The Last Word

April 23rd, 2014

“I am God . . declaring the end from the beginning.” Isaiah 46:10 NKJV.

Be wary of allowing a presumption to become your conclusion.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the last word.”

There will always be a few people who always need to have the last word. They propose to be the final authority on all matters. They must be thought right and others wrong. They expect their opinions to be generally accepted as the best ones. Life doesn’t really work that way in lasting and meaningful relationships. In life, I have learned that the final word is rarely, if ever, yours or mine to give. Life works better, and you and others are happier, when you are content to trust God to have the last word. He does, and will, so why not rest in His righteousness and wisdom?

“For I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.’” Isaiah 46:9-10 NKJV. God alone knows and declares the end from the beginning. He alone has the last word in your life and over your circumstances, past, present, and future. “According to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His own will.” Read Ephesians 1:3-12 NIV. What God says matters most.

Leave plenty of room in your life and circumstance for God to do as He will, and be as generous to allow the same for others. “From now on, we regard no one according to the flesh . . if anyone is in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation . .” Read 2 Corinthians 5:16-18 NKJV. You are not yet a finished project. Until God speaks, the last word has not been spoken about what you can be or do.

Others may remind you of your failure; God affirms you are forgiven. You may know what you can’t do; remember what God can do. Until you include God, people and things may not be as they could be. Likewise, others do not have the last word about you; God reserves that privilege for Himself. To be encouraged, look up every Scripture that includes, “But God . .” There are plenty.

David ran from King Saul’s evil intent for harm. “Saul sought David every day, but God did not deliver him into Saul’s hand.” 1 Samuel 23:14. David confessed his own weakness, “My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart.” Psalm 73:26. Joseph’s brothers abandoned him; he was wrongly imprisoned on false accusations, “But God was with Him.” Acts 7:9. Listen to Joseph’s own testimony, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good to bring about this present result.” Genesis 50:20.

In your lifetime, there may be a lot said to you, about you, or against you. But all that does not matter because your Father will have the last word. Easter is a timely reminder that nothing is hopeless, no circumstance final, nor distress unchangeable. “They took Jesus down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb.” Acts 13:29. His disciples saw His cruel and public death, watched his lifeless body being buried and the tomb sealed and guarded.

Some disciples headed back home. Others returned to their former pursuits. Some felt too lost to do much of anything yet. Be wary of allowing a presumption to become your conclusion. “But God raised Him from the dead.” Acts 13:30. No one expected that. But God had the last word; how appropriate for the One who declares, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Revelation 22:13 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you not confuse presumptions with conclusions.

Heaven

April 21st, 2014

“An inheritance incorruptible . . reserved in Heaven for you.” 1 Peter 1:4 NKJV.

This abbreviated season will determine where and how you will spend eternity.

My thoughts and comments today are about “Heaven.”

Life is an all too brief season compared with the expanse of time that is eternal. Here is the importance of that fact. This abbreviated season will determine where and how you will spend eternity. Let me share a few things Jesus said about Heaven. First, open your Bible and read John 14:1-4.

Jesus spoke with personal knowledge and authority about Heaven because Heaven was His home. “Jesus knew that He should depart from this world and return to the Father . .  knowing He had come from God and was going to God.” John 13:1/3 NKJV. After Jesus’ resurrection, Luke described Jesus’ ascension, “While they looked steadfastly toward Heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into Heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into Heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into Heaven.’” Acts 1:10-11 NKJV.

Heaven is a real place. Jesus spoke clearly and confidently about Heaven. “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.” John 14:2 NIV. The realness of Heaven does not rest upon empty wishes or sentimentality; it rests upon the authority of God’s Word and the truth of Jesus Christ Himself. If Heaven were not real – as unthinkable as that is – there would be no God, no Savior, no salvation, and death would be fatal and final. Every man would be forever lost in his sins, then die and exist no more. I have stood at too many gravesides and have too many family and friends waiting there for me not to believe in Heaven.

Heaven is a prepared place. “I am going there to prepare a place for you.” John 14:2 NIV. Heaven is a place prepared for you – forever. In some way just for you, Heaven is a place of perfect bliss and blessedness – a home with God eternally.

Heaven is a reserved place. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you may also be where I am.” John 14:3 NIV. Heaven is described as possessing “. . the hope that is laid up in Heaven for you . . an inheritance incorruptible . . reserved in Heaven for you.” Colossians 1:5/1 Peter 1:3-5 NKJV.

