Hope is Alive

Hope is Alive

We call today “Good Friday” but over 2000 years ago it was anything but good.  The disciples of Jesus’ whole world had been turned upside down in one day. Confusion, womenatcrossDisbelief, Fear, Heartbreak and Shock were just a few of the emotions they were feeling. Rabbi, healer, miracle worker, they believed Jesus was The Messiah! The band of friends had just celebrated Passover together. It couldn’t possibly be real – it didn’t make sense – but they watched with their own eyes as the soldiers nailed Him to a cross like a vile criminal!

Some of the men and women, faithful followers of Jesus, gathered together trying to grasp the situation and others were in hiding. It was now the Sabbath and there was nothing they could do. How could everything go wrong in such a short time? He hadn’t done anything to deserve what happened. The disciples had put all their hope in Him and now it seemed gone.

While  Jesus hung on the cross He forgave the repentant thief, showing us that it is never to late to ask for forgiveness until our last breath.  On Passover HE provided the one and only perfect, holy and final sacrifice. His last cry  “It is finished” was not a cry of defeat but of victory.  The Temple curtain kept everyone and everything away from the holiness of God.  When the massive curtain tore in half it showed the access we now have to come before a Holy God through Jesus’s own blood sacrifice.

Jesus’ body had been quickly laid in a borrowed tomb just before Sabbath began. Early the next morning a few women gathered to go to the tomb and properly prepare His body for burial as was tradition.  They wondered how they would move the stone sealing the grave and if the soldiers would give them grief.  jesustombBut as they approached the burial site they were shocked to see the stone had already been rolled away….

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead…..                                          Matt 28:5-7

Jesus is alive! He soon after met with them, ate with them and explained the Scriptures about Himself. Christians around the world celebrate Easter because our hope is not based on earthly wishful thinking but assurance from God. Jesus’ sacrifice provides forgiveness and restoration in our relationship with The Father. His resurrection offers us power and victory for everyday.

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Tragedy can strike quickly and indiscriminately and it may seem hopeless. We are left reeling to try and make sense of the circumstances and figure out the next steps. That’s how the disciples felt on Good Friday.  Right now our daily lives are disrupted, loved ones are distanced and many people have died.  But Our Hope is Alive!

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

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.         Heb 4:15-16

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,      Heb 6:19

 

                           We are loved.  We have help. We have hope. We can have peace.

 

Because He Lives

God sent His Son, they called Him Jesus,

He came to love, heal and forgive

He lived and died to buy my pardon

An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.

Because He lives I can face tomorrow

Because He lives  all fear is gone

Because I know He holds the future,

And life is worth the living just because He lives!

Covid-19 and the Plagues of Egypt

Covid-19 and the Plagues of Egypt

During this Lenten season the much beloved movie, “The Ten Commandments”, staring Charlton Heston and Yul Brenner will be on television at least once.  I could not help but compare our current situation to the plagues that infected Egypt and our responses today.

Pharoah430 yrs. after Jacob and his family came to Egypt in good standing, a Pharaoh rose to power that did not know of Joseph or His God. God saw the oppression and cruelty the people faced and commissioned Moses to face off with Pharaoh. There was no way Pharaoh would let his slave labor force just walk away. So God sent a succession of plagues to annoy and exasperate all the Egyptians into letting the people go. The first two plagues affected everyone in the land. Can you imagine having frogs in your bed or to open your cereal cupboard and have frogs jump out?

The next seven plagues were sent to make a distinction between the Israelites and the Egyptian people. The last plague – the death of the first born – showed God’s ultimate Sovereignty over all life. Passover is a remembrance of His power, presence and the protection of His people.

The Egyptian gods were silent. They could not help, heal or protect from any of the plagues.  Pharaohs’ heart just became harder as he refused to believe and bow to the true God of Heaven and Earth. Out of grief, anger and frustration he finally ordered the Israelites to leave the country.moses part red sea But he later recanted and sent his army to chase the people to the edge of the Red Sea. (My favorite part in the movie)

 

 

The succession of plagues may have lasted up to a year. As soon as one plague got better God sent another. God’s people survived all of the plagues, took riches with them and walked through the Sea on dry land. But after all these incredible miracles we read that it didn’t take very long for them to start complaining.

