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Thank God.

LORD of reconciliation, Master of mercy, Author of true joy, there is no greater hope to be found than the hope You have provided through Jesus Christ. You alone have the words of life, there is nowhere else to turn. Peace flows from the veins of Christ across all of us who were once at war with You, & You have drawn us near, glorifying Yourself. This is not our effort, but Yours, not our battle, but Yours, not our righteousness, but Yours & You alone are praised for the defeat of sin & death & victory over the grave rests with You. Open our eyes, revive our hearts & continue to draw glory to Yourself as we spread the Gospel around the world. We pray this through Christ our Lord, amen.

Luke 24:36-53
36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

I am real
You wouldn’t think you would ever read through the Scriptures & come out thankful that Jesus ate fish. It’s such a simple action, a basic thing to do. Look at His life with His disciples, how many times do you think Jesus ate fish? Grilled fish, baked fish, boiled fish, broiled fish, stewed fish, smoked fish & I’m sure the possibilities continue. But Jesus takes this common basic thing, this simple sign of something comfortable to reassure His disciples that He is indeed really there with them, present & constant. He’s no spirit, no ghost, no hallucination & He proves it by eating something they themselves prepared. I would have done some small miracle before them, shown myself through a divine sign, proving myself in that way. But He chooses something they can do & duplicate & I think that says an awful lot more.

He wanted them to know without a shadow of a doubt that He was indeed alive, present & moving forward into the next phase of life & covenant with them. A risen Savior is a real Savior, & this crew of confused & disheartened disciples needed something they could sink their teeth into, like a piece of fish. Jesus provided that for them that wonderful morning.

Forgiveness is real
Not only did Jesus want them to see & understand that He was & is real, He wanted them to remember the context of everything that had just happened & that not one moment of it all was coincidence or accident. He reminded them of the Scriptures they were raised with, a comfortable & familiar remembrance. He reminded them about Moses & the prophets & everything the Father had promised & been promising over the preceding millennia. This was the plan the whole time.

And why? This didn’t happen for nothing, right? This wasn’t something that was done simply for the sake of saying it would be accomplished. This is the promise of God to glorify Himself by the redemption of creation & humanity to Himself. This was all about God offering forgiveness to rebels like them & us & bringing peace & righteousness back into creation. This was the first step in seeing holiness win out over sin & evil. The foot of the Savior was bitten by that serpent, but his head was now thoroughly crushed. This has been the plan since the garden had to be cleared out  & Adam & Eve first perceived their own nakedness & brokenness entered the world. This was all about God’s glory & how He would provide forgiveness to all who would come to Him.

You are witnesses
And Jesus didn’t leave them out, either. In this moment where disbelief & joy slam into each other, Jesus reminded them that they had a part to play in this whole wonderful affair. This wasn’t just something done for them, but to them & would now happen through them. They are -the- witnesses to this universe altering news. They are the ones who would take this first-hand account of holy truth into the world. They are the ones with these words written on their hearts because they lived it, every single moment of it. Where they were feeling hopeless just hours before, & confused just moments ago, Jesus was letting them know from the onset that they had what everyone else needed. They have a purpose to fulfill. They are the bearers of the Gospel of love, peace, mercy, grace & forgiveness, & if this world is going to learn how to walk in the rhythms of grace with God, the it’s going to happen through them sharing all of this good news.

Joy is real
The world needs to know that joy is real. There is so much trouble, so many hurts, so many reasons to mourn & feel trapped in the brokenness & God doesn’t desire for another moment to pass from this one where people don’t know about the beacon of joy that will draw them back into wholeness with Him. Jesus knew that people outside of that room would struggle, & so He was sending out people who had struggled. Jesus knew that people outside that room would doubt, & so He sent out people who wrestled with doubt. He knew that people outside that room would deal with loss, sorrow & pain & so He sent out these people who had those feelings fresh on their hearts.

He knew the world needed joy, so He sent these out who were first to experience it. This fresh message, this amazing truth was needed more deeply than anyone could imagine & this firestorm of joy would burn without ceasing for the millennia to come. The disciples carried it, you & I who are in Christ carry it & the world still desperately needs to know about it. There is work to be done, joy to be spread. The Savior is real. Forgiveness is real. We are the witness to true & lasting joy. Let the whole world hear our praises!

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Trust in the Lord

trust-fall

Proverbs 3:1-12

1 My son, do not forget my teaching,
    but let your heart keep my commandments,
for length of days and years of life
    and peace they will add to you.

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
    bind them around your neck;
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good success
    in the sight of God and man.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
    and refreshment to your bones.

Honor the Lord with your wealth
    and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
10 then your barns will be filled with plenty,
    and your vats will be bursting with wine.

11 My son, do not despise the Lord‘s discipline
    or be weary of his reproof,
12 for the Lord reproves him whom he loves,
    as a father the son in whom he delights.

Trust. It’s a big word.
It’s a word that is hard to regain when it’s lost or taken away.
Trust is something that must be shared, it is no good if it is one sided.
Trust is an active word, there is no such thing as trust that isn’t acted upon.
When trust exists, trust is like a glue, bonding parties together.
Trust is an investment, a returning to an agreement and a promise for care.

