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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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Seeking Peace Along a Hard Road

Blessed Father, we desire to break bread with You, to walk with You & enjoy Your company. Make our hearts burn within us as we meet with You, unfolding Your Word in our hearts. Help us to see, hear & gain wisdom. Prepare us for the difficulties & joys of the day, so we may rely on You & give You glory no matter what may come. We seek You out for these blessings of faith & for the sake of Your glory being shown through us.
We pray this in Jesus’ Name, amen.

Luke 24: 13-35
13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

I long for these moments & experiences. As Christians, we long for the Lord’s presence, we desire to walk with Him, listen to Him & experience what these two experienced along the road to Emmaus. There is no greater joy than to be able to give our whole selves over to the will & mystery of the Lord, to be bundled up in His arms & to close out every sound but the sweetness of His voice. Swift & powerful, His tongue comforts & convicts, He cuts to the root of our sin & draws us up into the highest heaven. It is almost indescribable. But we long for these moments. We want every weekend worship gathering to be a place where we meet with Him like this, every moment spent in the Word like this, every encounter with a stranger, friend or family member like this when we share our faith with them.

But we must also be reminded of these two on the road. They were consumed, troubled & sad. They had expectations, desires for redemption & they wanted to see God’s hand move in a mighty & powerful way. And it took Jesus’ presence to bring them comfort. His Words, His presence, His laughter, teaching & prayer to open their eyes to what God had done & was continuing to do.

If we would feel His presence, then we must draw near & listen. We must hear what He says, and leave behind what fills our mind, giving it all over to Him in these moments where we need to draw near. While Jesus spoke, they were silent. They listened. They didn’t interrupt every third word, they weren’t engrossed in another activity. Their focus was undivided & therefore laser focused on everything He had to say. It was time spent just with Jesus. Unrushed, untouched, unadulterated. Just them & just Him.

If we want to feel the comforting presence of Jesus, then we need to give Him our attention. We need to listen & remove distractions. If we are broken & hurting inside, if life’s events are too much to handle & understand, then we need to trust Him with those moments & draw near to Him & Him alone.

Praise God for His Holy Spirit who can & does walk with us, even within us, through these moments of our day-to-day life. What a precious gift to know He is with us, moving, present & speaking to us. We simply need to seek Him out for peace & be still, trusting in His footsteps along the way.

Father, we bless Your holy Name! We praise the movement of Your Word in our hearts!
Teach us to listen & be still. remind us of Your presence & may we feel that sweet stillness in our spirits as we draw near to You along life’s road. Again, we pray in Jesus’ Name, amen.

You are known by God

Do you think that the Queen of England ever forgets her status? Do you think she ever gets up in the morning, looks around the royal bedchambers, notices a staff member setting up the tray for her morning tea, opening the curtains, laying out her things and wonders, “Well, who is this and why are they doing all this?”
No. Of course not. She’s the queen, and that life is what is afforded for her. It is part of her rank and status that she would be so cared for & so well attended. While she may have no real power, she is still beloved by those who are hers.

We often forget what we have been afforded in Christ. We look around at the world God has created, at he provision He has laid out for us, we forget how dearly loved we are. We forget =Whose= we are and we fall into the trap of disbelieving just how deeply and how greatly we are loved.

Galatians 4:1-11
I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything,
but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.

God has made provision for =you= in Jesus Christ. He has shown the depth of His love, and breadth of His grace. He has given us a wonderful gift beyond measure. But so often we see and observe, and we turn back to what we once had. That is what Paul is dealing with in this portion of his letter to the Galatian church. Why would we turn back to the life that once had us, to the pain that once ensnared us? Why would you turn back to death once you have been brought back to life?

But we do it every day.

We leave behind the rich appointments of grace to wallow in the filth of our own sin.

This is why we are daily glad for grace, and for the presence of the Holy Spirit that corrects us.  There is mourning that comes with this realization, but it is a mourning that is infused with hope.

Lamentations 3:19-26
19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
    the wormwood and the gall!
20 My soul continually remembers it
    and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.

You are deeply loved and dearly bought when you are clothed with Christ. You are afforded a richness that comes with being drawn into the presence of the Living God. Jesus gave proof to His disciples after He was resurrected by doing something simple, He ate with them. He wanted them to see that this was the new reality, the new normal. The life they had been appointed to was past and there was something new on the way. This is what Jesus does for us, this is what God has laid out for us. It’s all for =His= glory, but as heirs, we share in the glorious promises of righteousness.

Luke 24:36-49
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.”

God will take great care to clothe us, care for us and shower us with His love. We are His children, deeply loved, dearly bought. Just as Christ did simple things, like eating fish, to convince His disciples that things really were as they were, even thought it was beyond hope, maybe even beyond belief, He was alive again and there, present with them. Just as He did that, we need to remember that every day, through many convincing proofs, God reminds us that He is present with us, loving us. He is our Abba, our Father, our Daddy & He cares very much for us.

Rest in His arms today. Let Him sing over you. May the joy of the Lord be your strength.

Acts 13:13-41 // Remembering our story

“13 Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. John, however, left them and went back to Jerusalem. 14 They continued their journey from Perga and reached Antioch in Pisidia. On the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any message of encouragement for the people, you can speak.”
16 Then Paul stood up and motioned with his hand and said: “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen! 17 The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors, exalted the people during their stay in the land of Egypt, and led them out of it with a mighty arm. 18 And for about 40 years He put up with them in the wilderness; 19 then after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, He gave their land to them as an inheritance. 20 This all took about 450 years. After this, He gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. 21 Then they asked for a king, so God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for 40 years. 22 After removing him, He raised up David as their king and testified about him: I have found David the son of Jesse, a man loyal to Me, who will carry out all My will.
23 From this man’s descendants, according to the promise, God brought the Savior, Jesus, to Israel. 24 Before He came to public attention, John had previously proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 Then as John was completing his life’s work, he said, “Who do you think I am? I am not the One. But look! Someone is coming after me, and I am not worthy to untie the sandals on His feet.”
26 Brothers, sons of Abraham’s race, and those among you who fear God, the message of this salvation has been sent to us. 27 For the residents of Jerusalem and their rulers, since they did not recognize Him or the voices of the prophets that are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled their words by condemning Him. 28 Though they found no grounds for the death penalty, they asked Pilate to have Him killed. 29 When they had fulfilled all that had been written about Him, they took Him down from the tree and put Him in a tomb. 30 But God raised Him from the dead, 31 and He appeared for many days to those who came with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now His witnesses to the people. 32 And we ourselves proclaim to you the good news of the promise that was made to our ancestors. 33 God has fulfilled this for us, their children, by raising up Jesus, as it is written in the second Psalm:
“You are My Son;
today I have become Your Father.”
34 Since He raised Him from the dead, never to return to decay, He has spoken in this way, “I will grant you the faithful covenant blessings made to David.” 35 Therefore He also says in another passage, “You will not allow Your Holy One to see decay.” 36 For David, after serving his own generation in God’s plan, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and decayed. 37 But the One God raised up did not decay. 38 Therefore, let it be known to you, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you, 39 and everyone who believes in Him is justified from everything that you could not be justified from through the law of Moses. 40 So beware that what is said in the prophets does not happen to you:
41 “Look, you scoffers,
marvel and vanish away,
because I am doing a work in your days,
a work that you will never believe,
even if someone were to explain it to you.”

Acts 13:13-41

For the Jewish people, it was common practice to look back and remember the history of God’s interaction with them. It reminded them of what God had done, what He had saved them from and how He had been at work throughout their whole history. Every year, as a part of their Passover celebration, they would recountt this story, and be thankful for what God had done.

It would probably be a good idea to to the same for our own lives today. Thank back through your own life. Remember where God has shown you mercy, grace and celebrate His handiwork. Remember His goodness and be thankful. Remember your own sin & weaknesses & ask God to continue to guard your heart and to grow you in wisdom, faith and understanding.

When we know our own story by heart, it’s that much easier to GoLove others because we are very conscious of what God has done for us at any given moment & then He can use that readiness to speak into someone else’s story through us.

It’s definitely worth remembering & celebrating His goodness, mercy & love, wihtout them we would still be subject to His wrath & destined for hell. So be thankful, remember your story today & how God has worked to bring you salvation through Jesus Christ. Write it down if you need to, but take time today and remember what He has done.

