Posts tagged ‘Savior’

Is Your Cross Empty?

I love southern gospel and I love old church hymns. Generally I find that the old hymns in particular can really put my heart and mind in the right frame for worship. While much of today’s Christian pop music tends to focus on the me side of our relationship with God, and feel-good feelings; it can lack God-centered praise and worship. Now don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of wonderful, praise-filled, God-honoring modern songs. But there really are so many that focus on the feelings, and that can be a dangerous thing. Faith in God is not about having that mountain-high-feel-good feeling all of the time. Just like being in love does not mean feeling all ooey gooey inside every day for 60 years. That kind of love goes deeper than week knees and pitter pattering hearts, just like mature faith goes beyond the mountain high to the low valleys and every where in between. Mature faith causes a Christian to praise and worship through the tears, in spite of pain that is not understood. 

Mature faith is the kind of faith that gave us the hymn It is Well With My Soul by Horatio Spafford, written after all four of his daughters died in a shipwreck. 

While listening to my favorite gospel album I was struck by the words of a church favorite. I sang it often as a child. It was my brother’s favorite when he was a young boy. If you grew up watching pioneer or cowboy and western era television programs, you may have heard it coming from a small country church. The Old Rugged Cross. Look closely at the words of the last verse and chorus:  

To the old rugged Cross, I will ever be true 

Its shame and reproach gladly bear

Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away

Where his glory forever I’ll share

So I’ll cherish the old rugged Cross

Till my trophies at last I lay down

I will cling to the old rugged Cross

And exchange it some day for a crown.

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true. I will cherish the old rugged cross. I will cling to the old rugged cross.  You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God. 

Something tells me I should not be true to the cross, but to the One who died on it. I should cherish and cling to Yeshua (Jesus’ given name before He was born) and what He did for me on the cross, but not the cross itself. The cross was simply wood, created by the One who hung on it. The cross did nothing but stand there, inanimate unfeeling, incapable of doing anything. I do not owe my loyalty, love or praise to a piece of wood. I owe it ALL to Yeshua, who sacrificed Himself for me, using that cross to do it.

You may think I am nitpicking. Consider the modern day cross. We wear it on a chain around our necks; have statues of it in our homes and churches; print it on clothing, purses, checkbooks, and even tattoo it on our skin. When you sing in church, do you find your eyes resting on the cross hanging on the wall of the sanctuary, or perhaps you finger the cross on a chain.

There is an ad floating around social media now. A company selling ergonomically correct crosses, painted with designs to please the visual palette. The purpose? To make it easy and comfortable for you to hold in your hand and find peace. Please tell me you see where this is a problem. 

We are a people who trivially use the tool our Savior used to save us to become the focus of worship and the source of our salvation. This is why God commanded the Israelites to make no carved, or otherwise, image of anything from the earth. He knew our foolish tendencies. Did you know that God told the Israelites that if they built an alter to sacrifice on, they must not use cut stone, but raw and untouched. Why? For the exact same reason. And yet here we are. We have removed Yeshua from the cross and made it our idol. The cross, empty and standing where is was put by human hands, is worth nothing. 

Over the next few weeks, as we approach Good Friday, I urge you to prayerfully consider the place of the cross in your worship. We must glorify Yeshua who bore the cross, not the cross that bore Yeshua.

Hello. I am a Christian, and I am a Hypocrite.

If you are reading this, there is a good chance you are either a Christian, or you are not a Christian.  If you are a Christian, chances are you read the title and thought, “Oh great.  Another wacko spouting off and making the rest of us look bad.”  If on the other hand, you are not a Christian, you probably saw this title and thought, “Finally a ‘Christian’ who will admit the truth.”

Since you are both here, allow me to explain myself.  Then you can make up your own mind about me.  Here’s the deal.  I am a Christian.  I take the liberty of claiming that because I am a follower of Christ Jesus.  Not only do I follow His teachings, but I have dedicated my life to living in complete service to Him.  I even go so far as to say that I asked Him to be my Lord, the one who has complete say over my life, and my Savior.  He is my Savior because He took the punishment God had reserved for me because of my wrong-doings (known in our circles as sin)…let me emphasize that.  Jesus took my punishment.  What I deserved, He took upon Himself.  He saved me from it.  Thus He is my Savior.