Heaven can be a sure place for you. Do not be deceived; there are not multiple paths to Heaven. There is but one, through your personal faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. See Romans 10:9-10 NIV. The Bible is clear as were the Apostles, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under Heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 NIV. Heaven is sure only if Jesus is your Savior and Lord. Jesus was clear, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:5-6 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you know that Heaven is real, and live accordingly.

Betrayal and Amazing Grace

April 18th, 2014

“On the same night that [Jesus] was betrayed.” 1 Corinthians 11:23 NKJV.

It is as wrong to underestimate His grace as to overestimate our faith.

My thoughts and comments today are about “betrayal and amazing grace.”

Betrayal is a terrible thing. It isn’t accidental; it’s deliberate, intentionally hurting another. When it occurs, the pain is immediate and can be enduring. The reactions vary – stunned disbelief, destruction of trust, emotional pain, grief, anger, self-pity, and eventually estrangement. Be careful; betrayal is often sown in the seed of offences, harbored and unforgiven. Forgiveness is the only true remedy.

The history of man is cluttered with betrayal, beginning with Adam and Eve. Abel experienced betrayal by Cain; Jacob betrayed Esau; Joseph was betrayed by his brothers; Job felt betrayed by his friends; Absalom and Ahithophel betrayed David; David betrayed Uriah; Haman betrayed Mordecai; Demas betrayed Paul. The best and worse among us are capable of unthinkable betrayal.

The wondrous story of the Resurrection cannot be told apart from the undercurrent of betrayal. I have been intrigued by this cryptic verse, “The Lord Jesus on the same night He was betrayed took bread and said, ‘This is My body broken for you . .’” 1 Corinthians 11:23-33 NKJV. The juxtaposition of dark betrayal alongside this intimately sacred moment seems unthinkable. But Jesus was neither surprised nor stunned. “[Jesus] had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.”­ Read John 2:23-25 NKJV.

Jesus knew Judas would betray Him. For thirty pieces of silver, he identified Jesus with a kiss in Gethsemane. Jesus knew Peter would deny Him. In spite of his protests, he would do just that. Jesus knew all the disciples would forsake him. After His arrest, they all would flee in fear and self-preservation. Yet for this Passover, Jesus gathered these very disciples with a sense of strong urgency saying, “With fervent desire have I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” Luke 22:15-16 NKJV.

This was the Passover the Exodus from Egypt foretold generations earlier. This was no casual evening. His earthly ministry and the future success of the Kingdom of God would now rest on their devotion and efforts. And He knew the shattering effect His suffering and death would have on their confidence. John later described Jesus’ intent on this fateful night, “. . Having loved His own . . He now showed them the full extent of His love.” John 13:1 NIV. They had to be persuaded of an unfailing love.

It is as wrong to underestimate His grace as to overestimate your faith. Jesus knew their frailties, as He does ours. Amazing grace. Jesus still loved them – and you, and me. He desired for them, as for us, “to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” Read Ephesians 3:17-19 NIV. As in Jesus’ parables of the lost sheep, lost coin, and lost son (Luke 15), “[Jesus] came to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19:10 NIV. Not only to save, but even to seek. He would seek for Judas at that Passover Meal, for Peter at a fireside on the shore of Galilee, and for the disciples, and Thomas, in an upper room where the risen Savior showed them His pierced hands and wounded side.

This Good Friday and Easter is not about Judas, Peter, or the disciples; it is about you and me. Today, and every day, Jesus offers amazing grace – second chances, renewed vows, and new beginnings.

My prayer for you today is for a joyous and glorious celebration of His Resurrection.

Wonderful Expectations

April 16th, 2014

“We live with a wonderful expectation because Jesus Christ rose from the dead.” 1 Peter 1:3 NLT

The resurrection shouts truth with clarity and certainty over every question, doubt, or fear.

My thoughts and  comments today are about “wonderful expectations.”

You probably try not to think much about death, until something happens along the way that does not allow that luxury to continue. Most don’t like to talk about death, or even think about it. It is more pleasant to ignore that undesired eventuality as much and as long as you can. But you are mortal; no matter how you suppress and disguise that fact. No one lives forever. And death is that unavoidable reality; you just don’t know how or when. “No one can live forever; all will die. No one can escape the power of the grave.” Psalm 89:48 NLT. Now that sounds grim, doesn’t it?

