Monday, March 29, 2010

Jesus is Risen!

What we are celebrating and worshiping on Easter is the ultimate all time climax!

All of our Lord’s life and mission is reached the culmination that we call Easter. The history of man, our fallen state, the move of our Lord though history and our lives has interwoven to the finishing point. He lived on our behalf. He has died in our place to absorb God’s wrath and pay our debt of sin; now, He rises back to life, conquering death, and giving us victory and grace for a life of fulfillment and fullness (Psalm 16:11; 107:09; Isa. 26:3; John 14:21; Gal. 5:16; 22-23; 1 John 1:7-9; 3 John 4)! The celebration of Easter must contain the ultimate wonder of the universe—the incredible impossible, and the incredible triumph. Jesus was crucified; he died, and was buried.

Jesus is risen—He is risen indeed—Hallelujah!

Jesus has all authority! He said He will always be with us. This is the great comfort we have is that the God of the universe, our Creator and Lord, knows us, loves us, and will be with us! This also refers to Jesus being fully God. One of Jesus’ names is Immanuel, which means “God is with us (Matt. 1:23; 28:20).”

He proved this by not only being God, but by being willing to come as a man to this earth and live the life we could not, nor would not do. He overcame our sins and our enemies (John 12:31; 16:33; Rom. 6:1-7; Rev. 1:17-18)! He kept His promise that He made to Adam to redeem us, and then He sent the Comforter to lead us on (Acts. 1:3; 2:24-35; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30-32; 13:33-37)! Jesus is risen! This means He conquered death (Acts 2:24; Rom. 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:50-58). We too, in Him, will undergo a similar transformation, as we live for Him, forgive in His name, are justified (Rom. 4:25; 1 Cor. 15:17), and will arise in eternity (John 11:25-26; Rom. 6; Eph. 1:18-2:10; Col. 2:9-15; 3:1-4; 1 Thess. 4:14-18; 1 Pet. 1:3).

Without the resurrection, we do not have Christianity—as in saving faith. We just have some great rules and precepts to live by. Well, so do the Buddhists (1 Cor. 15:1-19)! A dead man, no matter how good and great, cannot save anybody. Buddha has saved no one! The difference is we are transformed, and saved for eternity—not just for here and now (John 10:4; 16:10; 2 Cor. 5:20). We are not called to save souls. That is the role of the Holy Spirit. Rather, we are called to help the “soul bearers” to learn and grow!

The people then, as well as now, were confused about the end times and wondered if this was the end of an age or a new beginning.

Jesus did not fit the expectations of the religious leaders or of His disciples or us, but He came to give what we need which was greater than our expectations!

The religious leaders rejected Him. The remaining disciples had to surrender their will to His in order to know who He was and what He was doing in them (John 3:30). We cannot make disciples of others until first we, ourselves, become disciples of Jesus (2 Pet. 1:13)! The disciples bore witness to His call to make disciples of all nations; they were His witnesses and His messengers. What will you do about this today (Acts. 1: 22; 4:2, 10, 33; 2 Cor. 5:20)? The key to implement this is to realize who Jesus is—and His authority! When we have acknowledged His authority, then we can allow His work in us. Then, He can use us in the lives of others. The opportunities and potentials are limitless (Luke 10:17-20; John 15:7; Acts 20:24)!

Why is it that without the resurrection, we do not have Christianity?

What does a typical Sunday morning look like for you? How does your day to worship reflect Who and What Christ did for you? How should it?

If a non-Christian came to you and asked what Jesus’ resurrection meant, what would you say?

Jesus tells us He will always be with you. How can this help give you motivation and comfort?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Do you have a hard time understanding what God is doing?

Jesus allowed His close friends to go through this suffering and mourning for Lazarus for a greater purpose, a lesson of faith that would resound into eternity. We all go through sorrows and hardships; we may never see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, His Light is always with us, illuminating our path, molding, making, shaping, filling, and using us, if we allow ourselves to learn from it rather than fuss and fret. That as a person in Christ, we will be led from a simplistic belief to a deep-seated conviction of trust that will lead to a transformed life.

Who and what Jesus did was not happenstance; it was purposeful and calculated before humanity began. There are no miscalculations or accidents in God’s happenings or workings in His mission or His working in our lives (Rom. 12:1-2). This passage in John 11:1-19 sets up a series of circumstances that climax Jesus’ ministry, power, and purpose. This would be the final showcase of the One True Messiah with an incredible, counterfeit-proof, impossible to duplicate event, the rising of Lazarus from the dead. This gives a verification and validation that Jesus is the Christ, and yet, it will also be used as ammunition against Him and will set the religious leaders on a warpath of rage that will take our Lord’s life so we can have life.

We all can have a hard time understanding what God is doing. It may seem that He does not care or listen to our plight and plea. This will cause a crisis of faith, a moment of distress. This is OK as long as it does not create a life and attitude of distress, because that would mean we failed the test of faith—that we failed to learn, grow, and trust in our Lord. At some time, we all have been hurt and disillusioned—by our church, a loved one, a coworker, a circumstance, and/or life as a whole. I am going through this now. I find myself without a flock to pastor, trying to cool off my burned feathers (so to speak) from my last pastorate. My point is, we need one another and we need the church even though it’s people hurt us because, like a piece of coal taken from the fireplace, it will only burn for a few minutes by itself and be very dim, but in the fireplace, next to many other pieces of coal, it can burn bright. Our focus needs to be on Christ—not on His dysfunctional people or on the world, So, my point is this: let’s keep committed and let’s focus better so we all can be better together!

Questions to Ponder

1. Have you ever had a crisis of faith, a moment of distress? What happened? What did God do? What did you learn? How are you now?

2. Have you ever felt at times that God seems not to care? Have you ever cried out to God for help, and received no response? How did you feel? What did you learn?

3. How do you feel that God does not always answer our requests in the timing and manner we would like?

4. What can you do to be a person who pledges and commits completely what we would call “surrender to the Lordship of Christ,” not just an emotional or indifferent endeavor?

More here:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Are you a Sheep?

Jesus continues His metaphor of the Shepherd in John 10:22-42, how being the Shepherd means He is the Holy One who gently leads us and guides us and empowers His leaders to care for His flock, the Church.

So are you a sheep? If so do you listen and follow the Master?

This is a metaphor for Christians and the Church, people whose faith is in Jesus Christ. Even though there are many churches and denominations, there is ultimately only one Flock, one Christ, the Body of Christ, and One Shepherd, Jesus Christ!

Sheep, like people, are prone to wander and hurt themselves and make bad choices, and thus must have a good, nurturing shepherd to guide them.

Sheep were also used for sacrifice, a depiction of our need to sacrifice our will, our mindsets, our hurts, and our fears over to Christ.

Sheep also produced essential goods for an agrarian culture like wool for clothes, especially when it was cold. There was no better material; there was also the milk that was made into cheese, a necessary life sustaining food, and there was the meat (Psalm 23; Isa. 53:6; Rom. 8:36; 12:1-2; Acts 4:32; 1 Pet. 2:25; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

So are you a sheep? Jesus compares Christians with sheep that were cared for and loved, used to produce the livelihood of the community, and sacrificed to God in the Temple. How is this like your life?

Good sheep listen, do you? God allows us to hear and to come to Him; for, without His lead we would not be willing or able to be saved. In theology, this is called “elected grace.” We are not forced; rather, we are inspired and given the ability to respond by the work of the Holy Spirit. Sheep have the uncanny ability to hear only their master, and will only follow that one person. A multitude of sheep from different owners were penned together then (as today); each shepherd would call to the sheep, but only their sheep would respond. This is also a metaphor of hearing God’s voice calling us by name, meaning by intimacy, true knowledge, and relationship. Additionally, this is a call to Christians to renew our faith with further dedication, confidence, and submission (Ex. 33:12-17; Isa. 43:1; John 16:13-15).

Being a sheep is good! For, The Supreme Omnipotence of God gently leads us to Christ and gives us the ultimate guarantee for spiritual safety and salvation. If God does not call you, you can’t come, because you will not want to. This is also a warning to those pretenders who think they know God but only use Him for their purposes of power and control, or people who teach falsely. The Good Shepherd also protects His sheep from perishing spiritually and gives us everlasting fellowship and abundance beyond description. Jesus makes it emphatic; He is the only way, and we must believe in and trust Him by faith. It is faith in Christ, not faith in one's religion or self or ideas that saves, no matter what the origins are, even from Moses himself.

We are given a picture of an intimate, caring God who asks us to follow, who cares enough to listen and to communicate and commune with us, and who justly calls us to obey. These powerful words of follow me can easily be hindered when we are too puffed up with ourselves so that the Word He sends to us cannot be seen; the faith to respond will never grow in the shallow soil of pride. Thus, we must, allow Him to lead us rather than people, trends, past predicaments, or future woes. He wants to keep us in His pen, partaking of His wonders and blessings and to better grow and be used for His glory and our benefit. God wants to keep you. The question is do you want to be kept? We can only leave the sheepfold by our own volition, by our willful choice to disobey and go astray. Yet, He still calls us and wants to love and care for us. This is our motivation, by our gratitude for what He has done, to not only remain in Christ but also move forward in Him by a commitment of our will through our trust and for His glory.

Questions to Ponder

1. God wants to keep you; the question is do you want to be kept? How do you feel that no one can hurt you spiritually? How can or how have you hurt yourself?

2. Are you a sheep under His care or out on the lamb (pun intended) on the run? What have you done to declare your faith in Jesus Christ?

3. What gets in the way of His leading in you? How can you be better at producing milk and meat and be a sacrifice of your praise and will to His glory?

More here:

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Good Shepherd

Jesus tells us a profound name and title for Himself in John 10, I am the good shepherd! Here is a powerful word picture and a description on Who God is, who we are and what He does for us!

A shepherd is the person whose job it was to guard and care for the sheep. And sheep is a metaphor for us, God’s people. Although sheep are notoriously stupid animals and can’t survive on their own, they show us that without God, we are just like them. They are totally dependent upon their caregiver, the Shepherd. A sheep that gets out and lives on its own will starve because it will not go where the food is. It will hurt itself by rubbing itself to death on a tree or falling down and breaking its leg or falling off a cliff. Sheep need constant care and attention and the sheep that skips out on that care will die. The Shepherd is the one who graciously cares for the sheep in his care, even laying his life on the line against predators and rustlers (Psalm 77:20; 78:52; 100:3).

Meaning that we need Jesus, even though we do not want Him. He is the One who leads, equips, and guides us— aspect s we all urgently need. God is the Shepherd for His people and His people are described as a flock that needs His leading and provision. It is our call to hear His voice and obey, as a good sheep does, in order to be fed and not be eaten by predators (Gen. 48:15; 49:24; Psalm 23; 28:9; 77:20; 78:52, 71; 79:13; 80:1; 100:3; Isa. 40:11; 63:11; Jer. 23:1; 31:10; 34:11-16; Ezek. 34:6-16, 31; Hos. 6:6; Zech. 13:7; Matt. 26:31; John 10:1-8; 16:13-15; Rom. 10:7; Heb. 13:20; 1 Pet. 5:4; Rev. 7:17).

God also anoints people to be leaders for His people. Concerning sheep, the person who owned the sheep had a vested interest in them and would do all it took to protect them, as their family’s livelihood depended on them. in contrast, a hired person had no vested interest and as soon as danger would come, they would scram (Gen. 31:39; Num. 27:15-23; 1 Sam. 17:34-37; 2 Sam. 5:2; Psalm 78:71-72; Isa. 63:11; Jer. 3:15; Ezek. 34:1-24).

Sheep follow, do you? Even though God is the One who gives life and protects, a responsibility is given to leaders to be watchful and aware of people who would fleece and hurt the flock of our Lord. We have to trust in our Good Shepherd to lead us to the good pastures and we are also to do our part with gratitude and diligence and not run away from His pen. We also are called to be led by the Word and not by our pride or by false teachers, the thieves who would rob us of God’s instructions and replace them with nonsense and dangerous cliffs from which we could fall (1 Sam. 17:34-37; 2 Sam. 5:2).

Do you, Have His leading and life? That through our relationship with Jesus Christ, we have joyful abundance now, personal favor of God with real fellowship with Him, a purpose and meaning for our daily lives, and eternal life to come (John 3:1-16).

Two of the primary foundations of the Gospel Message are who Jesus is and what He did on the cross for us. Here, Christ comes to us to bringing the Gospel, as a Good Shepherd who puts our concerns and needs before His. This passage portrays how Christ came to us and how we are to serve. Yet, what gets in the way of this? Our life of contentment is trapped between the walls of experience and the ceiling of things we desire, while we tend to ignore the door of the truth and real joy. For us to be in the safety of faith, we not only need to be in Christ, but we also have to obey Him. This is a result of our intimate relationship with Him. We know Him; He knows us, and we do what He says. We are concerned with what concerns Him, and we act accordingly. Like sheep, we can't lead ourselves or others without being forever lost and unfed. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and we are the sheep. The question is, are you a sheep under His care or one that is out on the lamb (pun intended) on the run (1 Sam. 17:34-36; John 2:19; 3:14; 6:51)?

Questions to Ponder

How is Jesus your Good Shepherd?

How is He your Gatekeeper who watches over you?

How have you followed His voice of love and instruction?

How can you better do so? What would this mean to your church and personal life?

More here:

Monday, March 01, 2010

How do you Give glory to God?

“Give glory to God” was an oath to give one’s loyalty and allegiance to a god or a king or a military commander—in this case, God. This was also a confessional formula used by the early Church to show one’s commitment to God and not to the old ways of the Law. Additionally, it was a statement used to proclaim one’s truthfulness in his/her testimony (Jer. 7:19). Jesus healed this man who was blind. Now, this man’s faith moved from being curious and exited that he was healed to the realization of the Lordship of Christ and the One True God in whom he could put his faith.

This man needed more information for His salvation, to understand who Jesus was. Just as we grow in the Lord, we need more information to add to the practice of our faith. When Jesus gave it to him, this man gave Jesus the reverence due only to God, another proof of the Divinity of Jesus.

Real worship allows us to grow beyond our “why me’s” into what Christ wants of us!

The interrogators, (the Pharisees) were experts in the Law and held the power to improve or ruin a person’s life out of spite just to make a point. This event may have even convened in a court of law and not in the streets as did previous encounters with Christ and His followers. Many of John’s readers and parishioners were in courts being kicked out of the synagogue, and facing what this man and his parents as well as Jesus faced. It must have been of a great comfort to realize that they were not in it alone, that the God of the universe was also there in their midst. Also, this was a call to remain faithful and obedient in times of stress and uncertainty, no matter what.

What we do with what we are given will either glorify God and display His work in us or make us bitter and dysfunctional. To display God’s work is an attitude of our heart, taking a setback and using it as an opportunity to learn and grow. To see trials not as personal attacks, but rather opportunities to be refined is to grow and to be better. This is the essence and fragrance God desires from us. We can trust God, because He is good and will take our failings and pain and mold them for His glory and our benefit, whether he heals us or not (Rom. 8).

Questions to Ponder

1. How and why do some people choose to remain in stubborn irrationalities, dishonesty, and pride? What can be done to help such a person sincerely seek, ask the questions, and have the willingness to obey?

2. Next time you are at your church’s service, how can you better engage in real worship and allow yourself to grow beyond your blind spots into what Christ wants of you?

3. What do you need to do to escape the darkness of what holds you back—your sins or frustrations or fears or misguided beliefs?

4. What is real faith to you? What can you do to help your faith become more alive? How do your ideas or presumptions get in the way of His Way? What do you need to do to surrender to His True principles and Work?

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