Here’s the other part of this.  I am a hypocrite.  But I’m probably not the kind of hypocrite you are expecting me to confess to.  I think we can all generally agree that a hypocrite is someone who says one thing, but does another, right?  I would add, though, that typically a hypocrite would be considered someone who says something and then intentionally, knowingly, does the opposite.  Wouldn’t you agree? With that definition in mind, I guess I would have to say that

                                                 I AM AN ACCIDENTAL HYPOCRITE.

I’m not really a boldfaced hypocrite as you, the non-Christian, would claim.  I don’t say that I follow Jesus and obey His commands, and then intentionally break them.  You may not believe me, but I really do try to obey His commands.  The thing is that I’m not perfect.  I mess up…all the time…every single day.  I admit it.  I’m a Christian, but I’m still a sinner…at the same time.  Yes.  That is possible.  In fact, that is the reality of every single person who is a Christian.  As much as we would love to be perfect, we aren’t, and we never will be as long as we are living.

There was only one person who was perfect in the history of the world, and that was JESUS.  Jesus was perfect because He was, is, the Son of God.  He is man in the flesh, but also completely God in the Spirit, with all the power that goes with being God.  That was how He was able to take my punishment, and the punishment of every single person who ever had and whoever will live.  He deserved no punishment of His own, SO HE TOOK MINE…and yours.  Oh, I know.  You are pretty certain that because I am such a hypocrite, whether accidental or not, you are much better than me.  Here’s where I leave the political correctness stuff behind.  You aren’t any better than me.  Hold on now.  Before you flip your wig, I’m not better than you either.  I never said that I was.  When it comes to being human, we are all on the same equal playing field.  The Bible says that ALL men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  In other words, everyone, ev-er-y single one, does wrong.  It doesn’t matter how much wrong.  One wrong is the same as a thousand wrongs when it causes us to not measure up to God’s standard of perfection.  You are guilty of it, and so am I.  Flat out.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  It is what it is.  You can argue it until you are blue in the face, but deep down inside there is a part of you that you are desperately trying to squash.  That part that says, “You know she is right.”  You know how I know that?  Because God built everyone of us with this thing called a conscience.  More than that, He put in each of us the innate desire to search for Him.

So if I’m a sinner, and you are a sinner, what is the difference between you and me?  I mean really.  I have already admitted to being an accidental hypocrite.  I have admitted to being no better than you or anyone else.  I admitted to doing wrong every single day.  So what is the difference?  Are you ready for it?  Here it is.  I have been forgiven.  Yep.  That is it.  I have not been forgiven because I’m so special either.  I’ve been forgiven for one simple reason:  I asked.  Oh sure, first I had to admit that I am a sinner.  If I didn’t do that, there was no point in asking for forgiveness in the first place.  After all, if I don’t think I have ever done anything wrong, then what do I need forgiveness for?  But nagging deep down inside of me is the knowledge that I have lied (even little white lies).  I never made a habit of it, but I’ve done it.  I have stolen…a piece of candy when I was a child, and time from my employer when I should have been working.  I’ve been angry and bitter.  I’ve said words I shouldn’t have said.  I have been mean to people.  I’ve been jealous.  I have been ungrateful, rude, disrespectful.  I have gossiped, put my needs before the needs of others, been self-righteous.  The list goes on and on, and is as fresh as yesterday.  I cannot deny that I have done wrong things.  It’s as plain as the nose on my face.  And so is my need for forgiveness.

Every sin is like a brick in a wall that separates us from God.  It is a wall that is built by me, but with eternal bricks that cannot be torn down by human hands or effort.  It is a wall that prevents me from having a relationship with God, and from ever getting to Heaven to live with Him.  The only one who has the power to tear that wall of eternal sin bricks down is Jesus, and He will only do it if we ask Him to.  That means getting to Heaven is our choice…we ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins, and save us from staying on this side of the wall, staying in sin.  He then becomes our Savior.

