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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Are YOU Risen?

On Easter morning believers worldwide greet eachother with the familiar mantra "He is risen!" But I wonder what would happen if we replaced the expected response "He is risen indeed!" with the question "Yes, but are YOU risen?"

For many years after committing my life to Christ, I clung to old sin-habits with a tight-fisted grip. On occasion I'd let Jesus pry a finger or two open and expose the sin inside, but as soon as control threatened to elude me, I clamped my fist shut once again. Cloaked in the false comfort being in control brought me, I refused to live the resurrected life in Christ. Brokenness bound me until I realized I had to die in order to truly live.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!"

Jesus died to replace our old with His new. As believers we often settle for the mediocre instead of the miraculous. We pray the prayer, walk the aisle, and then try to be "good Christians." We cringe when we're challenged to die to our flesh. We'd rather be comfortable in our status quo Christianity than conquerors in Christ Jesus!
It's time to tap into the resurrection power that indwells every believer. Jesus is no longer dead and neither are we. So let's live "free from sin, [our] old master ... and slaves to [our] new master, righteousness." (Romans 6:18)  Let's shed our grave clothes once and for all and robe ourselves in the righteousness of Christ. Only then will we lavishly live the resurrected life Jesus died to give.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Surrounded by Silence

It happened in an instant. I had just strolled hand-in-hand with my sweet Jesus through one of most intimate seasons we’d ever shared, but now my direct line to heaven seemed snipped at the source. Try as I might, I couldn’t quite splice the wires of my prayer life back together. Silence hung in the air like a thick cloud threatening to engulf me. And all the while the enemy of my soul taunted me with ludicrous lies.

Interludes of silence with our Savior shock us when we’re not prepared for them. Silence makes us squirm with discouragement and doubt. We wonder what we’ve done or failed to do. And in our solitude we feel not only forgotten, but forsaken.

When we're surrounded by silence, we can re-visit the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26) and know that we're not alone in our affliction. For it's there we find the fullness of Jesus' humanity. And it's where we can remember He understands exactly how we feel.

Jesus didn’t put on a plastic smile and pretend He wasn’t distressed by His looming crucifixion. The agony of His impending death forced Him to contend with His feelings. Jesus understood the importance of fellowship in suffering and shared His emotions with His disciples. He asked them to watch and pray while He went before the Father.

As drops of blood splattered the ground where Jesus lay prostrate, He prayed three different times for His cup to pass. And each time He fully submitted Himself to His Father’s will.

In every instance God’s response was the same—silence. God knew that rescuing Jesus would forfeit victory over death not only for Him, but for all who would ever believe. God chose the eternal over the immediate.

Silence is often a difficult response to bear as believers. Waiting on God may frustrate us, but silence makes us feel abandoned. Jesus’ example proves we can surrender even when God seems silent because His will is always better than our own.

Maybe today you feel forsaken by God. The all too familiar words My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? (Matthew 27:46) reverberate through your soul as you watch your life unravel. Turn your eyes to Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith, and remember "not to be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you." (Deuteronomy 31:8)

I'd love to have the opportunity to pray for you if you're amidst a season of silence. Please share your request in the comment section below.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Headed for Heaven?

I assumed it would be just another normal Monday morning. As I rolled over in bed and grabbed my phone, I noticed I had a voicemail. I immediately checked to see who had called me so early in the morning, and my heart sank when my mom's phone number crystallized before my eyes. Before I even listened to the message, I knew something bad had happened.

I dialed my voicemail, and as the phone rang I prayed, "Lord, give me peace. Lord, help me with whatever I'm about to face. Lord, keep me calm." My dad emphatically began his message and said only a few words: "Stephanie, this is your dad. Call me immediately. It's very serious."

I hurriedly dialed my parents' number and willed my heart to stop beating so fast. My dad answered and handed the phone to my mom. She was crying, and the words that tumbled out of her mouth left me numb. My Aunt Melinda, the oldest of eight siblings, had died suddenly a few hours before.

The shocking news of my aunt's death was surreal. My Aunt Melinda was a beautiful, vibrant lover of life. She was a beacon of light for Jesus Christ to all who knew her. And she lived like He would return at any moment, in eager expectation of His arrival.

Well, He didn't return. Instead, He called her home. And she was ready.

The question today is: Are you ready?

God had every day He ordained for you written in His book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). He knows the day you were born, and He knows the day you'll die.

Life is but a vapor (James 4:13-14) and death but a blip as we pass from this life to the next. That's because we'll all live forever. The only thing in question is where.

The reality is, we were created for a relationship with Jesus Christ. And He is the only person who will ever fill the hollow places in our hearts. God created us to know Him intimately, as a best friend (John 15:15).

But when Eve took a bite from the apple and sin entered the world, it marred God’s plan and separated us from Him forever. Instead of living intimately connected to God, we decided to follow our own selfish ways.

Thankfully God loves us with an everlasting love, and through Jesus’ death on the cross, He’s made a way for us to know Him. God waits patiently for us to trust Him with our lives because He doesn’t want us to perish in our sin (2 Peter 3:9).

Our salvation never depends on what we do; it depends solely on what’s been done.

We don’t have to wait until we get our acts together to come to Jesus. He beckons us to come just as we are so He can place crowns of beauty on our heads instead of ashes (Isaiah 61:3). He desires to separate our sins from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). He longs to make us white as snow (Isaiah 1:18).

Through His death on the cross, Jesus paid the price in full for the sins of the entire world (John 3:16).

Today I beg you to evaluate whether this is the Jesus you know. We are all sinners in need of God's mercy (Romans 3:23). And God made a way for us to have a relationship with Him through Jesus’ death on the cross (Romans 6:23).

Jesus Christ came to Earth to be the payment for our sins so that we might live forever with Him in heaven. This is a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9) that we can’t earn by being good people or attending church on Sundays.

If we could somehow earn our salvation, Jesus’ death on the cross would not have been necessary.

Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

It's that simple.

Maybe you're sitting on the other side of your computer screen right now and sense something is missing in your life. You have all you’ve ever wanted—a wonderful family, a beautiful home, a successful career. Yet inside you feel an emptiness you can never seem to escape. Or maybe you’re at your lowest point and the only place to look is up … but you have no idea who to look up to. Nothing has ever gone right in your life, so you figure you’ll just be broken forever.

God hears the cry of your heart right now. It's no accident that you're reading this post at this exact moment in time. God loves you, and He's pursuing you today.

Pray to God and acknowledge your need for Him. Tell him exactly how you’re feeling, admitting your brokenness. Confess to Him that you have fallen short of His glory because of the sin in your life. Admit that there is nothing you could ever do to earn your salvation. Tell Him you believe He sent His son Jesus to die on the cross for your sins so that you can live forever with Him in heaven. Thank God for His free gift of eternal life.

And then REST, knowing that God will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). The moment you are saved you receive the Holy Spirit, who is your counselor, comforter, and helper. The Holy Spirit steers your life and guides you into truth (John 16:13).

Because of the Holy Spirit’s power, you can live free from sin (Romans 6:18) and become a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Trusting Jesus transforms your life. As you surrender your life to Christ, you begin to look more like Him and less like yourself. There’s a visible difference in how your life looks before and after you meet Jesus.

So I ask you again: Do you know about Jesus, or do you KNOW Him?

None of us are promised tomorrow. So make sure you're ready to meet Him face to face today. Don't delay. You never know if this moment might be your last.