To Sum It Up:

“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For, “The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.” (“Keep your tongue from evil And your lips from speaking deceit.” – PSALMS 34:13‭) – 1 PETER 3:8-‬10 NASB

Peter uses these verses (including v. 11-12) to summarize chapters 1 and 2, and the first few verses of chapter 3. He was writing to a group of exiled Jews who were living far outside of their homeland (“foreigners, aliens, and exiles,” 1 Peter 1:1, depending on the translation), who were under pressure because of their status (1 Peter 1:6). He wants us to see that there is a good life for us here on earth, regardless of the problems we are facing. When we follow these suggestions, our hearts are able to enjoy the good in our lives rather than being focused on whatever is happening externally. The psalm Peter quotes, Psalm 34, was written by King David after he had to pretend madness in order to escape from those who were prepared to kill him (1 Samuel 21). We don’t have it so bad when we look at things in context!

We always have a choice as to how we react and resond to the events in our lives. We can choose to see the good and love life; to enjoy what we have, or we can endure it, or we can attempt to escape it. I’ve tried enduring, and it is just that – enduring. No joy. Escaping doesn’t work, either. I promise you, no matter how you try to escape, distance or mind-altering substances or food or sex or shopping or work, it is all right there, still the same! Choose joy, because it is a choice! I was recently having a conversation with a pastor about my current situation (it isn’t all that pretty….) and I ended it by saying that I am very blessed. He expressed some surprise, saying that few people say that. I choose joy, because I have lived the alternatives, and I don’t like them. I’m not a saint! I admit to being depressed and feeling sorry for myself at times, but then I look around and see others who have it so much worse than me. If you are struggling, stop looking at what you don’t have, and see what you do have. It can be eye-opening. Don’t miss the good life GOD has given you!

Jesus said “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” – JOHN 10:10 NASB

Choose JESUS and choose Life Abundant!

Disclaimer: I often use my notes from our pastor’s sermons (with his permission). Dr. Hitchcock brings the gospel alive for me, answering questions I have and bringing more questions to my mind. The thoughts I carry away cause me to read and research the scripture and Bible commentaries, and I always come away with something new! If you would like to hear the original sermons (without any mistakes I might bring!), go to Sermon Archives at http://faithbibleok.com/ The Good Life – we are currently in the Still Standing series by Dr. Mark Hitchcock. We are truly blessed with all of the Bible teachers and books and commentaries that are available for us.

And Justice For All

Watch the Pledge of Allegiance, a word-by-word meaning explained by Red Skelton, on YouTube, recorded 14 January 1969….. and watch it all the way to the end. It’s only 4 minutes out of your day and totally worth it!

“For justice may be slow and invisible, but it always renders its true verdict in the end.” – Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad

I am so blessed to live in this country where our Pledge of Allegience includes these words: “under GOD” and “with liberty and justice for all.” Is it true? Is there liberty and justice for all? Nope, not even close. But – why? Whose fault is it that we are so lacking in those two tenets? It’s very simple, really. This is a nation made up of human beings. We are not just, individually or collectively, thanks to our inherent sinful natures, but as a nation, we try. There is no other place in the world that has the freedoms that we have, and it is because of the strong Christian faith of the founders of our country. That said, it is also a country of severe injustice and prejudice. Those attitudes won’t ever be completely overcome as long as humans are in charge, and that is why it is so critical for us – the followers of the LORD JESUS CHRIST – to tell others of the Gospel. There will be JUSTICE FOR ALL in the end!

“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful. But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.” – JAMES 5:7‭-‬12 NASB

Are you prepared for Justice to be meted out in your life? If I were to be judged on my own merit, I would be sent straight to hell. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, go straight to jail. I thank Jesus that He is my Advocate, and that He has covered my sins with His Blood. The scales of Justice will show every human to have ever lived as severely lacking….. It is only through the Grace, Love, and Mercy of our God, and through the Blood of Jesus that was shed for us that we won’t be consigned to hell. We may not see justice in our lifetime, or it may seem to be slow, but there will be Justice for all in the end. GOD will see to it.

Are you ready to face Him? Have you pledged allegiance to Him?

Okay?

“Maybe it’s okay if I’m not okay….”

‘We Are Messengers’ sing this fantastic song, and it is so relevant! How can we know how good we have it, if we haven’t had it bad? If I haven’t hurt, what do I have to compare to?

Do you remember the story of Lazarus? Beloved friend of Jesus, brother to Mary and Martha, they lived in Bethany, about 2 miles from Jerusalem. I imagine Jesus stopped at their house whenever He was near. We (hopefully) all have a friend like that, a person who is family – even better than blood family. (Mary is the woman who annointed Jesus with a costly perfume while He was at their table, when Judas complained at the waste of such an expensive item.* – JOHN 12:3) She, her sister Martha, and her brother Lazarus made Jesus welcome. It happened that Lazarus became seriously ill, “So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.” – JOHN 11:3‭, ‬5‭-‬6 NASB

What?

He hears that His beloved friend is sick, maybe dying, and He hangs out for two days before He goes to see him? Who does that? I’m sure that Mary and Martha were not okay during this time! Torn up knowing that their brother is dying – who in fact dies after the message is sent – and wondering why their best friend delays coming. Not until the fourth day after Lazarus’ death does Jesus show up. The body is in the grave, beginning to deteriorate and decompose, and the mourning is at it’s peak. Martha met Jesus on the road, and said this:

“Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” – JOHN 11:22 NASB

She knows that Jesus could have prevented his death, and she believes – she knows – that He can bring her brother back! What faith!