All sin must be punished.  Jesus took our punishment when He died on the cross over 2,000 years ago.  The punishment for sin is death, eternal death.  That means our bodies die, but our spirits either live for eternity in Heaven with God, or they live an eternal death in Hell separated from God and all His goodness.  When Jesus died, He took our punishment of eternity in Hell.  When He came back to life after 3 days, He demonstrated that the power over life and death are both in His hands, and He cannot be controlled by either.  We Christians say that He conquered death and Hell.  Even though we will all still die a physical death (that is a consequence of sin, as opposed to punishment for it), our spirits don’t die.  And if we ask Jesus to be our Savior, He will break down that ugly (because sin is ugly if we are honest) wall of sin, and welcome us into the presence of God.  If we die with that wall still standing between us and God, then all hope is lost.  The wall remains in the spirit world, just as it was here in the physical world, and there is no way past it to get near to God.  The difference is that in the physical world, God’s Spirit is present in every Christian, and all around us.  Every person experiences the goodness of God as He provides rain for crops to grow, sunshine, love, peace…all the good things we have just a glimpse of here.  In Hell, on the other side of that wall, ALL of His goodness is gone.  None of it remains.  There is only the antithesis of everything good.  No love at all, only hatred.  No peace, only torment.  No laughter, only tears.  All the time, eternally.  And in that spirit world of life after physical death, the wall of sin has also become eternal.  There is no hope of every breaking it down.

Conversely, for those people who asked Jesus for His salvation, and allowed Him to tear that wall down, their spirits get to live surrounded by all of God’s goodness, in purest form, no longer distorted by sin and its effects, for all of eternity.  Completely pure love.  Completely whole peace.  Completely full joy.  All the time, eternally.

My ugly sin was has been torn down.  Jesus is my Savior.  I still sin, because I will never be perfect until my spirit is living in Heaven with God.  But when Jesus tore down my sin wall, He also made it impossible for it to be rebuilt.  He took my punishment once and for all.  When I sin now, I ask for forgiveness and it is given.  There are still earthly consequences for sin.  If I lie to someone, I have still hurt them and damaged our trust.  But I have confidence that Jesus will forgive me, because He promised to, and I know that lie is not going to keep me from living in Heaven.

Now, there is a burning issue that needs to be addressed.  I may be a Christian who is an accidental hypocrite, but there are definitely people who claim to be Christians and are blatant hypocrites.  What about them?  First of all, I don’t know their hearts.  I cannot make the judgement as to whether or not they actually are Christians.  Only God knows that.  What I do know is that God calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves.  When people are standing on the side of a gay pride parade holding hateful placards, for example, that is not showing the love of God…and it is flaming hypocrisy.  It does not show love, it shows hatred.   The Bible says the world will know Christians by their love.  Hatred is a sin.  And I have just admitted that Christians still sin.  So how do we know what the truth is?  Are they actually Christians who are sinning and giving the rest of us a bad name?  If so, we must remember that we will never be perfect, and that God works in the heart of every Christian to make them more and more like Him.  Hopefully they will eventually recognize their sin, confess it and seek forgiveness.  However, it must also be recognized that these people may not really be Christians at all, but only think they are.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in the world who think they are Christians just because they go to church, or try to be a good person.  Jesus said that He is the only way to be saved.  Going to church won’t save, and no one can be good enough to save themselves.  If those people are relying on something other than Jesus, they are not truly Christians, and do not have the love of God in them.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter.  You will think what you will about me and all Christians.  You will either judge us on a case-by-case basis, or you will judge us as all the same whether you know us or not.  And I will continue to be a Christian, even with my imperfections.  But I am, and always will be, a Christian who knows without a doubt that when I die, my spirit will live with God forever, with a pile of bricks from a torn down wall far behind me.  What about you?  Will you ask Jesus to tear down your wall and be your Savior?  Or will you live eternally on the side of a wall that you can never tear down?  It’s up to you.

