A Happy and Blessed Resurrection Sunday!

Sharing today from Got Questions?

Question: “Where does the saying ‘He is risen; He is risen, indeed’ come from?”

Answer: A traditional Easter greeting in the Western church is the exclamation “He is risen!” and the traditional response is “He is risen, indeed!” The words are sometimes accompanied by the exchange of three kisses on alternate cheeks, depending on the church. In the Orthodox and Catholic churches, the greeting is called the “Paschal greeting” and is a very old custom.

The greeting is ultimately based on Luke 24:34. Translations throughout church history, from the Latin Vulgate (c. AD 400) to the ESV (2001) have translated this verse nearly identically: “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” (ESV). Exactly how the saying became a standard greeting in the church is not known, although there are various theories regarding how it came into common usage.

We do know that, at first, the greeting was more common in Eastern and Byzantine liturgies than in the Western church. There is a tradition in the Eastern Orthodox Church that the saying was made popular by Mary Magdalene when she supposedly addressed Emperor Tiberius in Rome with the words “Christ is risen.”

Using this address should be more than an empty tradition. The words “He is risen!” remind us of the joyous news we celebrate at Easter, that Jesus’ death was not in vain, and that He has the power to overcome death. Saying “He is risen!” allows us to share this incredible truth with each other. The resurrection of Christ gives us hope for salvation and for our own resurrection and eternal life.

So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem,
and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying,
“The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”
—Luke 24:33-34

Beloved, Jesus IS our Resurrection HOPE!!! He rose from the dead so that those who trust in His saving grace can enjoy life everlasting in heaven with Him. Hallelujah!

The following song “Christ Our Hope in Life and Death” by Getty Music attests to the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. He deserves every bit of our thankfulness, praise and worship. Yes, and all glory should go to Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding His blood for us.

If you cannot view the video for whatever reason, go here to read the beautiful lyrics (scroll down the page a bit).

The Seven Last Words of Jesus Christ

One of my favorite blogs is Got Questions? Their site has a wealth of good Biblical information, and under the “Ask a Question” tab, you can write out your question for them to answer.

Recently I came across this post that answered the question: “What were the seven last words of Jesus Christ on the cross and what do they mean?

Answer: The seven statements that Jesus Christ made on the cross were (not in any particular order):

(1) Matthew 27:46 tells us that about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Here, Jesus was expressing His feelings of abandonment as God placed the sins of the world on Him – and because of that, God had to “turn away” from Jesus. As Jesus was feeling that weight of sin, He was experiencing a separation from God for the only time in all of eternity. This was also a fulfillment of the prophetic statement in Psalm 22:1.

(2) “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Those who crucified Jesus were not aware of the full scope of what they were doing because they did not recognize Him as the Messiah. While their ignorance of divine truth did not mean they deserved forgiveness, Christ’s prayer in the midst of their mocking Him is an expression of the limitless compassion of divine grace.

(3) “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). In this passage, Jesus is assuring one of the criminals on the cross that when he died, he would be with Jesus in heaven. This was granted because even at the hour of his death, the criminal had expressed his faith in Jesus, recognizing Him for who He was (Luke 23:42).

Read the rest here

The Wonderful #Cross

Have you ever wondered why the day Jesus Christ died such a horrible death is called GOOD Friday? Doesn’t it seem as if it should be the blackest day in history? What can possibly be GOOD about it?

Beloved, Jesus willingly allowed Himself to undergo the horrendous, torturous beatings and then be put to death so that we might live with Him for eternity! This is why it is commemorated as a GOOD day. We are all born as sinners and there is no way we can get to heaven apart from the saving grace and mercy of Jesus Christ’s death on that cross at Calvary. That one death paid the price for us to have the opportunity to be in heaven with Him when we die. 

Yes, we should mourn the death of Jesus Christ because He endured so much on our behalf. But even more, we should celebrate this day as the beginning of mankind’s chance to share in the intimate fellowship with Jesus forever! 

This is our HOPE!

Please enjoy “The Wonderful Cross” by  Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman. Remember and be JOYFUL that Jesus paid it all!

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
—Isaiah 53:5

If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.