“Jesus said to her, “I Am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” – JOHN 11:25‭-‬27 NASB

Martha wasn’t “okay” with her brother’s physical death, but she was confident in her Lord’s ability to take care of the situation. How many of us can confidently believe as Martha did? She had no doubt that Jesus would receive whatever He asked of God His Father. Do I believe that Jesus is taking care of my situation? I’m not okay with my financial situation. Frankly, it stinks. (That’s my opinion.) But I know that it’s okay if I’m not okay, because I know that my life – such as it is – is in my GOD’s control, not mine. I have hurt and been hurt; I have reached out and been reached out to in good and in bad. Whatever comes, LORD, may I learn to be content. Amen.

[*This perfume is estimated to be worth 11 months wages. According to CNBC.com, the median U.S, household wage for 11 months would be over $40,000.]

Undeserved Grace

Celebrating still!

Looking back at hymns and songs, it strikes me at how many songs we have that celebrate the Victory of Jesus over death and the grave.

UP FROM THE GRAVE HE AROSE!

VICTORY IN JESUS

DEATH WHERE IS YOUR STING

CHRIST IS RISEN

MIGHTY CROSS

OVERCOME

GLORIOUS DAY

WE ARE THE FREE

I WILL RISE

The list goes on and on – I’ve left many off. I am so grateful for the poets and lyricists and songwriters and composers for these beautiful expressions of our awe and gratefulness. Sometimes, all I can do is mouth the words, I’m so overcome by the emotion of realizing anew the sacrifice Jesus, Lord of everything, made for me. As if I were the only human ever to live, He made that sacrifice. As if you were the only one. That’s how much He loves us.

Pretty sobering thought.

Jesus bore my sins – every thought and every action – to the cross, and He left them there. They are gone, covered, literally, in His Blood. The Blood of The LAMB was shed for me, and I am free. Completely undeserved Grace. You can claim it anf receive it, too! All you need to do is open your heart to Jesus ❤ .

“Jesus has overcome! And the grave is overwhelmed! The victory is won! He is risen from the dead!”

“Jesus has overcome! And the grave is overwhelmed! The victory is won! He is risen from the dead!”

No Ordinary Man

The chief priests and Pharisees were so frightened of Jesus and His testimony, they went to Pilate to complain about Him and His followers. Keep in mind that at this point they know that Jesus is dead and in the grave, yet they are so afraid of this dead man that they want His grave sealed and a guard set on it!

“Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.” – MATTHEW 27:64‭-‬66 NASB

They knew this was no ordinary man they were dealing with.

Over the centuries, there have been many imposters. If you Google “men who claim to be Jesus,” a long list of names comes up. Then there are the many who claim that Jesus was ‘just’ a prophet like Moses or Muhammad or Buddha. Who, in all of these men have died and been resurrected in three days, besides Jesus? The list of imposters is hundreds of names long, and the names of men from that list who died and rose from the dead is zero. Not one. They are, or were, all ordinary men. Not so, Jesus.

Luke, a physician, wrote factually about Jesus. He researched what he wrote and reported first-hand accounts.

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” – LUKE 1:1‭-‬4 NASB

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the Holy Child shall be called the Son of God.” – LUKE 1:31‭-‬35 NASB

This Holy Child, this Jesus, is no ordinary man. He is 100% man, and 100% God.

How bereft His followers must have felt this morning, following His unimaginable, incredible death on the cross! This is the first day they have been without Him, without His physical presence, in three years. At this point, they don’t know what to think; they are overcome with the grief of His death. Gather together with them today. Meditate on what it felt like for them. We have the advantage, because we know that He conquers death and will rise up on the third day!

He is no ordinary man. He is worthy of our love, our worship, our devotion!

Never Alone!

“You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.” – 2 Timothy 3:15 NLT

This verse is true for me, but I know there are a lot of people who haven’t had that privilege. God makes sure we have access to His Word through so many sources, including other believers. I find comfort in the Word, because no matter what or who I am dealing with, God through Christ and the Holy Spirit are right here with me, helping me through whatever I’m dealing with. Learning to lean on Him takes so much weight off your back!!

I Was Blind

We are often like Mary, not able to see what is right in front of our faces. Essentially blind. She looked right at Jesus and didn’t recognize her Lord, the One whose company she had spent months in. How often we are like that! We claim to know the Lord, and yet we fail to recognize Him in our lives.

“But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” ” – JOHN 20:11‭-‬15 NASB

I am sorry to say that I am probably more like Thomas. Show me. I need to see to believe.

“But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” …… “Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” ” – JOHN 20:24‭-‬25‭, ‬29 NASB

Open your eyes! Jesus walks with us, and He talks with us; He is present. He is our present, and who doesn’t like presents? Here is the hymn “In The Garden” – written in 1913 by C. Austin Miles – beautiful rendition based on John 20:14.

I come to the garden alone,

While the dew is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.

Refrain: And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing;
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

I’d stay in the garden with Him
Tho’ the night around me be falling;
But He bids me go; thro’ the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling.