March 31, 2017

Scripture: 18 I trust in you for salvation, O Lord! [Genesis 49:18 NLT]
Have you ever been stranded? Some of us have had the experience of a car breaking down as we are traveling. Perhaps you have been left behind when a group you were with headed off and didn’t realize you weren’t with them. When I was a teenager I was stranded in the middle of a lake on a capsized catamaran. My uncle took me out on the lake to do some sailing. I was completely inexperienced and was relying on his expertise. He had done quite a bit of sailing and I truly was in good hands. When we set out on our voyage it was a very windy day. We were having all kinds of fun going back and forth across the lake. On a catamaran the sail catches the wind and often times you end up speeding across the water with one hull in the water and the other in the air. It was an amazing time out on the water.
We were having a lot of fun until something changed. On the last full run we were racing along the water with the sail billowed by a huge wind. Then a gust came across the lake and too much wind entered the sail. The sail caught too much wind and the catamaran capsized. This isn’t uncommon for the size catamaran we were on. Ultimately, you work to pull the catamaran over and right it in the water. However, this time it took a long time to right the boat. When we finally got it flipped over, the wind had completely died. We were on the complete other side of the lake and we had no wind to get back. We also had no paddles. We were stranded. We jumped in the lake and started pushing the catamaran VERY slowly through the water.
It seemed like we had pushed that boat forever when something amazing happened. Seemingly out of nowhere, a boat showed up. The operator of the boat offered to tow us home. In essence he saved us. Not from certain death, or even hypothermia, he saved us from a much longer swim of shame. He saved us from being stranded. He was our salvation from poor planning.
Our Scripture verse for today is the first time that the word salvation appears in the bible. It is Jacob’s declaration to his sons concerning their future and his. Jacob tells his sons, “I trust in you for salvation, O Lord!” Jacob, the father of Joseph, trusts the Lord for his salvation. If you remember the story, Joseph was Jacob’s favored son whom he had given a coat of many colors. Joseph’s brothers despised him for this and sold him into slavery, telling their father he had been killed. Jacob lost his beloved son and truly was never the same. At his death bed he is able to say he trusts the Lord for salvation because he saw how God used Joseph to not only save him, but a whole nation from death from a famine. God was faithful to save him from death in order to see his son again and live to an old, old age.
How much more does it mean for us to trust the Lord for our salvation. Jacob did not know the full story yet. God would send His only Son to be the Savior of ALL humanity. God used Joseph to save a nation … He used Jesus to save all creation. Today spend some time meditating on what salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ has done for you. How has trusting the Lord for your salvation changed your life? What are you doing to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling? What will you do today to make the salvation Jesus gave you known to the people in your life?  
Prayer: Saving God, you gave your only Son for me so that I would know your salvation. Empower me through your Holy Spirit dwelling within me to make your salvation known. Keep my heart, mind, eyes, and ears open to the opportunities you give me today to share your love. May you be honored and glorified through my life. Amen.

