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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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Resurrecting Hope

Father, You bring us hope over and over again. You remind us of things that are here, present before us, but that we simply overlook. In our attempts to look important, in our trying to build a life & world for ourselves, we gloss over basic truths & simple things. When we do this, we build from our own broken foundations, and develop worldviews that fit within our own expectations. Give us hope beyond our own understanding. Open our eyes so we can see the basic truths. Remove the corrupt lenses that we have placed over our own eyes & reveal Your hope-drenched wisdom to us unworthy souls. We pray this in Jesus’ Name, amen.

Luke 20:27-40
27 There came to him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, 28 and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. 30 And the second 31 and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. 32 Afterward the woman also died. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.”

34 And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36 for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. 37 But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. 38 Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.” 39 Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” 40 For they no longer dared to ask him any question.

Have you ever come to Jesus like this? Have you come with your own answer already in your pocket, ready to hear from Him what you think you already know? I do this all the time, I’m sure we all do. We talk and talk and forget to listen. We come in a way that gives an impression of asking, but in reality, we are doing more telling than anything. We don’t seek to receive we seek to have our own ideas confirmed. We see it in these Sadducees in Luke 20. They come to Jesus prepared with both question and answer in hand & He brings them to a place they were not prepared to go. This is why listening is such an important part of our prayer life. This is why time in Word, coming to hear from God, is so vital.

These men & their cohort come to Jesus with this pre-loaded Q&A, thinking themselves awfully clever & ready to show up those guys from across the aisle, the Pharisees, who haven’t been able to stump Jesus quite yet. It’s a simple question, there’s even a degree of humor to it…a seemingly impossible scenario needs to be explained. As Sadducees, they do not believe that anything happens after death, you simply cease to be, & so the whole scenario feels ridiculous. They have seen Jesus break down the arguments of the Pharisees over & over again, & so they have come ready to either have Him confirm their understanding or to begin a debate they feel they cannot lose. This must be one of their favorite questions to tear down their opponents arguments & they bring it to Jesus.

This is something so common to mankind. This whole situation is repeated in different ways in different times, over & over again. We live this life of ours, and we feel like we get a pretty good handle on how things work and why. We talk with some people who disagree with us, but more often than not, we spend a lot of time with people who think the way we think, who do the things we do, who support the things we support even & we build up this wall, a fortress of understanding that helps us to feel secure.

The problem is that the other people, who live behind other walls, feel just as secure, just as protected by their understanding, their worldviews, as we feel behind our walls. They feel their foundations are just as unshakable as ours and they trust in the power of their arguments just as much as we do. And then someone starts lobbing stones over the wall the moment they notice something in your perspective doesn’t line up with theirs. We don’t want to hear ‘different’ because is shakes us. It doesn’t just shake our walls, it shakes our foundations, & that feeling is sickening, frightening & we fight against it every chance we get.

But Jesus doesn’t just answer to the question in the way we would expect Him to answer. Jesus always has a twist ready for us, something that turns our understanding on its head. Jesus reveals truth to our understanding, & He gets to work opening up our misconceptions, exposing our vulnerabilities. He shows us we don’t know all we think we know. And He does it in the Name of love.

So Jesus shows us something better & it rocks our assumptions.

Jesus shows us a new state, in this case, when we return to where we were pre-Fall, we will live on a different foundation than the one we see & experience today. Our worldview will be radically changed. It’s not simply a matter of this world transported with all its present components & intricacies already in place, but it is something new altogether. Yes, this woman had 7 husbands, but that was this life & so that scenario has nothing to do with the next. There is more to this argument than you can see, a wider view to this world than your constructs allow you to see.

We are more than we think we are. Listen to His words, “…for all live to Him.” Examine for a moment the depth of implication that lies within these words of His. Oh, these words! There is a lot of meaning wrapped up in them, if we hang out here & look at them, letting them soak in for a while. Jesus isn’t just talking about death & life here. He is opening up a massive hole in their understanding of the world. He is pointing toward the true source of meaning & glory & He is letting them know that this life isn’t even about all these petty squabbles &misunderstandings, those little distractions aren’t at the core of what really matters.

There is so much more.

“…for” = Here is the meat of the matter, here is what breaks down your assumptions & self-made logic. This is where the boulder of truth comes smashing through the walls you’ve built.

“all” = Everyone, all parties concerned are affected by this coming statement. Truth isn’t just for one faction or another. This is a foundational, universal truth & if your foundation is lacking this bit of reinforcement…it will come a’tumbling down. Pharisee, Sadducee & CantYouSee alike are all affect by this thing that coming. You cannot build a wall that includes only certain groups or that excludes others.

“live” = Exist. Currently. As in, right now. There isn’t a loophole to jump through here. Everyone lives, even if you can’t see them now, they’re alive. Sadducees would have argued against the soul, the immortal soul, &here Jesus very plainly shows us that there is an existence beyond this physical stuff that we slog around in every day. There is a spiritual realm that isn’t affected by physical death. It’s a point of transition, sure, & when we reach that point, that doorway, there are some things that we need to have come to grips with before we cross through. But everyone crosses through…& they continue on. What you see is not always what you get. What we perceive is not all there is to this world. We are constantly unlocking & exposing new things in this universe through the “marvels” of science. And how often do we hear scientists say that things aren’t ‘behaving’ they way they expected, or that a model will need to be re-looked at or revamped according to the new evidence at hand? It happens all. the. time.

“to Him” = This isn’t simply a state of being. This is also a state of purpose. We all live to Him. We all live to Him. All answers must spring from Him & point to Him. That’s the way this works. We all live for God &are alive in His eyes. Alive or dead by human reckoning means nothing in terms of permanence. Once life comes it remains. Period. Conception, cradle, college, career, care-facility, casket, carried over to eternity…we are alive. We live this life for God & we will always be because of Him. We were created to be immortal after all. Finite, but immortal. And we were created for His good pleasure & purpose, not simply for ourselves.  This is all about God, & the sooner our foundations contain that base platform, the better off we will be.

Look, questions are good, it is great to ask questions. God is cool with us asking Him all sorts of questions. And they are good so long as we come expecting an answer for our lack of understanding. We should not come to God expecting Him to always cater to what we think we know. We should come to Him expecting to be changed & to have our eyes opened. He develops our apologetic, not our own experiences. Jesus comes with an answer that blows open the foundations of the Sadducee worldview, & it’s a beautiful thing. It shuts them up immediately, but it’s a beautiful answer. Jesus resurrects hope, & they don’t know what to do with it at all. When we walk in the rhythms of His grace, we will experience this on a regular basis…&that’s a very good thing. In fact, it becomes a point of joy if we are ready to receive it. Let’s pray that we are…

1 John 5 // The ‘right’ prayers

“14 Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for.”
1 John 5:14-15

This is simple, and it makes sense. If we pray for things that honor God, that stand according to His purpose and will, then we are asking Him for things or to move in ways that stand according to His purpose and will, and those things we pray for will be honored because they do not stand contrary to God and His will. Right? If we pray and ask God to move or act in a way that stands against His nature, that move against His laws, statutes and character, we should not be surprised when He does not pay attention to those prayers because He will not move in, act on or affirm anything that stands contrary to His will and purpose.

“Dear God, help me win the lotto, oh, and please give my neighbor with the loud exhaust hearing problems because he refuses to fix it. Also, please make people at work like me more, and that dog who barks all the time a few doors down? Give it throat cancer. Amen.”

God is not going to listen to or honor that prayer. It is selfish, immoral and wrong. It stands against His nature to act and move in those ways.

“Dear God, please kill off all those extremists from that other religion.”

Again, God doesn’t act according to our will and desires. He does not act on our hatred, only according to His own Justice.

“God, please give me and my live-in love interest a raise at work so we can get a nicer house.”

If we are living in sin, refuse to acknowledge it and ask God to move in a way that affirms and encourages that decision, He is not going to do that. We cannot refuse Him in one area, acknowledge Him in another, and hope it all levels out together.

“14 Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for.”

Thee are those key words “according to His will” that clue us in to the types of prayer that God will hear and honor. And when we do pray and seek Him out in a way that honors His will and plan. –then– we can be certain that He will move, because it is something that He already approves.

“Dear God, give me the strength and wisdom I need to invite my coworker to church this weekend.”

Yes.

“Dear God, please bring comfort to my hurting neighbor, use me to say the right thing and lend a hand if needed at the right time so their heart is drawn to you.”

Yes.

“Dear God, help me learn to be content in everything and to honor you in my heart, mind, soul and actions.”

Yes.

“Dear God, use me however you see fit to talk to my neighbor who seems to be struggling with making good choices.”

Yes.

“Dear God, you be honored in my life however You see fit. Do what You will, teach me, grow me, use me according to Your purposes.”

Yes.

“Dear God, please change my attitude toward my coworker who ridicules me for my faith in You. Give me wisdom in dealing with them, so their hearts might be drawn to You, rather than me lashing out and damaging my witness for You.”

Yes.

“Teach me to be generous. Show me how to love like You do.”

Yes.

And it goes on. We can pray from the flesh and remain unheard, or we can pray from the will of God and be confident that what we ask for, He will do. This is simple. If we are going to GoLove others in the Name of Christ, moved by the Holy Spirit, then it must be done according to the will of the Father. Those are the prayers He hears, answers and moves in.

The Simple Life in Christ // 2 Corinthians 1

“For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.”
2 Corinthians 1:12 ESV

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
Supposedly spoken by Mark Twain, this simple statement rings very true. If we live simply, if our conscience truly is clear, if we behave with godly sincerity and in His grace, our lives will become far less complicated and much easier to navigate. I don’t say completely simple or easy to navigate, because life is still complicated and difficult from time to time. But, when we live simply, when our hearts and eyes are less cluttered, and focused on God rather than worldly distractions, we find that living in that simplicity brings many benefits and it is a testimony all by itself.