Acts 4:1-4 // Provoked by the Gospel

“1 Now as they were speaking to the people, the priests, the commander of the temple police, and the Sadducees confronted them, 2 because they were provoked that they were teaching the people and proclaiming the resurrection from the dead, using Jesus as the example. 3 So they seized them and put them in custody until the next day, since it was already evening. 4 But many of those who heard the message believed, and the number of the men came to about 5,000.”

Acts 4:1-4

People who offended by the Gospel, who are upset by the news of the resurrection, they are going to do their best to quiet us & discredit us as we testify to the truth. Peter and John were sharing what most of us would consider to be something positive, they were preaching healing and redemption and seasons of refreshing, but because it was through Jesus, the religious leaders didn’t like it, the Sadducees were particularly upset because they had no belief in the resurrection. And so we see the Gospel, even in its infancy, is working against the worldview of society. The Gospel provokes because it is so counter-cultural. It goes against everything that humanity sets up for itself. The Gospel provokes because it flies in the face of everything that our so-called intelligence and education promotes and encourages. The Gispel provokes because it tells us the hard truth that we are not at the top of the ladder, that we are not the end-all, be-all. 

Peter and John knew that this sort of thing would happen. Jesus guaranteed them that it would, and so they plowed forward in boldness and unashamed. Our generation needs a little more boldness. Our western culture could use a good provocation by the Gospel. We need to be firm in our stance, vocal about the truth and prolific with our love. Jesus didn’t call us to be jerks. He didn’t call us to be brash or rude. But He did call us to be provocative, to stir the pot, to unsettle the comfortable. That is part and parcel with the Gospel message. 

So, as you GoLove, don’t be timid. Don’t be shy about it. The gospel is going to be offensive. The gospel is going to provoke. Be wise and don’t just burn bridges with it, but stand firm, speak up and be bold in your sharing. The world needs some holy provocateurs, some righteous conspirators who will bring the love and good news of Jesus to a lost, blind, hurting world.

Go shake things up! 

Mark 16:9-13 // The end of weeping

“9 Early on the first day of the week, after He had risen, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had driven seven demons. 10 She went and reported to those who had been with Him, as they were mourning and weeping. 11 Yet, when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe it. 12 Then after this, He appeared in a different form to two of them walking on their way into the country. 13 And they went and reported it to the rest, who did not believe them either.”

Mark 16:9-13

— 

We are now into the much debated end of Mark’s gospel. We usually will see a note that reads, “These verses do not appear in the oldest and best manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel.” and so we need to keep that in mind as we read. 

What we do find is a group of people dealing with the range of emotions that mourning and disappointment brings. We don’t need the ‘oldest and best manuscripts’ to speculate about what the disciples must have been going through. Mourning is real. Death robs. Pain is a part of loss, and as Christians, we understand that we have the answer to that pain. 

Jesus called the Holy Spirit ‘The Comforter’ for a reason. We celebrate His passion and ressurrection every week when we take communion…for a reason. Death is not the great enemy for us. Death has been defeated, the grave’s gaping maw has been subdued. We have hope in the middle of what everyone else calls unbeatable odds. The death rate remains at 100% after all these years, but we have found the loophole, even if it seems too good to believe. 

With the emotional turmoil that the disciples had just been through, it’s no wonder that they had problems registering what was going on, Thomas’ reputation is forever haunted by his initial reaction to this news. He is the ‘Doubter.’ But the amazing news is that an empty grave is undeniable. The lives the disciples lived following this news and their witness of the resurrected Christ stand as evidence for the truth that Jesus is alive and that He stands as the victor over death and the grave. He is the answer to our sadness and pain and the cure for mourning. Jesus is better news than we ever deserve to hear. He is beyond our comprehension, and so a life of faith is what naturally follows. 

By their own eyes and then continued by faith, the disciples would take the world by storm and begin shaping the rest of human history in a way that no dead man could ever manage. Not by force, or by the sword, but with compassion, love, mercy, grace and in the truth that He has risen! He has risen indeed! 

Mark 16:1-8 // Just as He told you

“1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so they could go and anoint Him. 2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they went to the tomb at sunrise. 3 They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance to the tomb for us?”