March 30, 2017

Scripture: 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. [John 3:17 NLT]
I was a senior in high school and trying to express my independence. I was working at Publix and usually worked the closing shift. This meant that I usually left work between 10:30 and 11 p.m. On one particular evening I was leaving work at 11 p.m. and a friend had invited me to come over to a party they were having at their house. On my way home I swung by to see if people were still there and they were. I stopped at the party and may have lost track of time. When I looked down at my watch it was 2:45 a.m. I excused myself in a hurry and began to rush home. I knew my parents were going to be upset. I got home and quietly let myself in the front door. I carefully made my way to my parents' room to get the dog (this was my parents' way of knowing when I came home). As I brought the dog out of their room I thought I might be in the clear. Then I heard my dad’s voice, his deep stern voice, say, “Timothy! What time is it?” I very sheepishly answered, “3 a.m.” My dad replied, “We will talk about this in the morning!”
I didn’t get any sleep the rest of the night. I could only think of all the ways my dad could choose to punish me. I could lose my car, I could be grounded, I could have to do all the work around the house, and the list seemed full of endless possibilities. I was literally a condemned man. There was no way I could see my way out of this one. The only thing I could do was lay awake trying to figure something out. A while later I could hear my parents getting up and ready for work. I wasn’t going out there, that’s for sure. Maybe the whole thing would go away. After a while someone came to the door of my room. It was my mom who wished me a good day at school. Phew! She obviously had not woken up at 3 a.m. Then my dad came to the door. I couldn’t even look at him. Then he said something I did not expect … “Good morning, Son. Have a good day at school.” He had gone back to sleep and did not even remember the exchange he had with me hours before. How awesome is that?
Our Scripture for today paints a picture of a group of people, the world, deserving of condemnation. Just like me as a senior, the world is deep in sin and has done wrong no matter how you slice it. We deserve condemnation. We deserve judgement. We certainly deserve the consequences of our actions. Yet, John 3:16 tells us that God, the Father, loves us so much (even while we are sinners) that God sent his one and only Son so we would not die because of our sin. John goes on in verse 17 to say that the purpose of Jesus was not to condemn us for our actions, but to save us from our actions. Despite the fact that we were condemned by our own sins, Jesus came to save us not condemn us. Jesus brings salvation not condemnation.
There may be some things in your life for which you still feel guilty or even condemned. Hear the good news today from the Apostle Paul, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Jesus did not come to condemn you, he came to save you. Today live like someone who is loved enough to be saved and as someone who is free from the power of sin and death. Live today in such a way that inspires others to know that this love and freedom is available to them. You can help lead them to experience God’s grace through a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Holy God, thank you for loving me so much. Thank you for saving me from my sin and its horrible consequences. Your gift of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ has saved me. Help me to live today as one who is saved. May your Holy Spirit have free reign to guide and direct me today. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

March 29, 2017

Scripture: 19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. 21 Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. 22 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23 And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself. [Ephesians 1:19-23 NLT]

A couple of years ago a group of pastors from The Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church went to a conference at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City. This is the church where Rev. Adam Hamilton is the Senior Pastor. I was one of the people leading the group to Kansas City and we had scheduled a time where we could meet for a little bit with Adam Hamilton. It was going to be a great opportunity to speak face-to-face with one of the more influential pastors in The United Methodist Church worldwide. As we gathered in the room for the meeting we all took our place and waited. As Adam Hamilton walked into the room and greeted everyone, he came up toward the front of the room and proceeded to sit in the chair right next to me. I was literally seated at the right hand of Adam Hamilton for the rest of the time we were with him.
While the experience I shared is not all that amazing. I have had fun over the years with a few of my colleagues about it. We joke that being seated at the right hand of Adam Hamilton brings to mind the imagery of today’s Scripture. Adam Hamilton is not God, he would be the first to correct anyone who said differently. I am by no means Jesus, I would never suggest this either. However, the imagery of a common local pastor being seated in a place so close to one of the most celebrated pastors in the United States does bring to mind what we believe about Jesus. In The Apostle’s Creed we say that we believe in Jesus Christ who is seated at the right hand of God the Father. This means that Jesus, God the Father’s only Sonour Lord, is seated in the position of authority and power. It is from this position that Jesus will come again to judge the living and the deadeveryone.
The right hand was the position of authority and power. To this day that imagery persists. We introduce someone who is second in command as the leader’s right-hand woman/man. Scripture tells us that all authority under heaven and on earth is given to Jesus the Son. Jesus uses this power to intercede on our behalf, to love and forgive, to guide, and to eventually judge. In turn, Jesus told his disciples that he was giving them authority to carry out the ministry he gave to them. The disciples were given power and authority by the one who sits in the place of divine power and authority. This power and authority extends to us then as modern day disciples of Jesus. We have the power and authority, given to us by Jesus, to continue Christ’s ministry in our life. In essence having a relationship with Jesus Christ, by grace through faith, means we are seated in the place of power and authority next to him. While sitting next to Adam Hamilton was fun … being seated next to Jesus is infinitely better.
Approach today with the knowledge that you are seated in a position of power and authority in Jesus’s kingdom. Christ has given you all the power and authority you will need to follow Him today. Live boldly today in the name of Jesus. Follow every leading of the Holy Spirit today knowing that you have the power and authority you need. Allow Jesus to use you in a very real and powerful way today to do kingdom work. You never know what conversation will help someone experience the love of Christ today. Be bold as one who is seated in the place of power and authority. Do this today and Jesus will be glorified through you.
Prayer: God of power and authority, I desire to live boldly for you today. Thank you for giving me everything I need to do so. Empower me to rely on the power and authority you have given me through your Son Jesus Christ. And may you receive all the honor, glory, and praise in the name of Jesus. Amen.