I do not believe God sent Covid-19 as a punishment but does He have your attention? During this National crisis the gods of this world have been silenced. Our celebrity sports precautions hospitalare closed down, mega star musicians silenced, meeting places emptied and we are left with a lot of unknowns. Our God is not silent! His Word has a lot to say about trusting Him for today and the future. We are facing an unprecedented worldwide crisis. This virus and its global spread was a huge surprise to physicians and governments but is not a surprise to Him.

One of my favorite scripture passages tells us to be reasonable, focus our minds on the good and not negative media. We will experience true peace when we pray about our concerns and leave them with Him.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.    Phil 4:4-7 

 

Our friends and family are watching to see how we face this crisis.We can share that we are not alone and God is in control. Let us share the hope we have because of Easter- the ultimate love of God.

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.                                                                                                                                                     Isaiah 43:1-3 

No matter what restrictions may be put in place and the uncertainty of the future economy, our God is in control. Especially during Lent, let us thank God as we remember His faithfulness  recorded in The Bible for us. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.                                                                                                                                        Isaiah 26:3 

 

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Our Daily Bread is Not on a Menu

Our Daily Bread is Not on a Menu

Once in awhile my husband and I like to dress up and go out for a fancier dinner than table-3018151_1920our usual Mexican Cafe.  We go for the ambiance, white tablecloths and candlelight, expecting good food and good service.  The waiter comes out with a large menu to delight our palate…Oh so many choices! We sit and contemplate each section while picking and choosing what we want to fill our senses and satisfy our hunger.

Our Pastor mentioned in a sermon that we might be guilty of treating prayer that way.  I think I am sometimes.  Prayer becomes just a daily duty when we only ask for what we want and thank Him for what we have.  We treat God like a Heavenly Waiter.  We Thank Him for the food and great service while we leave our leftovers and dirty dishes behind for Him to clean up.

God is not a waiter, Santa or a magic genie just waiting to fulfill our wishes.  Prayer is direct communication with Our Heavenly Father, Our Creator – the One Who sent His only Son to die in our place! Since the very beginning of time God has longed to have a relationship with His Creation. Jesus gave His disciples a model for prayer that we can follow too.

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Our Father in heaven –  Our Heavenly Abba or Dad, unlike our earthly fathers  He is the One Who knows everything about us and promises to always be with us.  He is all powerful and can never fail.

Hallowed be your Name.  – Holy, praise and glory to, reverence and awe to, your Name above all Names.  We fail to worship Him for Who He is.

Your kingdom come – Are we building His Kingdom (sharing the gospel) and looking for His return?  It could be soon!

Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  –  Recognize that He reigns over Heaven and earth. It’s not what I want but trusting that He knows better than I do. He sees all our circumstances and is Sovereign and in control.

Give us this day our daily bread – He provides daily for our every need; food, clothing, shelter, friends, family and way beyond.  Make your own list of blessings not just wants.

and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors – Forgiveness is freeing and powerful. We do not deserve having Someone die in our place! We mess up every day.  But we also have to forgive others to have true peace in our hearts.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. – be mindful of the things that trip you up. Stay away from temptation and ask for that way to escape and overcome.                                                                Matt 6:9-13 (ESV)

 

Jesus taught a lot about prayer.   First we should make sure our thoughts and motives are pure when we pray and keep short accounts with God. He does encourage us to ask for our hearts desire because God longs to give His children good gifts. He hears us, sees us and knows our pain and every need and we can trust Him in all situations.

During this Lenten season let us be more mindful of how we pray. Let us not be complacent or so casual as to treat Him like our personal waiter. If we follow Jesus’ model we can pray powerful prayers that make a difference in our lives and those around us.

Praise God from Whom All blessings Flow

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Tagbah – To Walk Where Jesus Walked -part 6

Tagbah – To Walk Where Jesus Walked -part 6

Our trip to Israel was so amazing that I am still processing all we saw, learned and did.  A place called Tagbah is still the most meaningful for me.

