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.

I Stand In Awe

Our pastor talked about prophecies in the Bible last Sunday, and how many of them are about JESUS, MESSIAH. Even though the writers didn’t know the who, they knew the when and how, because GOD was directing their pens. It is fascinating to read the prophecies and to see how they have been fulfilled throughout history. Take Habakkuk, for instance. He identifies himself as a prophet, and it is generally acknowledged that he wrote this in the mid-to-late seventh century BC, shortly before the Babylonians captured Jerusalem in 586 BC. He couldn’t know what would happen in the 20th and 21st centuries, yet his words still apply to our world today.

“Why do You make me see iniquity, And cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; Strife exists and contention arises. Therefore the law is ignored And justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore justice comes out perverted. Will they therefore empty their net And continually slay nations without sparing?” – Habakkuk 1:3‭-‬4‭, ‬17 NASB

“Then the LORD replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” – Habakkuk 2:2‭-‬3 NIV

Habakkuk saw wickedness, destruction, violence, strife and contention, laws being broken and the courts subverting justice; he saw that wickedness was overcoming his people. Where was his GOD? Why was He allowing all of this to happen? When would the ALMIGHTY GOD redeem them? These are valid questions; questions I have asked myself, and ones I have heard others asking. Why, GOD? Honestly, to really know the answers, I believe we won’t know until we are face-to-face with our LORD. It will all make sense, then. Meanwhile…….

The LORD has seen fit to equip His Prophets with the visions and revelations that He revealed to them to be recorded in His Word, the book we call the BIBLE. I love this anagram of the word:

B – Basic

I – Instructions

B– Before

L – Leaving

E – Earth

We have the complete set of Instructions, written just for us in our time. Let us be like the Prophet Habakkuk, and lean on the foreknowledge that our LORD has seen fit to provide us. Rather than spending our time standing and questioning the things/circumstances we are in, perhaps we would be better known for our thankfulness that we are alive, that we know Him as our LORD, JESUS CHRIST. Thank You, GOD, for Your Forgiveness, Your Mercy, and Your Grace!

“LORD, I have heard of Your Fame; I stand in awe of Your Deeds, LORD. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in Wrath remember Mercy.” – Habakkuk 3:2 NIV

Listen to “I’m A Survivor” by Zach Williams. ( https://www.zachwilliamsmusic.com )

(Image from https://www.everydayknow.com )

Once-And-Done; All-Or-Nothing

When you hear “Sermon on the Mount,” I imagine your mind goes right to the Beatitudes:

Blessed are the poor in spirit ….. Blessed are those who mourn ….. Blessed are the meek ….. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness ….. Blessed are the merciful ….. Blessed are the pure in heart ….. Blessed are the peacemakers ….. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness ….. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Matthew 5:3‭-‬12 NIV

My challenge is to go to verses 17-18:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” – Matthew 5:17‭-‬18 NIV

Does the LAW of Moses still stand, just as it did before JESUS came to earth to fulfill it? If it does, what does that mean to us today? Are we still bound by the old laws, the Ten Commandments and the regulations as given by Moses to the Israelites? I am not a Bible scholar, by any stretch, so I rely heavily on the knowledge and information I can glean and learn from others. In my study today, I found some great information in a post written by Pastor Jim McClarty titled “Jot and Tittle.” For a more indepth study, go to Grace Christian Assembly.org.

I think Pastor McClarty clarifies this point quite well.

The New Testament tells us that attempting to seek justification before God by keeping any part of the law automatically makes us responsible to keep the entire law (Gal. 5:3, 3:10, James 2:10). You cannot pick and choose. You will either stand before God and be judged by the law, or you will be established in the righteousness that comes by faith (Rom. 3:22, Gal. 5:5). But, you cannot mix and match.

In other words, if you want God to accept you on the basis of your actions – like tithing, Sabbath-keeping, etc. – then you had also better be killing animals every time you sin. That’s the law. And, it’s an all-or-nothing proposition.

Whenever JESUS refers to “the Law and the prophets,” He isn’t just saying “the LAW.” The phrasing is critical here: “The LAW and the prophets” was His reference to what we now know as the Old Testament; the only “Testament” available at the time. JESUS CHRIST is the fulfillment of “the Law and the prophets.” When JESUS spoke the words in verse 18, everything had not yet been accomplished because His Blood had not yet been shed; He had not yet been hung on the cross and killed as the ultimate and final sacrifice for our sins. Only after He was raised from the dead and had ascended into Heaven to rejoin the FATHER was the everything of “the law and the prophets” fulfilled. If we believe that we must live a certain way, or follow the old laws, then aren’t we negating His very sacrifice and death? When we insist that we must submit to some kind of man-required penance or that we justify our salvation through our works, aren’t we saying that His sacrifice wasn’t enough?

As Christians, when we accept CHRIST as our LORD and SAVIOUR, we are not bound by the Law of Moses but we are bound by the Words of JESUS.

And [JESUS] said to him, “You shall love the LORD your GOD with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the Great and First Commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22:37‭-‬40 ESV

Here’s the distinction: Under the Law of Moses, you are expected to keep every Jot and Tittle [the smallest letter, the least stroke of a pen] of the Law, including the sacrifice of animals in order to cover your sins with their blood. It’s an ongoing proposition, requiring constant supervision and intervention by the priests in the Temple. Under the NEW Law, the Law of JESUS CHRIST as LORD, His death on the cross is a once-and-done deal! Under Him, we are freed from the burdens of constant guilt and worry, and here’s the best part: even though we aren’t held to the strictures of the Law and the prophets, Moses’ Law, when we truly submit to the LOVE of our LORD, it becomes our desire to please Him by keeping HIS Commandments: First, to Love the LORD our GOD with all of our heart, soul, an mind, and second, to love our neighbor as ourself.

Where do you stand? Freed under CHRIST, or captive to the Law of Moses?

I am FREE, Once-And-Done; All-Or-Nothing – HALLELUJAH and AMEN!