Nix Xmas

Nix Xmas

By Pat Knight

It is nearly time to celebrate the holy day of Christmas. Or is it written Xmas? The cross, symbolic of Christ and His resurrection and the first letter of the word Christos or Christ, were expressed with an X in the Greek alphabet. Though some Greek symbols are retained in formal worship services today, the letter X no longer represents Christ Jesus exclusively.

According to tradition, the word Xmas has been in use for several centuries to signify Christmas. It is understandable that the letter representing Christ (X) and the shortened version of celebration (mas) were combined to form Xmas. While those familiar with Greek may fully recognize the reverence attached to Xmas, for most of the populace Xmas is merely a shortened version of Christmas. In our contemporary culture X is used to represent an unknown quantity, a flexible and functional symbol of the English alphabet that is used to emphasize or to cross out writings.

Christmas is a holy day proclaiming the incarnation of the Son of God on earth, the same Deity present with the heavenly Father at the creation of the world and throughout history. Apart from the Greek origin, if we remove Christ from Christmas, Xmas is the result, a generic, unadorned word. In our zeal to shorten every word possible, we have dishonored Christ’s birthday.

The original Christmas was a splendid event. On a still night outside the hills of Bethlehem, shepherds were huddled in the sheepfold, cloaks wrapped tightly against the cold, when suddenly thousands of tiny lights pierced the ebony sky. At that moment an angel emerged with the glory of the Lord shining in his presence. What a spectacular, paralyzing event!

The angel announced, “‘Do not be afraid, I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you; You will find a baby wrapped in cloth and lying in a manger’” (Luke 2:10-11). Before the shepherds could focus, “suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests’” (vv. 13- 14). What a stunning, stupefying event for the shepherds, whose occasional excitement involved confronting a wild animal predator. The shepherds had been singled out of all creation to receive the announcement of the Savior’s birth. When the angels left, the shepherds conferred, “‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about’” (v. 15).

What pure excitement filled the hearts of the shepherds; thrilling, unprecedented heavenly exhilaration, an adrenaline rush felt by those in the presence of the angels! Although prophecy of the advent of the Messiah had been verbally communicated for centuries, no one was apprised of the time or location of his appearance. A baby King born in an animal shelter seemed incomprehensible. Yet, the angels were very convincing, typically appearing on earth only at extremely important times.

The shepherds expectantly walked to Bethlehem. They were not disappointed. “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen Him they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. The shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told (vv.16-18, 20).

Because they believed the angels’ message and acted on their information, the shepherds were granted exclusive rights to participate in the hallowed excitement at Jesus’ birth. The day was eventually named Christmas to represent Jesus’ incarnation, commencing His thirty-three year journey on earth, with the cross His ultimate goal.

Has our world advanced intellectually in two thousand years? The momentous date of Christ’s birth is now dubbed Xmas and the majority of people celebrate by honoring an impersonal, rotund Santa Claus clad in a fuzzy red suit. Twinkle lights and ornaments adorn a fir tree with wrapped presents beneath. For many, the story of Christ’s birth remains just another fairy tale spelled Xmas; an excuse for exchanging gifts.

Devoted, loving children of God celebrate the fullness of Christ’s birth: love come to earth, promises of a Messiah kept, and the beginning of the road to Calvary, where Jesus was cruelly sacrificed for the accumulation of our sins.

I have often wondered if there is economy of motion in writing Xmas as opposed to Christmas. Otherwise, if time value weren’t involved, why would we insist upon shortening the word Christmas? As I experimented writing the two words, I expended no less motion writing an X. By substituting an X for Christ’s name, we have depersonalized Christmas, like so many secular ornaments replacing the true characters of the nativity.

The word Christmas is not found in the Bible, but it is the name that has been passed down through the ages to commemorate the birth of Christ. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Though traditions change, though we may substitute Christ’s name with an X, Christ our Lord has remained immutable throughout the ages.

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority” (Colossians 2:8-10). At Christmastime and always, let us worship Jesus with the glory and majesty due His name. 

There is no greater love or grace available than for those who belong to Christ Jesus our Lord. As heirs with Him in God’s kingdom, let us assess our actions to magnify or to discredit His name. Join me this Christmas in eliminating the “X factor.” Our Messiah will be pleased. Join with the angels in proclaiming Christ as Lord. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

The Artist’s Palette

The Artist’s Palette

By Pat Knight

Quickly they flutter to earth like thousands of brightly colored confetti pieces. They crunch when we walk, rustle in the wind, and swirl around our feet. Autumn leaves in New England are delightful. The bright reds and oranges, the most brilliant of all, are products of the sugar maple trees. Birches add yellow, while the reddish-brown leaves fall from stalwart oak trees. All of them in an assorted mixture form breathtaking landscapes.

While the leaves remain attached to the branches, iridescent splendor shines a blaze of autumn hues in the sunlight. En masse the foliage creates a surge of brilliant color, while individually the leaves resemble startling tongues of fire. As the leaves dry and float to the ground, they are scattered by autumn breezes. They flail against vertical surfaces, congregate in heaps, and dance in circles, spinning into a mini-twister before collapsing into an exhausted pile. Such provocative scenes awaken the senses during the dramatic transformation into the fall season.

Change may be comforting or threatening depending on circumstances and individual interpretation. When the cool, crisp days and nights of autumn burst on the scene following the suffocating heat of summer, it offers great relief. In that case, transformation is appealing. The phenomena of changing temperature and magnificent foliage is an anticipated ushering in of the fall season of the year. In the Northeast, we experience four distinct seasons. We are accustomed to change. No season lasts longer than a few months before the next one is introduced. It is the variety of seasons that entices many to live in northern states.

Though variation is interesting and often necessary, there are some things we expect to remain constant or immovable. God’s love and sovereignty are steadfast and reliable. “‘I am the Lord. I do not change’” (Malachi 3:6). When God establishes a covenant with man, He always keeps His promise. God cannot transmute His character. He is pure, holy, divine, and powerful.

Though neither God nor His promises vary, He has masterminded the change of seasons. He could have created a colorless transition, but God chose to splash His beautiful palette throughout the earth. Consider His splendor in sunsets, rainbows, rock sculptures, spraying sea mist, purple mountains capped with snow. God has authored natural beauty. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). Our Lord remains constant, complete, and fulfilled. His character is dependable.

When God commanded Moses to lead the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt, Moses wanted to know whom he should tell his people had sent him on the mission. God’s reply was quick and sure. “‘I AM who I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14). God has always existed and always will. He declares, “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.’” (Revelation 22:13). In order for God to create the world and everything in it, He existed before the world.

For centuries God promised the Israelites a Savior. When Isaiah 53 was written in approximately 700 BC, the Man of Calvary was described in detail. The people expected their king to reign with power and conquer their enemies in his kingdom on earth. Few believed that the baby born in Bethlehem was the prophesied Messiah. God had kept His Word. His Son brought God’s promised love and saving grace to the world. He preached a personal, innovative Gospel that enraged the legalistic religious leaders. When Jesus professed to be the Son of God, the temple worshippers were infuriated by His claim. They “took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw Him off the cliff. But, He walked right through the crowd and went on His way” (Luke 4:29).

Denials and persecution of Jesus didn’t change His sovereign status; He remained Lord. Repudiating God’s deity will never alter the fact that He existed before the beginning of time. God is constant, stable, unswerving, and steadfast. In spite of individual disbelief, one day every person shall confess His Lordship. “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).

Throughout Scripture, God affirmed His Son’s authenticity and authority. “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the Head over every power and authority” (Colossians 2:9). Jesus is our secure, unmovable, unchanging Lord and Savior.

God is an artist, painting both softly muted and brightly sparkling scenery. Daily He changes the pigments on His canvas. Though God makes sweeping modifications of landscape, His character is unchangeable.

“But you, Lord, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations. You remain the same and your years will never end” (Psalm 102:12, 27). We invest our lives in a God who is forever the same, who keeps His promises, and who desires to live with us forever. “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:2). He is eternal. Because He lives forever, He offers us an identical future. “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23b).

With each new day I am more sensitized to my surroundings, attributing their magnificence to God, the creator, artist, and pigment-maker. Encompassed with such visual luxury, I am going to allot more time to appreciate the changing beauty apparent in each new day, confident that Almighty God will never change.

The Hope of the Empty Tomb

Christ’s Resurrection: Our Hope

by Franklin Graham

On the Saturday after Jesus was crucified, His followers must have felt utterly defeated. Meanwhile, the Pharisees felt they had silenced a critic, the Romans felt they had quashed a rebellion, and the governor had washed his hands of the whole affair.

Then Sunday morning dawned, the gravestone was rolled away, and history was turned inside out. The news—Jesus is alive!—was almost too good to be true. Yet it was undeniably true. So true that His disciples dedicated the rest of their lives to telling the whole world the Good News about Jesus Christ.

On the cross, He died for our sins.

In the tomb, He defeated death.

Nowhere else in this sin-sick world can we find such everlasting hope.

Modern medicine is wonderful—almost miraculous sometimes—but doctors will never defeat death. Now, some of us may live to be a hundred or more. … Every day we have on this earth is a gift from God, but ultimately everyone has to be prepared to face death and judgment. Through the triumph of the cross and resurrection, Jesus has already dealt with both of those.

“When you were dead in your sins… God made you alive with Christ” (Colossians 2:13).

Where is your HOPE?

Prayer: Lord, this week, we remember that because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we no longer have to fear death and the grave. Help us to clearly tell others how they, too, can come to You through Jesus’ sacrifice. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Scripture quotation is taken by permission from The Holy Bible, New International Version, copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. From Franklin Graham: “Decision” magazine, April 2011, ©2011 BGEA.

[From “Decision” magazine e-devotional]

Happy Valentine’s Day 2018

Welcome to my annual Valentine’s Day post that I believe is so appropriate
for a day that’s all about love. 

The other day I got to thinking about Valentine’s Day and how it’s supposed to be all about love. 1 John 4:19 immediately came to mind, and I knew this was to be my message about  love … God’s immense love … for us.

1John4-19-CrossEqualsLove--AMP

The Dimensions of God’s Love

We love because he first loved us. —1 John 4:19

We have all been told how much God loves us. That fact is unquestionable, especially as we look around and see the evidence of His love in all of His creation. God’s love for us can be described as multi-dimensional, so let’s look at the different ways God loves us—the Breadth, Depth, Height and Length of His love—by examining the universe He created.

Breadth

When a man and a woman get married, they usually exchange wedding bands. If you look closely at a wedding band, you cannot see where it begins or where it ends. This circle of metal is therefore used as a symbol of unending love between husband and wife. In the same way, a circle represents eternity.

That is how I think of God’s all-encompassing love for us. I visualize the circle that His arms form to surround the earth. This thought both amazes and comforts me. I am amazed because it shows how big God is. I can’t imagine any human who can hug the whole world. I am also comforted because I enjoy being hugged. But the true illustration of the breadth of God’s love is found in Scripture: But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), —Ephesians 2:4-5

God loved us “even when we were dead in trespasses.” What a truly astonishing thing!

Eternity is a difficult concept for us to understand, but God has it all under control. He loves us so much that He can’t stand the thought of being apart from us, so He has provided us with a way to spend eternity with Him:

John3-16-Calvary--AMP

For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.
—John 3:16

The breadth of God’s love for us is that huge. He made sure that we have a way to be with Him forever—in other words, for eternity. Trying to figure out what eternity could be like is the same as trying to count all the stars in the sky. It is impossible!

I like to imagine what it will be like to spend the rest of eternity with God, but I’m sure my limited picture of heaven falls far short of the truth. All I know for sure is that: But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. —John 1:12-13

Depth

The Grand Canyon ranges in height from 9,000 feet at the North Rim all the way down to 2,400 feet at the Colorado River. Those of us here in the Southwest know that there are no easy ways to get to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. In fact, portions of the Colorado River are barely visible from above because of the depth of the canyon. Now that’s what I call deep, but it is still measurable.

We read in Romans 5:8 that …God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The love God has for us is so deep that it is immeasurable. It is impossible for me to imagine something that cannot be measured. Everything that surrounds us can somehow be measured, whether by weight or volume. But not God’s love. It is bottomless and keeps going on and on to infinity. Even though we don’t deserve any of it, He loves us that much anyway.

We hear a lot these days about “unconditional love.” The truth is that the only true, unconditional love we will ever receive is from God, Who loves us with a pure love found nowhere else. How better to explain God’s love for us in spite of all our sins and shortcomings? The fact that God loves me in spite of myself is the ultimate proof of the depth of His love.

Height

Have you read about those who have succeeded in climbing Mount Everest? This 29,035-foot mountain range is the highest in the world and the most difficult to climb. There are many people who attempt this climb more than once in the hopes of finally being able to complete the challenge of making it to the summit.

I cannot imagine being at a point 29,035 feet above sea level. That is so high that one’s breathing becomes quite labored and therefore requires extra oxygen. But that is still not as high as the heavens. In Ephesians, Paul gives us a taste of what it will be like when we’re in heaven: and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,. —Ephesians 2:6

There is no way we cn ever understand the height of such “heavenly realms.”

I love knowing that those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord will be up in heaven with God forever, seated with Him and serving Him in all His honor and glory. Even though we’ll be higher than we’ve ever been, we will not suffer the usual effects of high altitude such as headaches, nosebleeds or labored breathing. God has made sure of that. I believe that heaven will be the most comfortable place ever!

If then you were raised with Christ,
seek those things which are above,
where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on things above,
not on things on the earth.
For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
—Colossians 3:1-3

Length

It is estimated that right now the universe is at least 46 billion light years in radius. My puny human mind cannot comprehend such a measurement. Look up at the billions of stars in the night sky and then try to understand the lengths to which God will go for us. He could have designed just an adequate place for us to live, but did He? No. He chose to give us a wonderful universe filled with beautiful planets and stars. It stretches on and on, just like His immense love for us.

The daytime sky and the night sky are the same, yet very different. During the day we cannot see the stars because of the light of the sun. At night, the stars and moon illuminate the dark sky. When we are in heaven, things will be greatly changed.

Rev22-5-SunshineAboveTheClouds--AMP

There shall be no night there:
They need no lamp nor light of the sun
for the Lord God gives them light.
And they shall reign forever and ever.
—Revelation 22:5

No more night? Really? What will that be like? And imagine not needing a lamp to read a book.

Being part of such an exciting eternity with God requires only this:

  • recognize that we are sinners and be truly sorry for our sins
  • believe in Jesus Christ as God’s Son and our Savior
  • acknowledge that He died on the cross at Calvary and that His death paid the penalty for our sins
  • and trust that He rose from the dead on our behalf so that we might live forever with Him—and all because of the length of God’s love for us.

Paul related this aspect to Timothy:

However, for this reason I obtained mercy,
that in me first Jesus Christ might show
all longsuffering, as a pattern to those
who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.
—1 Timothy 1:16

The definition of longsuffering is: suffering for a long time without complaining ; very patient during difficult times. I need this reminder because even though I so often lose patience with the things and people in my life—and with myself—God never loses patience with me. His longsuffering patience is eternal!

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible,
the only God,
be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
—1 Timothy 1:17

Beloved, on yet another Valentine’s Day I am so glad we have a God Who shows His awesome and immense love for us in so many ways, in spite of our sinful selves!

Joy to the World, the Lord Has Come

Joy to the world, the Lord has come,
let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room

And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing

Joy to the world! the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ!
While fields and floods
Rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make
His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found


Songwriters: G. F Handel, Isaac Watts 
Published by Lyrics © HAL LEONARD CORPORATION

My Shelter

Ps73-SovereignLord-Pier--AMP

My health may fail, and my spirit grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
He is mine forever.
But as for me, how good it is to be near God!
I have made the Sovereign LORD my shelter,
and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things You do. 
—Psalm 73:22-26, 28

Sunday Praise and Worship: Psalm 150

Sometimes it is good to keep our praise and worship simple. So today let’s worship our Lord by praising Him as David did with Psalm 150:

Psalm 150

Praise the Lord!

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heaven!
Praise him for his mighty works;
    praise his unequaled greatness!
Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn;
    praise him with the lyre and harp!
Praise him with the tambourine and dancing;
    praise him with strings and flutes!
Praise him with a clash of cymbals;
    praise him with loud clanging cymbals.
Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!

Praise the Lord!


New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Publishers Inc.