away and we are completely unaware of it…we are slumbering, we are falling asleep. Our church is in cruise control, our favorite morning songs and radio casts are always at hand. But unaware to us, for we are asleep, our burning love and zeal for God, for our Lord Jesus, and for His Kingdom is surely becoming a thing of the past. Every day is the same, and it looks like it will always be like that.

But occasionally, here and there a tragedy will take place…a tragedy that reminds us there are more important things in life than what we have been focusing on. And we will jump from our sleep as if awaken with a bucket of water. But soon, very soon, our heavy eyelids will bring us right back to sleep.

My friends. We, you and me living in a country like this one, or with enough means to eat every day, or with generally good health, are the Christians who are the most in danger, those of us who have a life that looks much better than most. We are the ones in danger of being caught off-guard when the Master comes. But here is the advice from the Apostle:

1 Thessalonians 5:8,9 – But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We have not been appointed by God to experience His wrath…so…let us not be found asleep, but sober…by making sure our faith is strong and genuine, our love is active and fervent, and our hope is alive!

May the Lord be with you;

In the name above all names, Jesus our Lord.

Amen.

The Return of the Master

To the servants of Jesus-Christ;

It’s late in the morning. Here you are in an average sized room, standing in front seven other people, sharing the gospel with them. You are all standing. The door is wide open and gives directly to the busy street.

Suddenly and without warning the Master enters, dressed in a white robe which runs and covers His feet. There was no warning, no trumpet, not procession, just a calm entrance. It could easily have been someone else, but you know within yourself that it is Him, it is the Lord, the Christ, His name is Jesus the Son of God. He does not say a Word but walks calmly yet confidently, three other men following close behind. Suddenly you are paralyzed but also overwhelmed with emotions. You want to speak but cannot open your mouth, neither can you move a muscle. Your entire body feels like it has been set on fire from the inside. The Lord does not say a single Word either, and His walk is steady, quiet, uneventful yet confident, just like His entrance.

He fixes His eyes on you with a faint, but warm smile, as if to acknowledge that He knows who you are. Yet, He does so only for a second or two. Soon He takes His eyes away from you and it becomes very clear that it is not you that He is after. He finally comes and stands right between you and the 7 people, His back faced toward you, the 3 other men staying at a distance.

The Master stands there staring at the 7 people as someone who knows exactly what He is looking for. Somehow you too know exactly what He is doing. He is inspecting His flock, no detail will escape Him. It is quiet, no one is saying anything during that time, no one is moving, not even those seven: The master is inspecting His flock.

You realize at that moment why He only gave you the faintest of looks. Yes He does know you, but first He must see how His sheep are doing? This is the only thing that matters to Him at the moment: How are His sheep that He entrusted you with? Are they in good shape? Is there any sign that they have been abused? You realize that you are secondary, and that your fate depends solely on his assessment of His sheep. There is nothing you can say at that moment, it is too late. Time is up and the Master has returned. You can’t preach any further, counsel any further, pray for them any further, because the Master Himself is here. Not an extra word will come out of your mouth…it is the Master’s turn.

It only takes Him two minutes and the Master is done, for He knew exactly what He was looking for. Then, slowly He turns around and look at you in the eyes. Somehow you only reach Him to His thighs for He is that much taller than you. But with the warmest of hands and the warmest of smiles, He brings you close to Him and embraces you, holding you onto Him. You feel his warm hands behind your neck and back, you are overwhelmed, and suddenly you are available to emit a sound. All your emotions erupt suddenly, as a raging volcano whose cap just gave way. You cry like you have never cried before, you are overpowered with joy…Your Master has returned, He is here, He has inspected His sheep and found them in good health. He is pleased with your work and did not find it wanting. You will never be away from Him anymore…

He then says…”Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

To the servants of the Kingdom. May the Lord, in His grace, when He returns and visit you, finds you so doing.