Trust is a very big word.
It is no small thing.

Men can break our trust in a heartbeat. They can do it over a long period of time.
We can do the same to someone else.
We are all broken, and so sometimes we break things, even if we never intended to.
Trust can be complicated.

Trust can be rebuilt, though. Trust can return.
It takes a grain of it to begin, and over time it will snowball, grow & spread back to begin to fill in the gap that was created. It may not ever completely be what it was before, but it will be there…if both parties will let it do so. Trust is a two way street.

But when it comes to God, He is always faithful. He is always trustworthy.

Trust. Worthy.

God’s faithfulness knows no bounds. His mind & heart are always bent toward glory being brought to Himself. He is naturally,then, invested in seeing both parties come back together. When we walk away in our our broken, human, sinful, faithlessness, God is always standing there. He remains holy, just, perfect & righteous. He does not waiver. He is not tempted or swayed. He is constant beyond constant, reliable beyond words or understanding. He can always be trusted. He is always worthy.

So when Solomon writes and reminds us to trust in the Lord, it will still remain an exercise that we must participate in, but it will be one that requires that grain of trust in Him to begin with. Look at your life, look at His provision for you. Look at your health, your family, your job, your friends, your community of faith, look at the air He has given you to breathe and the sun He has provided to keep you alive and warm. Look at the opportunites He has given you to serve someone else, to the purpose and meaning He provides that beings us hope and draws our heart closer to Him.

Look at God. Look at Him.
And trust.

Don’t lean on what you know. Don’ lean on how you understand things.
Trust in Him.

In Him we live and move and have our being.
Trust in Him.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
    and refreshment to your bones.

He is present. He cares for you.
Trust in Him & feel His presence as you look toward Him.
You are not alone.

Proof of grace comes in the giving // 2 Corinthians 8

“But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
(2 Corinthians 8:7-9 ESV)

Simply said, a self absorbed life is not going to stand as a powerful witness for Christ. The proof of grace at work in us comes in the living. If we live generously, thinking first of others, then God’s handiwork in us is obvious. If we are constantly thinking of our own wants over the needs of others, then that heart and attitude will be obvious as well.

If Christ, as our example, gave everything up for us, then we should see the same mindset at work in our own lives. The closer we grow to Christ, walking in His footsteps, the less we identify with the world and its priorities.
The less we identify with the world, the less concern we have for material goods and temporary pleasures. Our eyes and hearts focused heavenward, we live today and every day understanding that there is no need to accumulate/hoard wealth for ourselves here. There is no harm in having a good paying job and saving your money in a responsible way. But the generosity of spirit that comes with our salvation does not coincide with the hoarding of wealth, and selfish stockpiling. If we have extra, we should use it to bless others through the church and through daily, individual ministry. If we do not have extra, give to God first and then use what else you have to meet your needs so that you do not put yourself above Him. Rich or poor, we still acknowledge God as the giver of everything we have in the brief moments of our life.

What good does a massive house and expensive car do for us if we do not take the call to GoLove others in the Name of Jesus seriously? What benefit is there to living extravagantly if we do not share the grace given to us.

We must see beyond this world and into eternity if we are going to live grace and generosity. This world is not our home and we do not invest in what will one day become so much dust. Instead, living out of tee grace given richly to us, we die to self and live as Christ. In doing so, we glorify God and draw others to Him.

the burden and joy of proof

(unmarked journal entry – presumably from matthew 12)

we are blessed to have such a record of God’s love and work as we find in the Bible. such a burden of proof rests on us as we read. God’s very words, His actions among his people, vividly laid out for us.

the pharisees asked Jesus for proof of His divinity even after hearing His words, seeing His compassion at work and the miracles that happened. how hard hearted and blind!

yet we often act like jacob trying to strike a deal with God. if He does something for us, we’ll return the favor. these leaders wanted more of what had already been done in order to even consider who He was & odds are that if Jesus had indulged them, they would have accused Him of being a showman and not the Messiah.

and so the burden of proof rests on us today. how do we respond to the words and actions of God in our life? Do we clamor for more, or do we trust that raising the dead, healing the sick and living the life that He did is enough?

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

we must remember what ‘faith’ is…’being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see’ [hebrews 11:1]

if we claim to operate from faith, yet constantly ask God for ‘just one more sign’ or ‘if you would do just this one thing’ and then we’ll believe…we are not and do not live a life of faith. we are behaving just like the hard hearted pharisees who asked for more evidence, more proof.

the Christian walk is a daily step of faith. we trust in God, and in His words, that what He says is true. we cannot keep waiting for Him to make one more peg fall into place in our personal schemes and desires. we cannot presume to force the Creator of the universe to bend to our will in order for us to comply with His. what arrogance and spiritual naivete!  if you or i claim to love Jesus, and claim to belong to Him, we cannot continue in this walk of sin, shame and demanding of proof. the evidence is laid out before us. what more do you ask? make your decision, and then live it boldly.

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