Death is grim, and unpleasant, exactly because it is unnatural to us. “That by His death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” Hebrews 2:14-16 NIV. You were created to be eternal, as your Creator is. Sin introduced death, not God. See Romans 5:12-19 NIV. The dread of death causes despair because sin causes death. That was true at man’s origin, and it is true now. See Genesis 2:15-17 NLT.

But then came Easter morning! Day’s earlier, harsh realities replaced dreams and hopes the followers of Jesus held, challenging everything they believed about faith and the future. Despair shoved hope aside. They stumbled ”back home,” back to life as it had been; to pick up what little seemed left – broken, bewildered, and discouraged.

Things they thought possible before felt impossible now. Things sure to them days before now posed troubling questions. You will face times when life is hard and you feel like turning around. You ask yourself, “What’s the use?” Something will seem to have erased your future, but little do you know what God is about to do.

That’s why Easter is such a hope-filled time. Christ’s resurrection validates His power over death – that Jesus is the Lord of life, the conqueror of death. “But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was not possible for death to keep its hold on Him.” Acts 2:24 NIV. Resurrection is the demonstration of God’s power, conquering your worst and last enemy; everything else you may ever face is minor for God. In Christ, We live with a wonderful expectation because Jesus Christ rose from the dead. 1 Peter 1:3 NLT. Your life can be filled with hope not despair, enjoying life not fearing death. It is yours to choose.

Easter is more than a fact of history; Easter is the truth of a current event, more relevant to your well-being than today’s headlines. Easter makes sense of everything that has not made any sense at all. The empty Garden tomb made sense of the agony of Gethsemane and the cruelty of Calvary. The Resurrection introduced possibilities beyond anything His followers had previously imagined when standing in the darkening shadow of the cross that day. Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection made every impossibility before become a glorious possibility now.

His Resurrection shouts truth with clarity and certainty over every question, doubt, or fear. Easter can do the same for you today. Jesus’ Resurrection guarantees yours. Jesus was clear, “Because I live you also will live.” John 14:19 NIV. Death is not the last word. Life is the final word spoken over you – life now and life everlasting. Meanwhile, God “. . has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Peter 1:3-4 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you live with wonderful expectation of a glorious resurrection.

41009

Lies, Exaggerations, and Truth

April 14th, 2014

He is Risen pix

 

“Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.” 1 Corinthians 15:20 NIV.

If you will not believe God’s Word and it turns out to be true, you will have lost everything.

My thoughts and comments today are about “lies, exaggerations, and truth.”

You have heard it said, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” The world is a confusing mix of lies, exaggerations, and truth. Lies are a deliberate attempt to deceive. Exaggerations are a bit of truth stretched to incredulity. Something is either all true or it is not truth at all. Easter asks you to believe the unbelievable because the literal, bodily Resurrection of Jesus is the incontrovertible proof.

People stand stunned and grieving at gravesides, hoping there is something more beyond that false finality, but fearful to believe. In the disquiet of their soul a nagging question lingers, “What if this is true?” Let’s be practical, “If you believe God’s Word and it turns out to be untrue, you have lost nothing; if you will not believe God’s Word and it turns out to be true, you will have lost everything!”

Be very clear. God never made promises that were not true. The Apostle Paul reasoned, “True, some . . were unfaithful; but just because they broke their promises, does that mean that God will break His promises? Of course not! Though everyone else in the world is a liar, God is true. As the Scriptures say, ‘He will be proven right in what He says; He will win His case in court.’” Romans 3:3-4 NLT.

Easter is about an empty cross, an empty tomb, and empty grave clothes – but not an empty promise. The Resurrection of Jesus assures you God’s promises are real. The Apostle Peter courageously preached, “God raised Jesus from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.” Acts 2:25. Neither the cross, the tomb, nor the grave clothes could hold Jesus; they are each empty as proof of God’s power for your life.

(1)The empty cross promises forgiven sin. The Bible says, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. Jesus embraced the cross so you could be forgiven of sin. “Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith: Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2-3.

(2)The empty tomb promises eternal life. When the Christ-followers believed the Resurrection, they chose to die rather than deny truth. Paul reasoned, “If only in this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead . .” See 1 Corinthians 15:16-20 NIV. If faith in Christ does not include the Resurrection – His and yours – faith is futile.

(3)The empty grave clothes promise a living Savior. See Luke 24:9-12 NKJV. As the angels said to the bewildered women that first Easter dawn, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? Jesus is not here; He is risen!” Luke 24:5-6 NKJV. Christ is risen indeed.

My prayer for you today is that you know the hope of Resurrection is true – no lie, no exaggeration.