March 28, 2017

Scripture: 5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. 9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

[Philippians 2:5-11 NLT]
When I was in college a friend of mine got me into running. I had been attempting to jog and get in better shape in order to try out for the baseball team. I was never a very good runner and was having a difficult time. This friend of mine offered to run with me. She was a much better runner than I was. She could run faster and a lot farther than I could. Despite her superior running skills and experience, she was willing to come down to the level I was at in order to help me. She humbled herself and ran slower in order to make me stronger. My friend didn’t stay there though. Every time we ran she would push me to go faster and farther than the time before. Eventually, I was able to continually beat my previous best time and distance. I was continually getting better because of my friend's willingness to humble herself on my behalf.
The best part of my friend's encouragement was that she helped me to go farther than I had ever gone before. Before she started working with me I had only ever run one mile, a very slow mile. After several months of us running together, I was running three to four miles a day at a pretty respectable pace. Then it happened! I had been running about four days a week with my friend, but her schedule changed. I ended up running most days by myself. One day I decided, rather than the three or four miles I normally ran, I would go until I got tired. That day it was up to me to push myself and go farther than I had ever gone. In the words of Forrest Gump, “I just kept running.” When I finally got tired I had run a little over six miles, which might as well have been a marathon as far as I’m concerned. I had never run that far ever. Because of my friend’s willingness to be humble and help me, I was able to go even further than I ever had.
Our Scripture today is a story of even greater humility. Jesus was willing to humble himself on our behalf to save us from sin and death. Jesus was willing to go even further. Jesus, in the greatest act of humility and love ever, was willing to die on the cross for you and me. He who knew no sin became sin for you and me. Jesus did this for one reason alone. Jesus died for you and me so that our sins would be forgiven and so that we would be restored to a right relationship with God. Before Jesus Christ’s life, ministry, suffering, death, and resurrection we could only go so far in our relationship with God. Sin always got in the way. But because of Jesus’ act of selfless, humble love we can now go even further. Because of our Savior’s willingness to be humble and save us, we are able to go even further in our relationship with God.
Today thank God for the gift of his Son Jesus Christ. Praise Jesus for being a humble servant who gave himself for you. Today look around you and see who you can humble yourself for and serve. Who can you help go further in their understanding of who God is and how much God loves them? Be the example of a humble servant for at least one person today. Encourage them to go that one step further in faith. Who knows, you may even be the one who helps them receive the amazing gift of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. How amazing would that be? That would truly be helping them go even further.
Prayer: Almighty God, thank you for Christ’s willingness to humble himself for me. Through the power and guidance of yourHoly Spirit, help me to humble myself and help others today. I desire to help others grow closer to you. Amen. 

March 27, 2017

Scripture: 36 This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. [Acts 10:36 NLT]
I was at someone’s house not too long ago and there was a piece of furniture I really liked. I complimented the owner on it and told them I really liked it. Their response was, “That old thing? We’ve had that forever.” The reaction surprised me a little because they had grown accustomed to the piece being in their life forever. They, at one point in time, had really liked it or it would not be in their home. Over time it had all but disappeared to them. They probably walked past it several times a day and just ceased to notice it anymore. This got me thinking about how many things become invisible to us over time. How many things in our life do we think of as “That old thing?”
It seems inevitable that we will become interested, and almost infatuated, with whatever is new. The things in our life that we once thought were so great become passé. This is human nature in most areas of our life. That is why we need to be very intentional with the things that are most important to us. Our family should never become passé. Our marriage should never become passé. Can you imagine if someone complimented you concerning your spouse and your reply was, “That old thing?” I imagine that would not go over well at all. The one area we need to be most intentional about not allowing it to become passé, our faith.
I believe that our faith is one of the easiest areas of our life to neglect. I also believe that it is the most important area of our life, period. In our Scripture for today this is made evident in two ways: 1) The work of God in the life of his people is called the “Good News” and 2) Jesus is said to be Lord of all. The Good News of God giving his one and only Son to the world so that whoever would believe in him would not perish but have eternal life is the greatest news in all of history. This, the greatest of all news, should never be allowed to become passé. If the work of Jesus Christ in our own life is not the greatest thing that has ever happened to us, something is wrong with our faith. Our abiding relationship with Jesus Christ should be the foundation of everything we do. In every moment of every day we should intentionally strive to live in remembrance of God’s mighty acts in Jesus Christ. We should strive to offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving as a holy and living sacrifice, in the same way Christ sacrificed himself on our behalf.
We should also strive every day to live with Jesus as Lord of all of our life. There should be nothing in our life that is not under the Lordship of Christ. Today we should take stock of our life and look for any part of it that we are hanging onto. These are the areas where we need to surrender to Christ. If Christ is not the Lord of all, there will be competing loyalties. We must surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord of all. Get on your knees today and surrender your whole life to Jesus. Throughout your day continually surrender each moment to Jesus. Surrender the moments where someone upsets you. Surrender the moments where you get anxious. Surrender your need to be right. Jesus is Lord of all and we must surrender to his authority. There certainly is nothing passé about that!
Prayer: Lord of all creation, I praise you for the life you have given me. I surrender all of my life to you today. If there is any part of my life that I am holding onto, help me release it to you. May you be my only focus today and may my life bring honor and glory to you. Amen.

March 25, 2017

Scripture: I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he comes to set up his Kingdom: 2 Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. 3 For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will reject the truth and chase after myths. 5 But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you. [2 Timothy 4:1-5 NLT]
The fastest land animal in the world is the Cheetah, which has been clocked at speeds of over 60 mph. The fastest bird is the Peregrine Falcon, which has been clocked at 242 mph in the air. The fastest sea animal is the Sail Fish, which has been clocked at just over 68 mph. The fastest human being, claimed to be Usain Bolt of Jamaica, has been clocked at speeds of just over 23 mph. All of these animals, and one human, are incredibly fast or quick. I would never win a race against any of them. In fact, being quick is something I have never been accused of in my life. I remember the Presidential Fitness program in elementary school when we had to run the 50 yard dash. Almost all of my classmates were faster than me. When it came to my turn I looked like my tennis shoes were made from cement. Being quick is just something I have never been.
Maybe this is why I like the passage of Scripture we are reading today. It is one occasion where I can be called “quick.” Most of the more recent translations of 2 Timothy 4 verse 1 use the word “living.” The King James Version translates the word using the old English term “quick.” The Greek word that is being translated is a form of the word Zoe, which literally means life. So when you use the old English term “quick” to mean living …I  am quick, and so are you. Of course, what Paul is saying to Timothy is that Jesus is the judge of both the living and the dead. So no matter how quick you are here in this world, we all will meet Jesus one day.
Being quick, or living, for Jesus is the most important thing we will do with our life. There are plenty of things to live for like family, friends, finances, fun, our vision of the future, and many more. The only thing that matters in the end is living for Jesus. When Paul writes to Timothy he goes on to instruct him to preach the word of God persistently, to patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage the people he teaches. He writes that there will be a time when people won’t listen. They will follow false teaching and chase after teachers who will tell them easy teachings. Timothy is to keep focused on the fact that one day he will have to answer to Jesus Christ. Timothy should continue working on bringing others to Christ.
I believe that today is the day for you and me to be quick for Jesus Christ. We should tell others about the amazing grace of God available to them through a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Living for Jesus means we are persistently following after Him in every moment of our day. Today leverage your relationship with Jesus through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to encourage someone. We are called to help people see how deeply God loves them. Today is the day to be quick for Christ.
Prayer: Lord God Almighty, you have given me every breath I take and I am quick because of you. Today I long to be alive for you. Help me to live for you today in the name of Jesus. May others experience the life you have given me through the life I live before them. I pray that you will receive all honor, glory, and praise through my living. Amen.

March 24, 2017

Scripture: 39 “And we apostles are witnesses of all he did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him to life on the third day. Then God allowed him to appear, 41 not to the general public, but to us whom God had chosen in advance to be his witnesses. We were those who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all—the living and the dead. 43 He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.” [Acts 10:39-43 NLT]
There have been many famous television attorneys such as Perry Mason, Ben Matlock, and Ally McBeal. There have been fewer television judges. Two of my favorites were Judge Harry Stone of "Night Court" (think 1980s) and Judge Joseph Wapner of "The People’s Court" (also the 80s). Joseph Wapner passed away last month at the age of 97. On "The People’s Court" he was tasked with presiding over real, small claims court cases. He started this role after his retirement in 1979 as a Superior Court Judge in California. The show was interesting because it was the first of its kind. It was also interesting because Judge Wapner definitely was in charge of the courtroom. When people came into the courtroom they knew that he was in charge and that he would make the final decision on their case. "The People’s Court" ran for 12 years and almost 2,500 episodes. Joseph Wapner was the judge for all of that time.
Do you remember the story of another first judge in the Old Testament? The Book of Exodus chapter eighteen recounts how Moses had become a judge and counselor for the people of Israel. Whenever a complaint against each other arose the Israelites would come and seek Moses’s guidance. Jethro, Moses’s father-in-law, saw this and told Moses there was no way he could be the judge of all of Israel alone. Jethro suggested dividing the people and appointing others to help with the task of settling complaints. This is exactly what Moses did because of Jethro’s advice. He appointed capable men as judges over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten people. Moses realized he could not be the judge of all.
The New Testament reality is that God moved from the way things were with Moses to a new set up. Our New Testament reading for today bears witness to the fact that “Jesus Christ is ordained by God to be the judge of all – the living and the dead.” Jesus is the One that all of the prophets pointed to concerning the forgiveness of sins and the judgement for those who do not seek forgiveness. Jesus is the judge of all. Ironically, we tend to try and take this position away from Jesus. Usually we do this unwittingly. We judge other people’s actions as being wrong or less than acceptable. We also judge our own actions as being justifiable or at least acceptable. The problem with this type of thinking is that we are not the judge. Matthew 7:4-5 makes this very clear with an illustration of a speck, a log, and an eye. We are not to put ourselves in the position of judging. Jesus is the only judge of all.
Today make your goal to please Jesus with all of your life. The reality is that one day we will be face-to-face with Jesus. We will be asked to give an account of how we lived for Christ. Make today count!  The amazing part of Jesus being the judge of all is that we have a judge who knows us better than anyone and one that we know intimately as well. Live today for Jesus in everything you do. Then when that day does come you will have one day after another where you can truly answer Jesus saying, “I made every day count for you.” One last thing … we also have a judge who promises to be with us every moment as we strive to make each moment count. Jesus is judge of all, but a different kind of judge than any we have ever known.
Prayer: Holy God, thank you for sending Jesus to know me, love me, save me, and even judge me. I pray that I will make today count for Christ. I praise you that my judge goes with me today and knows me intimately. I also praise you that my judge allows me to know Him intimately. I am counting on Christ today as I know Christ is counting on me. Amen.

March 23, 2017

Scripture: 3 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. [Colossians 3:1-4 NLT]
When I was a kid I loved magicians. There was a guy who would come to my dad’s store and perform for the kids in the children’s department for special events. I would watch him intently to see if I could figure out how he was doing the magic. I would always get at least one of the magic tricks and believe I knew how he did it. Then after the show he would let us come up and see his props. Even after seeing the props close up I couldn’t really figure out what he had done. Whether it was pulling a rabbit out of a hat or a dove out of a metal tin … I couldn’t quite figure it out. Then one Christmas I received a magic set as a gift. I started working on learning the tricks and some of them were the same as the magician I had been watching. It wasn’t until I learned what was really going on that I could attempt to do the trick myself.
The above story taught me a valuable life lesson: there is a difference between reality and perception. I would perceive what I thought the magician was doing. In reality the magician was usually doing something else. There are a lot of things in life that are like that. We perceive certain things in life one way, but the reality is very different. One area I see this regularly is in premarital counseling. Sometimes a couple’s perception of what married life will be is very different from reality. Married life is wonderful and can be one of the most rewarding aspects of life. Marriage is also work. If a couple doesn’t know the reality of that before they get married they will soon find out. There is a difference between reality and perception.
The Apostle Paul learned this lesson as well. Initially, his perception of those who followed Jesus was that they were heretics and blasphemers. They were perverting the Old Testament laws and dishonoring God. It wasn’t until his Damascus Road experience that Paul saw the reality of Jesus. Jesus was the one who fulfilled the Old Testament law. Jesus was the one who brought real life to those who believed in Him. As we know, Paul’s life was changed when he realized the reality of what it meant to follow Jesus. This is why Paul wrote to the church at Colossae and told them that because Jesus Christ sits at God’s right hand their real life is hidden with Christ in God. One day Christ will come again and we will all be with Him for all of eternity. Until that day, Christ is the one who gives you your real life here and now. Your real life is hidden with Christ Jesus in God.
Take some time today to meditate on your life. Is Christ truly your real life? How has your relationship with Jesus Christ transformed your life? Because our real life is hidden with Christ in God, we are to live for Christ. Our reality, like Paul’s, is very different with Christ. What we experience here today is a glimpse of what we will experience with Christ for all eternity. Live into that reality today. Know that your real life is with Christ.
Prayer: Holy God, thank you for my real life in Jesus Christ, your Son, my Savior. Help me to see through the perception of life the world around wants me to see. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, and in the name of Jesus, empower me to see the real life you have given me today. Amen.

March 22, 2017

Scripture: 14 She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.” 16 “Mary!” Jesus said. She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”). 17 “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message. [John 20:14-18 NLT]
It has only happened to me a couple of times, but both times it was pretty embarrassing. I had been going about my normal day and routine without even noticing. Yet the very thing that was supposed to prevent this sort of thing from happening was the source of my embarrassment. How could it be that this item could turn on me in such a way? As I realized what had happened I was left to ponder all of these things in my heart. The embarrassment came when a Bounce dryer sheet was clinging to my clothes even after I had folded the clothes, put them away, and put them on for the day. The dryer sheet was clinging to me and I had no idea. Of course, once I found out I truly was left wondering how many people had seen it and not said anything.
Clinging to something usually shows affection for the object to which we are clinging. It means we do not want to let it go and we want to hang on to it tightly. A child clings to their blanket or favorite toy. A teenager clings to their cell phone. As adults we may cling to many things including our finances. Clinging to something means it is important to us. It denotes meaning that is drawn from the object of our affection. We don’t cling to things that are meaningless or unimportant. Instead we jettison them from our life and don’t give them another thought. When we cling to something we are making a statement of value.
In our Scripture for today we read of the encounter the risen Christ has with Mary. She goes to the grave site to mourn her friend. While there Jesus appears and asks her why she is crying and who she is looking for. Then Jesus calls her by her name and she recognizes him. John then records Jesus as saying, “Don’t cling to me.” Why does Jesus say this? I have come to believe that Mary probably either threw her arms around Jesus, or tried to. I can only imagine the relief and excitement she would have felt over seeing Jesus alive! Because he is the most important part of her life, she tries to cling to him. It’s a statement of value and she is trying to cling to her savior and friend.
Jesus tells her not to cling to him because he has not yet ascended. He is alive, but not yet where God the Father wants him to be. When he appears to his friends he reminds them of all they are called to do. He also reminds them that he will be going to be with the Father. This is important. Jesus wants us to cling to the resurrected, risen, and glorified Jesus. Jesus seated at the right hand of God the Father, He is ready to intercede on our behalf. We cling to the risen Jesus who interceded on our behalf.
Today you may face some hardship, difficulty, or temptation. This is the best time to cling to Jesus. The resurrected and risen Jesus would encourage you to “Cling to me.” You can place all of your trust, all of your cares, all of your worries, all of your doubts, all of your fear in the risen Savior. Cling to Jesus today and He will be there all the way. This is the message Christ offered his disciples in John 15 when he told them to abide in Him. A branch clings to the vine and intertwines itself to the vine. This closeness will sustain you today. Cling to Jesus.  
Prayer: Holy God, what a gift you have given us in Jesus Christ, your only Son. There is nothing else we would rather cling to than Christ. Help us to cling to Christ in the moments we are tempted to rely on ourselves. Empower us through your Holy Spirit to follow you and stay close to you. Amen.