In His name, majesty without end. Glory to the Father in heaven, glory to His Son, our Lord and Savior.

Amen.

The Privilege of Crying

Children of the Kingdom;

May the grace and peace of God be with you.

Anyone who has cried know the comfort of a shoulder to lean on. And anyone who could not find that shoulder in that moment has experienced the excruciating pain of wiping those tears themselves.

Think of that teenage girl abducted and used as a sex slave (oh are there many!). She has no one to lean on, and hence, sooner or later, she will find the very act of crying painful. The very cry that was designed to help her relieve her pain might turn against her, because there is no one to comfort here. Hence, she will eventually stop crying.

You see my friend, crying is a privilege…when you have someone to lean on.

Ecclesiastes 4:9,10Two are better than one…10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

For you and me, my friend, children of God, we have the shoulder of Christ to lean on.

Psalms 10:17 – You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry

Psalms 18:6 – In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.

And today, look at what we are told

Hebrews 4:16 – Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

When you cry to the Lord, when you approach Him, you have the confidence that His shoulder is there, that the grace that you need at that time, that comfort that only Him can provide, He will graciously give of it to you.

My friend, whoever you are who call on Jesus as your Lord, you have the privilege to cry unto God. Many before us understood this privilege and seized it. Some became expert at crying to Him…didn’t they cry to Him so often precisely because they truly believe that He could hear them and comfort them? Were not their cries, at their weakest points, also a manifestation of their faith?

It is your turn! You are not stuck in some hidden confine, without hope, and with no one to wipe your tears. You are in the presence of Jesus…You have Christ…, and yes, wherever you are! God was found in prison right there with His servants (think of Peter when he was in chains in a prison). God was found right in the furnace, right there with the friends of Daniel who had vowed not to bow before anyone else but their God). God will be found were His children are found…And yes, He will be found with that sex slave if she is His.

Call on Him! Call on Him my people. Our God is merciful! And our God is compassionate. Plead your case, raise your voice, lean on Him, not only as your Master, but also as the One who truly loves you! He will receive you, for your Father in heaven is the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3).

To the glory of the Father, in the name of Jesus, the King of peace. May truth alone stands.

Father, may you sanctify the ears and eyes of the readers. And let your words, and your words alone stand. If these are not your words, let them fall to the ground and no take root. And be merciful to me, according to your own kindness. In Jesus’ name.

Amen.

Your daily fight…and Your way out!

To my brothers and sisters in Christ;

Allow me to utter some words of encouragement inspired by these two verses:

Romans 6:13,14Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Daily, you are experiencing the rage of sin in your life. Sin wages a merciless fight, which manifests itself in countless ways. Sin does not sleep. It causes you to do the wrong things, it discourages you to focus on the right things. It gives you energy to waste on what is not of God, and sucks all the energy you thought you had when it comes to serving God. That is sin, my friend, waging a merciless fight on you. You have the desire to do what’s right. You have the desire to respond wisely when you coworkers stab you in the back, you have the desire to be more like Jesus…but time and again…life, like a torrent, unleashes all its furry on you. It is sin waging a merciless fight on you.

BUT…do not believe the lie that you cannot do anything against it. Sin is not the most powerful entity inside your body…the Holy Spirit is. And while sin is a bully who acts out of fear that its true colors will be discovered (it has no power), the Holy Spirit is that TRUE power that counsels your mind in the most confident but also most gentle of ways. It is the ultimate power…the kind of power that can raise dead people…literally!

Remember this promise…For sin will have NO dominion over you.

So stand up my friend, and do not believe the lie. No, you do not like a life of sin…you actually hate it! Yes, you can overcome a sinful life. Yes, you have what it takes to serve God admirably. Do not believe what sin tells you. Sin is a lie, and it has been rendered completely powerless.

You have the Holy Spirit…and this is the truth…

2 Timothy 1:7…God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

May you live victoriously by His Grace.

In His name. Amen.