4 Looking up, they observed that the stone — which was very large — had been rolled away. 5 When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; they were amazed and alarmed.

6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he told them. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has been resurrected! He is not here! See the place where they put Him.”

“7 But go, tell His disciples and Peter, He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see Him there just as He told you.”

8 So they went out and started running from the tomb, because trembling and astonishment overwhelmed them. And they said nothing to anyone, since they were afraid.”

Mark 16:1-8

— 

This is further evidence of our inability to remember and act upon good things that God has promised us. Just like the disciples heard that Jesus was going to die and be raised on the third day over and over again, we tend to hear the good news of the Gospel and forget parts that have been distinctly promised to us. 

If anyone had been paying attention, if their hearts and minds weren’t darkened, they would have seen and heard and understood about the resurrection of Christ. I’m not sure how much of their lack of understanding came from the fact that the Holy Spirit was not indwelling them yet, or how much was fear or a different expectation of what Messiah was supposed to be like and how He was to reign and rule. 

There may have been multiple contributing factors, but suffice it to say, it wasn’t clicking for them. The angel even said ‘just as He told you’ to help drive it all home, but they still lacked understanding as they ran back to the upper room. 

When you and I forget that we have been promised various things through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the giving of the Word, we find ourselves living a lackluster Christian walk. We have been given power. We have a singular handle on the truth. We have a hope that the rest of the world cannot grasp or understand. We know the end of life’s big story and we know what it takes to be on the right side of judgment day. We have more than we remember sometimes. ‘Little is much when God is in it.’ And when we, in our tiny, finite lives, understand that the infinite Creator of the universe has chosen to indwell us through His Holy Spirit, we will remember just how big a punch that packs. 

We are an empowered people, just as He told us.

We are entrusted with the truth, just as He told us.

We are to GoLove with a purpose, just as He told us.

We are the purveyors of hope, just as He told us.

We are going to be hated by the world, just as He told us.

We are going to face persecutions, just as He told us.

We are going to go before governing authorities, just as He told us.

We have a cross to carry, just as He told us. 

We must die to self, just as He told us.

He will be with us always, just as He told us. 

Mark 9:30-32 // Reminders of His purpose

“30 Then they left that place and made their way through Galilee, but He did not want anyone to know it. 31 For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill Him, and after He is killed, He will rise three days later.” 32 But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him.”

Mark 9:30-32

Several times throughout His ministry, Jesus gave prophetic glimpses to His disciples as to what was going to happen to Him. He did this for multiple reasons, but one of the most obvious reasons was to keep their hearts and minds on track with God’s plan. It would be very easy t want what the crowds wanted, to desire Jesus as a physical, earthly King right then and there. It would have been normal to want freedom from the Romans, but they would then still be slaves to sin. 

Jesus was guiding them, preparing them, and helping them to develop a kingdom mindset that was based on His Kingdom and not on thier understanding of what the Messiah was ‘supposed’ to do.  What they wanted now would have only left them with a cheap imitation of what was really on the way. 

We need to thank Jesus for these times where He saves us from our own desires and keeps our hearts and minds on track with what really matters. We have dreams and goals and desires, and that’s fine, but they need to begin and end in God’s perfect will. 

Taking the call to GoLove seriously is not an option for the Christian. It is part of our life in Christ just as much as our salvation. It belongs to all of us. But sometimes we get drugged into silence by the things of this earth, the desire for more, for entertainment and comfort, and we leave behind the will and heart of God for a cheap imitation of Kingdom life. God will continue to warn and discipline and redirect us until that day Christ returns for us, but we shouldn’t want to press that envelope. Instead, we take Jesus’ warnings and redirections and listen to them, changing our understanding accordingly and pursuing the plan Go has laid out before us, trusting in Him.

Why debate Baptism? Why rely on works? // Galatians 3

“For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
Galatians 3:18-29 ESV

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

There is a video floating around on Facebook right now from an old sermon by Francis Chan. It’s a 6 minute clip from the sermon where he talks about the essential nature of baptism. It’s not something to separate out from the salvation process, it’s not something that was ever intended to be a matter of debate. As we come to Christ, we repent of our sins, are baptized into Him and become His disciples, living daily for Him.

And it’s true. Every time we see someone come to Christ in the New
Testament, they are convicted by what they hear, they are immersed and then they begin their life in Him. From the day of Pentecost, through Phillip and the Etheopian, to the jailer and his family to Cornelius and his family, all we find is this singular pattern:
The Gospel message is presented
They are convicted/cut to the heart by what they hear
They repent and are baptized into Christ
They begin their walk with Him as a apart of His bride, the Church

And that’s really all there is to it. It isn’t complicated, and it was never meant to be complicated. No extra steps, no month of classes ahead of time to make sure they we ready by some human standard, no series of meetings to make sure they understood every nuanced particle of the faith.

“I heard about Jesus and I need to be forgiven. Here is some water, why not right here, right now?”

We cannot earn our salvation, and it doesn’t come from a knowledge of the Law. It is by grace through faith in Christ that we come, baptized into Him to put Him on, rather than our own efforts, and receive His loving mercy in salvation. We cannot debate baptism. It is essential. It is our identifier with Christ, and it is part of the decision that we make as we repent and come to Him.

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

There is no room for debate here. Look at Romans 6:

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 6:1-11 ESV

Baptism is not a work we do that saves us. It is a grace given to us that participate in with Christ. It is a part of the salvation process, not just a moment in time that saves us that we can then ignore. It’s not an item on our spiritual punchcard to prove we can get into heaven. It is how we identify with Christ in His passion for us, His suffering, death, burial and resurrection, it is where we “put on Christ” to begin our walk with Him. This is what identifies us as heirs of the promise God gave to Abraham, and confirmed in Christ. Scripture calls us co-heirs with Christ, and this comes as we, in grace, come to identify ourselves with Him in baptism. It is essential and it is not debatable. I honestly don’t understand why anyone would even ask if it was…

If we want to put on Christ, then we must be baptized into Him.
This isn’t a work of the Law, but of grace.
It isn’t a ‘get out of jail free’ card if we choose to ignore it later in life.
It isn’t something we do to earn salvation.
It is our identification with the suffering of Christ and the seal of our union with Him.
It is something done in faith, and as the marker of the beginning of our walk with Him.
It is for everyone who comes to Him, desiring to share in His mission to GoLove all nations in the Name of God, proclaiming the joyful news of the Gospel of love and salvation.

There is plenty more to be said on baptism, but if you are debating taking part in it, the process must begin here.

Anything but the truth // Matthew 28

“While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.”
Matthew 28:11-15 NIV

Stare at a white wall sometime and try to convince yourself that it is, in fact, green with pink spots. Tell other people about that. Get them to agree with you. Convince them that what they think they see isn’t really what is going on…and if you can actually do this and believe it, then you’d be in pretty much the same place as these leaders in Matthew 28.

It takes an awful lot of faith to say that a lie, and an obvious one at that, is the answer you’re going to stick with. It takes a lot of pride and a massive ego to stand opposed to the obvious answer that requires an extraordinary amount of personal delusion. This was not a small thing that the religious leaders did in trying to cover their own trail. It meant duping themselves to such a degree that it would mean rewriting history for themselves and selling themselves on this new report.

Granted, we see our media in the states doing this all the time when it comes to the founding of our nation. They do anything and everything they can to white out Christian beliefs and history, they rewrite textbooks just to take it out because it is uncomfortable to them. These Pharisees and priests weren’t doing anything different. They simply look at the truth, think, ‘I don’t like that.’ and make the changes they want to see happen.

As Christians, we aren’t surprised at this behavior. Jesus told us it would happen. Examining the tendency and patterns of human sin, we shouldn’t be surprised when these things happen. The truth is so uncomfortable, it’s like staring into a flashlight when you’ve been in the dark. It burns your eyes, you actively turn away because it’s too much to bear and process, and so you determine that finding more darkness to look at is better.

As we take the great news of Easter, of Resurrection Sunday, out with us, we must realize that we are going to meet with opposition from entrenched hearts. Changing a worldview usually doesn’t happen overnight, and we must pray for those we would love and serve for Christ.

GoLove with the joy that has been shared with you, and don’t be afraid to shed light on darkened eyes. Truth cannot be compromised, but it can be communicated in love. Serve, teach and equip in Christ’s Name and in the patience He gives and has had with you.

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