March 21, 2017

Scripture: 39 “And we apostles are witnesses of all he did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him to life on the third day. Then God allowed him to appear, 41 not to the general public, but to us whom God had chosen in advance to be his witnesses. We were those who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all — the living and the dead. 43 He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.” [Acts 10:39-43 NLT]

There are those in society who pretty much believe what they see, hear, or read about in the news. There are others who question everything. Then there are those who look for and/or see conspiracies. Before I go any farther, conspiracies are a reality in some cases, but not in every case. I know a guy who has spent a lot of time and energy looking into various conspiracy theories throughout history. Because I know him I have learned that there are far more of these conspiracy theories than I ever thought possible. I have also learned that there are far more conspiracy theorists than I ever thought possible. Maybe there is a conspiracy behind conspiracy theories?

There is a link between conspiracy theories and the Bible. Usually, conspiracy theories happen because there is something that happens that people cannot immediately, or easily, explain. For instance, so many of the conspiracy theories behind President John F. Kennedy’s assassination try to explain away how one man could make two pretty accurate shots from a lousy position in such a short amount of time. The New Testament sparked a few conspiracy theories of its own as the authors wrote out the account of Jesus’s resurrection. You have to admit that at first take it is a pretty amazing claim that a controversial religious teacher was alive after being crucified, dead, and buried. It would be pretty difficult to explain that one away using the conventional knowledge of the day.

Some have conspired to say that Jesus fainted on the cross and wasn’t really dead, or the disciples stole his body, or that the disciples were hallucinating when they saw Jesus alive after his crucifixion. Whatever the conspiracy might be, believers in Jesus have rejected them and claimed the resurrection. The resurrection is the central defining doctrine and claim of the Christian faith. To explain it away would be to deny the truth of the Old Testament prophecy, eyewitness accounts, and the claims of Jesus himself. As author, pastor, and theologian Justo Gonzalez has written, “Without the resurrection there really isn’t much to Christianity.”

There is a simple phrase in The Book of Acts that helps us understand the truth of today’s Scripture. The phrase is only two words long. Luke writes that The Apostle Peter told the crowds about how Jesus had been put to death by crucifixion. Then we read the two simple words of Peter, “But God.” Peter tells them that Jesus had been put to death by human hands, BUT GOD raised him to life three days later! It’s hard to conspire against God! The reason I believe, and millions of Christians believe, is because of those two words. The darkness tried to overcome God’s plan of salvation in the light of Jesus. But God would not let that happen. God’s plan was to send his one and only Son into the world so that all who believe in Him would not perish but have eternal life. Death thought it had won, BUT GOD!

What will be your BUT GOD moment today? What has seemed to get the best of you and you are about to, or have, given up? These are the “but God” moments in our life. These are the times when things seem the darkest and we can’t see a way out, but God knows the way out and God’s light will never be overcome by the darkness. As dark as the grave was for Jesus the light of God’s loving plan of salvation was brighter. Keep your eyes and heart open to your BUT GOD moment today. Trust that the same God that raised Jesus from the dead can resurrect the broken parts of your life as well.

Prayer: God of resurrection hope, thank you for raising Jesus to life on the third day. Thank you for giving me new life by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. I know I don’t deserve your grace, but God! Empower me through your Holy Spirit and in the name of Jesus to help others to experience your grace today. Amen.

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