 

The Truth About R.I.P.

I have heard it said that celebrities die in three’s.  Recent weeks would attest to the fact that this is not true.  The latest, sadly, is Carrie Fisher of Star Wars fame.  The world has lost a beloved icon, and everywhere you turn you see people wishing her well…R.I.P. Carrie Fisher.

The cold, hard truth is that there isn’t any “rest in peace” for her or anyone else who has not received Jesus as their Savior. 

Right at this moment, I have just infuriated probably every person reading this.  You are thinking, or probably saying, that I am a cold-hearted _________, fill in the blank.  The truth is exactly the opposite.  I am absolutely devastated that Carrie has gone.  I have cried my heart out, and will again.  But I don’t cry because she was Carrie Fisher, superstar.  I cry because she was Carrie Fisher, sinner, not saved by grace, and not in Heaven with Jesus right now, and there is nothing anymore that can be done about it.

She is not resting at peace. 

Instead, she is tormented.  And I am sorry to say all this.  But the truth is, I don’t care that you may be offended.  If that is what it takes to get your attention, then so be it.  The cold, hard fact is that if you don’t ask Jesus to be your Savior, then your soul will live in torment for eternity, too.  There is no peace in that.

 

60 years is too young, and so is your age, whatever it is- whether you are 15 or 90.  Death can come at any time.  What tears at my soul is that Carrie was willing to hear the truth about Jesus.  I remember reading a couple of years ago that she claimed to be an agnostic, but she said she was a “hopeful agnostic.”  Hopeful because she would love for someone to prove to her that God exists.  I have prayed for her ever since.  I prayed that someone would talk to her, show her.  She needed to know how very much God loved her, so much that He sent His own Son to die to take the punishment for her sins.

I could have done more.  That is why I’m angry with myself.  Today, with ready access to just about anyone through social media, I could have at least attempted to contact her, to share God’s love with her, but I didn’t.  And now it is too late.  But by golly, I am not going to let it be too late for you.  I don’t know who you are.  I don’t know your story.  But I do know that every person on the face of this planet is loved by God, including you.  And I know that He wants every person to receive His salvation so they can go to Heaven, including you.  But I also know that every single person that has ever lived, or ever will live, is sinful.  Because of that sin, none of us can be in the presence of God in Heaven without some miraculous intervention.

What I have just told you won’t be enough, so here are the facts from the Word of God, the Bible.  Before you read any further, pray.  Even if you don’t believe in God right at this very moment.  I don’t care.  Do it anyway.  Ask Him to help you see the truth and understand.  What I am about to write is it.

This is your chance to get in a right relationship with God.  Please.  Please, do not reject Him.  He will not poo-poo your rejection when you die.  He will not say, “Oh, I know you didn’t mean it.  Come on in.”  No. 

Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

You think I’m being harsh about what happens after you die?  Read the story Jesus told about a poor man named Lazarus, and the unnamed rich man who decided to believe in God only when it was too late.

Luke 16:19-2619 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate,21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell[a] from the rich man’s table. Moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and you are tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you, there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’”

There is a Hell.  Whether you want to believe it or not.  There is a HeavenAnd there is a God who made both.  He will send those who reject Him to Hell.  Why?  If He is so loving, why would He do that?  Because He is also fair and just.  He would not be fair or just if He left wrongdoing unpunished.  Wrongdoing is sin.  Ever tell a lie?  Ever disobey your parents?  Ever been jealous of someone?  Ever stolen?  Twisted the truth?  Used the name of God in a way that was not respectful?  Ever hit your brother?  Cheat on homework?  Knowingly take a pen, paper, whatever from work without paying for it?  The list goes on and on and on.  Even the best of people have sinned.  We can’t help it.  It is our very nature.  Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

God is just.  What is the punishment for our sin?  Death.  Spiritual death, which is eternal separation from God and all that is good.  Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

God doesn’t want anyone to go to Hell.  2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us,[a] not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

I said that God loves you and wants you to be with Him in Heaven. 

