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It’s a frosty morning here in the northland. As I took the dog out to do his morning duties I noticed that shadow of our house neatly outlined with the morning frost.

The difference? The warmth of the sun had not yet risen high enough to melt the coldness from the night before. It was the warmth of the rising sun that made all the difference. It was the warmth of the riding sun that dissolved the darkness and brought life.

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. The day we remember when another SON rose from the darkness. He too dissolves the darkness and melts the coldness of our hearts. The more he rises in our lives the less coldness and darkness have a chance!

Hallelujah for the RISEN SON!


We believe that Jesus died and that he rose again. So, because of him, God will raise with Jesus those who have died. 1 Thessalonians 4:14 (NCV)

“It’s not so important what you believe. The important thing is that you believe something.” Ever heard someone say something similar to that? To think that belief is more important than the validity of the object believed in is ludicrous at best and dangerous in most cases.

I could say I believe I can fly. I could believe is with all my heart. But one jump from the roof will prove me dreadfully wrong. I don’t need to go to that extreme. I know from what I’ve heard and learned and seen in life that jumping from the roof will bring me quickly to the ground and  may cause injury or even death. My decision NOT to jump off the roof is based on quantifiable fact.

Faith works in me the same way. There are many religions that speak of some sort of life after death. Many systems of belief encourage morality and philanthropy. But the question that has to be asked of each of these belief systems is, “Where’s the proof? What evidence can you provide that insures I will live forever?” When it really comes down to it, that’s what each of us wants. In life we’d like money and health and vibrant, passionate relationships. But what happens after life can haunt us. It’s not knowing what happens after we die that puts the fear of death in the number one place of terror in our hearts.

That’s what sets us apart as Christ-followers. Jesus rose from the dead. There is a plethora of evidence, scientific and historic, that proves that point. Jesus is the only religious leader that not only stated he would rise from the dead, but actually did it. Not only did he say he would rise from the dead, he promised us that some day he would return for us.

If Jesus did what he said he would do by rising from the dead, we can be assured that his other promises will come true as well. Promises to always be with us. Promises to forgive us, show mercy to us and love us. Most of all, the promise that he will return one day and bring us to himself. We will rise again! How do we know? First of all our leader, Jesus Christ, did. Secondly, he told us we would rise from the dead. If it was true of him, it will be true of us. We will live forever. Death will have no victory over us because Jesus defeated death once and for all.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, Thank you for offering me forgiveness for my sin. Thank you for fulfilling every promise you have ever made to me. Thank you for rising from the dead so that I can be assured I will live forever. In you I put my trust because no one else can do for me what you do. In your name I pray, Amen.


“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. John 5:28-29

Have you ever been in a large room with a large group of people? There are conversations going on all around you. Some are a little louder than others. Some are laughing, some engaged in serious conversation.

Suddenly, in the midst of all the noise you hear the voice of your loved one. Not calling you necessarily. Their voice doesn’t even have to be louder than the others. You hear it because it’s a voice of distinction. It’s a voice you know because you love that person. You’ve talked with that person during intimate times and while discussing the mundane things of life. You respond because you have a love relationship with the owner of that voice.

Someday, and perhaps soon, Jesus will return to earth. He’ll come to gather up those who recognize his voice. He’ll call them from the grave that has held them. With one word they will come forth because they will recognize the voice of the one whom they love.

These are the ones who have walked with Jesus during the tough times of life. They’ve followed his ways when the world screamed at them to follow them. They have struggled. Some have fallen, often. But every time they failed they would return to him for forgiveness and then try again to change their ways. Some were victorious in areas of their lives. Some struggled from the day of their birth to the time their earthly bodies could no longer hold them. Regardless of the struggles, they respond because they know his voice as the one they love. This was the voice of one in whom they built a relationship.

Sadly, there will be others who will come forth. These are the ones who heard the voice once or twice but never responded. They chose the way of the world rather than the way of God. They worked hard to make sure that they enjoyed all the ‘good things of life’. They may have followed religion. They may have been spiritual. But they never responded to the call of Jesus to come to him for forgiveness.

They will respond to his voice now. They won’t respond because they recognize him. They will respond because Jesus is Lord of all. He is Lord over those who have responded to him in life. He is Lord over those who have rejected him in life but will come forth in death.

Those who have built a relationship with Jesus in life will be called forth to join him for eternity. Those who have not built a relationship with him in life will be sent into eternity without him,

Today, Jesus is calling you. He’s calling you to enter into a relationship with him. He’s calling you to receive the forgiveness and mercy and grace that comes freely because of his death and resurrection. He’s asking you to let him enter into your life. Someday, and someday soon He’ll call you again. This time, He won’t call you and ask to invite him into your life, He’ll call you to enter into his home. A home that will last for eternity. A home that is free of sin and sorrow and sickness and death.

Will you answer his voice today? Will you accept his invitation now to join in relationship with him based on forgiveness and mercy and grace? Let him live with you now so you can live with him in eternity.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. I’ve heard your voice on occasion. I’ve heard about you. I’ve even attended places that teach about you and I’ve sung your songs. But I’ve never asked you to forgive me of my sin. I’ve never chosen to follow you in obedience built on relationship and love. I’m asking you now. Forgive me of my sin. Enter into my life now so I can spend eternity with you. In your name I pray. Amen.


I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, Philippians 3:10

Be careful what you ask for. To know the power of Christ, to be able to heal, to endure hardship, to sleep in the bow of the boat during a violent storm are all noble aspirations. Every one of them is something each of us would love to attain.

One can not bask in the glory of Christ unless one endures the suffering of Christ. Lest we romanticize the ministry of Jesus on earth let us not forget that many times the only place to rest his head was on the hard ground. He had no place to call home except for the homes of generous friends. Even his grave was donated to him by someone who he may have never met.

Other than a devoted few, his list of friends and followers was a revolving door of people who were looking for an earthly kingdom, who became critical of his alleged rejection of religious Sabbath laws, and the ungrateful that came for healing and, once made pure, were never heard from again. Oh, and the devoted few? They all abandoned him at the cross. Every last one of them.

And his family? On a couple of occasions they came looking for him. Not to follow him mind you, but to quarantine him in the safe confines of the carpenter shop. When his brothers talked about Jesus during his ministry the word ‘lunatic’ was frequently heard. Only his mother seemed to stand quietly in the shadows watching her son grow, minister and eventually die.

The church was no safe haven for Jesus either. He was scrutinized on every front. His motives were misread and misunderstood. He was accused of being possessed by the devil and an affront to everything the Jewish religion stood for.

What made Jesus different? There are perhaps many answers to that question, but one that comes to my mind is that Jesus always held before him the purpose for which he was called. He wasn’t called to be blessed. He wasn’t called to be powerful and respected. He wasn’t called to be a mighty leader. He was called to be a servant and die in the process. But along the way, he changed the world!

Although I shudder at what it might mean, I echo the prayer of the Apostle Paul. Regardless of what it may mean to me physically, emotionally, or socially, I want to know Christ. I want to know him in such a way that his power shows through me to others.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, You showed us in your life that we will be faced with all sorts of trials and tribulations. I want to know you. I want to know your power in my life. I confess to you that even as I pray this prayer I’m nervous about what may lie ahead. Empower me by your Spirit to trust you as I forge ahead on this journey of life. In your name I pray, Amen.

 


For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 1 Peter 3:18

The Leper probably thought Jesus came to heal for, as a result of Jesus’ touch he was not only physically healed but he was able to go home to family and friends.

The woman caught in adultery probably thought Jesus came to forgive those, like her, who had failed miserably in life and found themselves in a place they never thought they’d be.

To the parents who were forced to interrupt the funeral of their little child, he no doubt came to raise the dead and restore hope to families who have suffered the loss of a child.

To those who were in bondage to a ruthless religion set on performance and rules, it must have seemed like he came to rescue them from the irrelevant and oppressive system of guilt, shame and fear.

Obviously in one sense all those people and thousands more had good reason to think that. Their hope was restored. Their emotions were healed. Their bodies, once racked with pain were healed. But, that’s not why Jesus came. Jesus Christ came for one purpose and one purpose only. Oh, sure, he gave us a glimpse of what God was like. He showed us the power of a loving Father and the emptiness of religion gone irrelevant. But Jesus came to die. That was his sole purpose in coming.

The manger. The teachings. The miracles. All valuable lessons. But if he hadn’t died for our sins all of that would have been wasted. If he hadn’t risen from the dead, none of us would have the hope of eternity with him waiting for us.

Now, you say, there are many people who have died for a cause. It’s being done on a daily basis. Many who give their lives to rescue others and help others ‘in the line of duty. You’d be right of course. But all of those people who die for a cause are still dead.

Jesus separates himself from them for two major reasons. One he was without sin himself. Jesus Christ, the son of the living God was completely innocent of any wrong doing. Secondly, unlike the others, Jesus lives! He defeated death so that you can have eternal life with him.

That’s grace! There is nothing you can do to earn it. Nothing you can do to keep it. All he asks in return is that you love him and show him that love by living for him. Jesus’ only reason for living was to die so that my only reason for living is to live for him.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, Thank you for the examples you gave here on earth of love, healing, mercy and compassion. I praise you for your willingness to die for me even though, in my rebellion, I continue to do things I know I shouldn’t do. Empower me with your Holy Spirit to show you my love by living a life set-apart from the fickle morals of our society. In your precious and holy name, Amen.

 

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