To attempt to live in two worlds at once, chasing after Christ while still in pursuit of the world, we will always find ourselves torn and waivering. But as we live solely for Christ, our hearts and minds minutely focused on Him, our vision will become much more clear and our purpose much more striking.

We live in utter contrast to the world. Our lives in Christ were never meant to be so complicated that we couldn’t tell which end is up, or which direction to go anymore. Yes, there are still decisions to be made and options to be investigated, but our lives in Christ can be very simple if we will allow them to be.

Simple in that our allegiance is not divided.
Simple in that our hearts have been claimed by One.
Simple in that our souls have a new, singular Master.
Simple in that our battles are being fought by One greater than our own strength.
Simple in that our minds are being renewed and the clutter of sin is being removed.
Simple in that our end is already mapped out.
Simple in that we are new capable of real sincerity.
Simple in that we are operating under His wisdom, and not a chorus of warring influences.

Simplicity comes more and more as we meditate on Him and His Word, as we speak and listen in times of prayer. Simplicity comes as our reliance rests on Him, not self, and simplicity comes when we die to self and let Christ reign over us.

Again, we will still have our struggle with sin, the flesh and this world.
But simplicity comes from listening to the clarion call of our Lord & Master over all the clamor and chaos. In the midst of the storm of life, our spiritual ears hear the voice of our shepherd, calling us to safety in His fold. His trumpet call piercing through the thrumming, thrashing cacophony, calling us to find our rest in Him.

This is simplicity, not that we are somehow removed from the world and are not affected by it any more, but that we can, in Christ, silence our hearts, listen in anticipation for our Shepherd’s voice and follow His call. Shutting out the noise, we seek His face in submission and humility. He has evidenced His great love for us in this, while we still struggle with sin, He died for us, paving the way for grace. In this grace, we find our hope, it cannot be found otherwise. In His resurrection, we find the joy that propels us forward in the promise of new life. And so motivated, we GoLove as we have been loved. Witnesses to a world stumbling around in the dark, surrounded by pitfalls and deceptions, we can act as guides to the simple light of truth in Christ.

GoLove as you have been loved. Do it simply and consistently.

sorry douglas, “42” doesn’t quite cover things…

(unmarked journal entry, presumably from matthew 6)

the answer to the big question “why are we here?” is so simple: to worship God with our whole lives and point others to Him.

there is no great mystery in this. it’s only when we try to seek another answer that the struggle begins. if we try to find meaning apart from the meaning that God has given us, we will continue to search and struggle until the day we die. but if we seek God first & His righteousness, then everything else will begin to fall in line.we are supposed to start from square one with God & then follow Him from there. this Kingdom life will provide us with all the meaning and purpose we can handle.

Look to God, seek Him out.

who else could make the great mysteries simple? who else could clear up all of our confusion? who else can point us in the right direction every day of our lives? who holds the very keys to the universe?

God can. God does.

in Jesus, we can seek Him out, through the Holy Spirit, He speaks truth into our lives.

praise God!

use your whole self, your whole life & praise God!

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

there are so many issues to try to cope with, so many struggles that come across our paths, and we try to figure out a way to handle them on our own, some way to make things work. but we rely on our own strength, we trust in our own decisions, and we will fall flat every time.

we must get past ourselves. we must move forward beyond our own potential, and seek out the power of God in our everyday lives. this is not ‘name it and claim it’ this is a humble acknowledgment that we cannot do things from our own power, that we are weak and flawed. in this way, we move forward into the grace and mercy of God. repenting of our selfish & pride filled ways in order to truly become His servants as well as accepting our place as co-heirs with His Son, Jesus.

give up your pride.

give up your stubborn refusal to admit that your ways are not best, and that you need help.

give up your arrogance.

give up your fear.

our Father is ready and waiting to take your hand and take over the direction of your life.

now is the time.

love, mercy, grace and forgiveness are waiting for you to just take a hold of them…all you have to do is ask.

motive. plain and simple.

plain and simple? here it is. no funny stories, no comparisons, just the truth.

motives matter. every single motive matters. Jesus is speaking with ‘the crowd’ in mark 7:14-23 and discussing personal cleanliness as it relates to food. everyone was obsessed with appearing clean, but their hearts were morally corrupt. their motives were selfish and shallow, and so their spiritual lives were also selfish, shallow and consequently very empty.

it is the same today as it was then. our motives matter. there is not way around it. our motives, all of them, matter. it is not what goes into the man that makes him unclean. it is what comes out of the man that makes him unclean. you can tell a tree by its fruit. if our motives are God-honoring, then the actions that follow are God-honoring, and therefore our lives will be God-honoring. but if we are selfishly motivated, then our actions will be selfish, and our lives will be selfish. you cannot take a selfish motive and have a God-honoring result.

can God use all situations to show Himself? yes, but that does not mean that we are going to come out of that situation smelling like a rose.

so, plain and simple: either you and I are honoring God with our lives, or we are not. there is no ‘kind-of’ pleasing life. God’s desire is our entire being, so either we are giving Him our whole self, or we are withholding form God what is rightfully His.

i’ll let you make the call on what the results of those choices will be.

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