John 3:16 – “ For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  Jesus is God’s Son.  We just celebrated His miraculous birth.  He was fully human, and at the same time fully God.  He lived 33 years on this earth in the body of His own creation.  He had his diapers changed, sneezed when He had a cold, vomited when He had the flu, and winced in pain when He stubbed His toe.  But He never, ever, once in all those 33 years from the day He was born until the day He died, sinned.  Not ever.

God’s justice for sin demands punishment by death.  He took on human form, took the blame for our sins when He had no guilt Himself, and allowed Himself to be brutally sacrificed.  That’s right.  For you.  He did what no one else could.  He saved us from the power of sin over us, and from the punishment for our sins.

Jesus offers that salvation to every person, but He won’t force it on anyone. 

I can’t make you read this, listen to it, and respond to it.  As much as I would like to.  Jesus won’t make you respond to Him.  He wants you to come to Him because you want to, not because He made you.  There is only one way to get to Heaven.  That is to accept the salvation that Jesus offers.  If you don’t acknowledge that you are a sinner, then you won’t believe that you need Jesus.  You will think you can get to Heaven all on your own power.  Good luck. Remember the verse up above?  The one that says didn’t we prophesy in your name?  Didn’t we cast out demons in your name and do many wondrous things?  But Jesus said, “I never knew you.”  Why?  Because they were trying to do it on their own.

John 14:6 – “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’”  No.  Other.  Way.

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”  You can’t work your way into Heaven.  You can’t believe there is a god somewhere out there, but not accept the salvation offered by the One and only True God, and get to Heaven.  There is one way, and only one way.

Acts 16:31 – “So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.’”  Jesus is the way.

Are you ready?  Have you opened your heart to hear and understand what God is trying to tell you?  Don’t reject Him today.  Instead, confess to Him that you know you are a sinner.  Tell Him you are sorry, and ask Him to forgive you.  Then ask Jesus to be your Savior.  Do it today.  Don’t wait a moment longer.  I guarantee you Carrie Fisher did not think she was going to have a heart attack when she boarded that plane in London, and she certainly did not think she would be dead days later.  Can you foretell your future?

1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Be cleansed from your sins today.  Let Jesus take the load of your guilt.  He has already paid the penalty.  Now let Him lift the weight off your shoulders.  Accept His salvation, and He guarantees you a reserved spot in Heaven.  Please.  This chance may never come again.

Jesus said, (Revelation 3:20) “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

Savior Yes, But Lord?

I was listening to a radio pastor recently while driving down the road, as I often do. He closed his message by asking the listener if Jesus was their Lord and Savior. Interesting question. Perhaps more interesting is the order of the words. Let me break it down and ask the question without the compound word “and.”

Is Jesus your Lord? Is He The Lord of your life? Have you surrendered yourself completely to Him? Have you asked Him to make you who He wants you to be? Have you asked Him to mold you and shape you, as a potter molds and shapes clay, into a vessel able to pour out God’s love on all those around you? Do you obey traffic laws because Jesus is The Lord of your life, and you know that He put those who make the laws in authority over you? Do you obey your employer’s rules because you work for them as though you are working for Jesus, Himself? Do you obey Him, even when you don’t want to, as a sacrifice to your Lord? Do you sin, seek forgiveness, and sin again, without true repentence, without surrendering that area of your life to Jesus and asking Him to change that in you? Do you long to spend time with Him? Do you hunger and thirst after His righteousness in your life? Do you pray without ceasing because He is the first one you desire to turn to all throughout your day and night? Do you wake up in the morning thanking God for another day, and eagerly looking forward to time devoted and set aside to read His word and pray and worship Him? And do you go to bed at night thanking Him for His blessings? Is He in your heart and mind, never far from every thought? Is His name always on the tip of your tongue? Have you given His Holy Spirit the throne of your heart so that His presence within you is becoming as though you are one together?

Or. Or is Jesus your Savior only? Once upon a time you told Him you believe that He is God’s Son, that He was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, then took your sins to the cross and paid that penalty that you deserve to pay. You believed that Jesus came back to life, and is living in Heaven now, while His Spirit is here on earth with us. You may confess it in church on Sunday as a part of the litergy. You sing it with the congregation. You recite the prayers, or at least bow your head when the pastor prays. But when you walk out the door of the church, you leave Jesus behind a barrier that you have erected there. Like a cloak, you put Jesus on when you enter the building, and you take Him back off before you leave. That is where He stays. He is your Savior. You are grateful. But not so grateful that you are ready to bring Him into your outside world. He is not your Lord.

Brothers and Sisters, Jesus did not die for you so you could get a weekly reprieve from your guilt. He did not die for you so you could live how you want during the week knowing you have a safety net that will pull you from the depths on the day of judgement. He offered His salvation free of charge, but when you accepted it, you were bought at a very high price, a price that only God could afford. You belong to Him. He is your Lord. He is calling you to make Him Lord, not only in name, but in deed also. Jesus took your filthy sins. He bore the intense weight of your guilt, and bled and died your death. Then He covered you with His purity and promised you life eternal. Does He not deserve to be The Lord of your life, lock, stock and barrel?

Time is short. The end is near. Soon Jesus will return. He needs all of His people to be serving Him with all of their hearts in this time so that as many as will receive Him will become sons of God.

Verses (from the NKJV):
Luke 6:46 – “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?”
John 13:13-15 – “You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”
Romans 10:13 – For whoever calls on the name of The Lord shall be saved.
Romans 13:1-2 – Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgement on themselves.
Colossians 3:22-24 – Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to The Lord and not to men, knowing that from The Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve The Lord Christ.
Psalm 4:5 (NCV) – Do what is right as a sacrifice to The Lord and trust The Lord.
Isaiah 44:22 – “I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”
Isaiah 64:8 – But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand.

EASTER IS OVER. NOW WHAT?

Have you noticed what I have noticed? Easter is over. The build up, the celebration, the ham dinner and Easter egg hunt. Its over…until next year, when we will do it all again.

I must say, one of the best parts about the day was waking my boys up with the announcement that “He is risen!” The only communication I had with my husband that morning was a text! But it was, “He is risen!” “He is risen indeed!” (Long story:-) And how many times did I shake someone’s hand at church with the same greeting? Many! It was so exciting! Exhilerating! To be celebrating the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! We rejoiced in the victory He had over death, and sin. He beat the cross that took Him down, and stood triumphantly outside the tomb, breathing in deep breaths of fresh, spring morning air. Jesus had come back to life!!!

And then…Monday. Life was back to normal. The celebration was over. Work and school were starting back up. The hum-drum of daily life. It sucked the joy right out of me! You could almost hear the high-powered vacuum! And I thought, “Why? Why should my joy only last for a day? Today should be a new beginning to a new year…a year in which I celebrate each and every day the joy of worshiping a risen Lord.”

That was when I realized that MY new year isn’t January 1st, and all those ridiculous New Years resolutions to lose weight, or do more things to please myself. It isn’t even the first day of school in the fall (when I traditionally wish my fellow teachers a happy new year:-). MY new year begins each year on Easter Sunday. It is the reason for my joy. Easter Sunday is the day I celebrate the new life I have in Christ, and the day that I am reminded that every day afterward belongs to Jesus. Easter Sunday is the starting point. It is the basis on which I live every other day that God gives me. Because I have Easter, I have meaning. Why wouldn’t the Christian mark his calendar for New Year’s Day on Easter? From now on, that is how mine will be. So even though this is a bit late…Happy New Year! For He is risen! He is risen indeed!!!!!

Oh. And my relolution? Only to live every day serving my risen Savior!

WHO IS JESUS?

My Pastor raised this question in church today, and it got me thinking.  Who is Jesus?  I can give the encyclopedia answer.  The pat write-up that would go in Who’s Who.   Jesus Christ, Son of God Almighty.  Born to a virgin mother in a stable.  Grew up in Nazareth around the time that the Christian calendar began.  He was arrested, and died via crucifixion.  Three days later, he rose from the dead, and forty days after that he ascended to Heaven.  Statistics.  Just statistics…well, probably the most important statistics in the history of the world, but that is not my point.

What about these statistics would really drive a person to decide to give their life to following this Jesus person?  I can give similar statistics for any other leader in history.  Why is Jesus so special?  What is it about him that inspires such devotion?

Who is Jesus?

Jesus is everything I need.  Let me break it down further.

Jesus is my best friend, the one I turn to when anything worth talking about, and even not worth talking about, is going on.  He is always there for me.  Always.  I never, ever have to wonder if he will pick up the phone, answer my text, or return my email.  I can talk to him any time, anywhere.  In the dead of night.  In the bathroom.  Doesn’t matter.  I know he is there, and he is listening.

Jesus loves me absolutely unconditionally without the slightest reservation, and he will always do what is best for me.  I never need to feel unloved, or unaccepted.  He loves me always, and even though I will never be good enough for him, he accepts me for who I am.  No make-up, messy hair, pimple on my nose, bad tempered, impatient, selfish, etc., etc.  Doesn’t matter.  Jesus loves me.

Jesus comforts me.  He wraps his arms around me and just holds me.  He listens as I pour out my soul to him.  He fills my heart with a joy that lifts me up and out of the darkest times.  I am never alone.  He shares my sorrow, but he also heals me of it.  When I lost someone dear to me, and I was tormented by that loss, he held me closer than anyone else could, because he understood my pain and heartache.

Jesus is my strength.  I am never unable to do what he asks of me, because he gives me the strength and the courage to boldly do whatever I need to do.

Jesus is my guide.  Yes, I do listen for his voice, and do as he commands.  He has yet to steer me wrong.  And actually, I have no fear that he ever will, because he is honest and true, and, going back to my first point, he loves me.

Jesus is my light in the darkness.  When I don’t understand, he helps me to get it.  He clears up the mud in the mess that is my heart and mind.

Jesus is my Redeemer and my Savior.  I am sinful.  I do bad things, think bad things, say bad things.  It’s a fact of my life.  Jesus is my hero.  He was able to live in this world, in a human body, all the way through childhood, adolescence and well into adulthood without ever doing a single bad thing, thinking a single bad thought, or saying a single bad word.  He never sinned.  Not once.  Not half a sin.  Never had even a whoops-that-was-close-almost-lost-it-there close call.  He was perfect.  So without any sins of his own, he took the punishment I deserve.  He covered himself with the guilt and shame of my sin, and allowed himself to be crucified, tortured, brutally murdered.  Why?  So that when my body dies, my soul will still be able to live in Heaven with him.  Without his sacrifice, there is no way I could be perfect like him and make my way into Heaven.  I’m just not good enough.  No matter how hard I try.  And if I’m not good enough to get to Heaven, the other option is Hell.  Jesus saved me from Hell.  I am grateful beyond words!

Jesus is my hope.  Without Jesus, this life, in this world, would be worthless.  Absolutely, unequivocally worthless.  Because I have Jesus in my life, I know that my life has meaning.  It has purpose.  It is worth the life and death of the Son of God (Jesus), and it has a future, even after I am dead and gone…because only my body will die.  My soul will go to live forever, face-to-face, in the presence of this same Jesus who’s Spirit is with me every moment of every day right now.

Jesus is my Lord, my King, my God.  I bow to him.  I worship him.  I praise him.  I honor him.  I serve him.  And I love him as much as I am able.

As I have been writing this, I have occasionally looked back over the words.  I have realized that there is no way I can truly describe for you who Jesus is to me in a way that you can comprehend if you don’t have Jesus for yourself.  I know who he is, not just the statistics, but the meat of who he is, because his Holy Spirit has reached down into my soul and filled me to overflowing with his love.  I am complete because I have Jesus.  There is no emptiness to fill.  I don’t wonder who I am, or why I am here on this earth.  I never wave my hand at the sky and say, “I know there is a god out there somewhere, but I don’t know where he is or what he’s about.”  Because I know THE GOD.  I know JESUS, personally.  We are tight, he and I, like those proverbial intertwined fingers.  Where he leads, I follow, and where I am, he is.  He really, truly is everything to me, and I couldn’t live this life without him.  I need him.  He is my addiction, except I will never need to go through Jesus-withdrawal, because he will never leave me, ever.  In the words of an old hymn:  “My Jesus I love thee!  I know thou are mine.  For thee all the follies of sin I resign.  My gracious redeemer.  My Savior art thou.  If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now!”

If you don’t know Jesus, you can’t understand this.  I’m sorry, but you can’t.  But.  If you don’t know Jesus, this you do understand…you have a whole, an emptiness inside of you that you can’t fill no matter what you have tried.  You do wonder why you are here, and what the purpose is for your life.  You carry pain and sadness with no real way to be rid of it.  You may experience occasional happiness, but you do not have joy that fills your life.  You may have periods of calm and quiet, but you do not have the peace that passes all understanding.  You may know love, but you do not know absolute, unconditional love that lasts for eternity.  If you don’t know Jesus now, you can.  All it takes is a leap of faith.  One moment when you tell Jesus that you believe he is the Son of God, born to a virgin, and that he died so that the penalty for your sins could be paid, and you could be with him in Heaven one day.  One simple leap of faith that will fill your emptiness and make you the person you were designed to be.

Another great hymn:  “Jesus, name above all names.  Blessed redeemer, glorious Lord.  Emmanuel, God is with us.  Beautiful Savior.  Living Word.”

HELL

Have you ever thought about Hell? No, really. More than just a passing thought. Have you ever really thought about it? What is it like? Where is it? Is it real?

The Bible doesn’t tell us a whole lot about it. But it does tell us that it exists. Matthew 13:50 tells us it is a “…blazing furnace, where people will cry and grind their teeth in pain.”

2 Peter 2:4 says that angels who sinned were sent to hell and put in caves of darkness.

Mark 9:48 says that in hell the worm never dies, and the fire is never put out.

Revelations 14:10-11 say that the smoke from the pain of those who are in hell will rise forever. And also that there is no rest day or night.

Already it doesn’t sound like a pleasant place. Let’s consider it further. I know you may not want to, and your heart may be uneasy, but this is important.

Consider this one fact. God is not in hell. What, or who, is God? He is love. He is light. He is goodness, comfort, peace, truth, righteous, holy, pure, to name a few. If God is not in hell, then none of His attributes are there either. Take away love, and you have hatred. Complete hatred. Take away light, and you have utter darkness. Take away goodness, and you have unadulterated evil. Take away comfort, and you have discomfort. But not just discomfort, pain, sickness, sorrow that never ends. With no peace, there is war, all the time, between all the people. Without truth, there can be only lies, and thus not a single person to trust. No righteousness, holiness, or purity means no good, clean anything. Recall that Revelations said their is no rest, day or night. Without God in the picture, there is torment for all eternity, and not a single break from it…it never ends.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:46 (NCV) – “These people will go off to be punished forever, but the good people will go to live forever.”

Notice the key word? Forever. It applies to the good and the bad. Those who accept Jesus as Savior and those who don’t. The difference is where they will spend forever. I don’t want to scare you, but I want to scare you! Heaven is real, but so is Hell. God is just as real as you and I, and Jesus is coming to earth again one day soon. He will take those who believe in Him to Heaven. Those who denied Him while living here on earth will be sent to Hell. That is a place I don’t want to be. I don’t want my loved ones to be there. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, although I can’t say I can think of a personal enemy.

Tonight, for the first time, I did not pray for Jesus to come quickly. I asked Him to wait. I want no one to go to Hell. God doesn’t want anyone to go to Hell either, but He is a just God, and He will punish those who sin by rejecting Him. Turn your heart to Him now. He is waiting for you. He has been waiting since the day you were born. He loves you! If you are ready to choose Jesus, and secure a place in Heaven for eternity, see my previous post, “Do You Have The Luxury Of Waiting?”

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