Tagbah sits on the north-western shore of the Sea of Galilee at the foot of the Mount of the Beatitudes.  This was a favorite fishing spot for the men from nearby Capernaum.  There are several warm springs that enter the Lake here that attract numerous fish especially in winter.

Togbah

There were two churches built at Tagbah; one that comemmorates Jesus feeding the 5000 – The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes. This is built over a 4th century church where Byzantine tile work can still been on the floor under the altar. The second church  – The Church of Peter’s Primacy – is where Jesus made His third post-resurection appearance to the disciples.  Jesus had been crucified. All of the disciples hopes and dreams seemed gone so the men went back to what they knew best – fishing.

3 Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” “We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out IMG_2092in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.4 At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was.5 He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?” “No,” they replied.6 Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.7 Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore…….8  When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread. ….15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these? ” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.          John 21:1-17 (NLT)

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This church sits by the shore and the rock incorporated into its floor is believed to be the place Jesus served breakfast.  A communion table is set in a small garden nearby.  We stood on the shore listening to these scriptures and we were challenged to think of Peter’s restoration and what God may be saying to our own hearts. Three times Peter denied Jesus and three times he was asked, “Do you love ME?” – with the command to “feed MY sheep”.

Peter, the first called, the one to always speak up, the one to jump ahead, one of the three closest friends of Jesus, had really blown it. In fear he had denied our Lord not once but three times.  Jesus lovingly confronts and forgives him then restores and renews Peter’s mission. Friend, it does not matter where you come from or what you have done in the past. Jesus will confront us with our failures or selfishness so we can repent. There is nothing too big or bad that He cannot forgive. He loves you and has an incredible plan for your life. Search your heart and see if there is anything in the way of your relationship with Christ.  He’s still asking “do you love ME”?  then come follow Me……

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Jerusalem – To Walk Where Jesus Walked- part 5

Jerusalem – To Walk Where Jesus Walked- part 5

“Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world, and is considered holy to the three major Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. During its long history it has been destroyed at least twice, besieged 23 times, captured and recaptured 44 times, and attacked 52 times.”* Today Jerusalem’s status is the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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The gospels all give accounts of Jesus’ visits to Jerusalem but it would be impossible to tell the total amount of time there. We only have two accounts of Jesus’ childhood visits to Jerusalem and the Temple. During His first visit as an infant, His parents dedicated their first-born to the Lord.  It was then that the prophets Simeon and Anna proclaimed the child as Messiah, the redemption of Jerusalem, salvation and light to the Gentiles.

In Luke we also read of the boy Jesus lagging behind in the Temple after Passover and his parents departure.  After frantically looking for him, they found Him sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions.

But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”[     Luke 2:49 (NLT)

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The Cardo – marketplace

During the reign of Herod the Great the city underwent great architectural achievement. Herod tried to show off his wealth, wisdom and cultural prowess by “Romanizing” much of his kingdom.  He rebuilt the Temple, created an opulent palace for himself and homes for the elite. During Jesus’ visits much engineering and construction would have added to the excitement as well as congestion in the city.

Jesus’ last week was spent in Jerusalem with His disciples. They traveled there to celebrate Passover not knowing it would be their last feast with Him.

As he rode along, the crowds spread out their garments on the road ahead of him.37 When palm sundaythey reached the place where the road started down the Mount of Olives, all of his followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen.
38 “Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!” Luke 19:36-38      41 But as they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to weep.42 “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes.  Luke 19:41-42 (NLT)

Jesus’ last week was spent teaching in the Temple, sharing time with His disciples, and celebrating Passover. His huge welcome would be soon forgotten by mob mentality. He was betrayed, beaten, condemned, crucified and then buried in a borrowed tomb. But on the third day that tomb was empty! Jesus is alive! The grave could not keep Him, Death could not hold Him and as He promised He will return.

IMG_2352So many scriptures, so many visuals passed through my mind as I stood on the Mount of Olives facing the Temple.  This was the place where Jesus often came to pray. And it is believed that Messiah will return here to the New Temple and claim it for His own during His Millennial reign. (read Ezekiel 40-47 and Zechariah 14). So much history is here past, present and future!

The questions I ask myself and you dear Reader:

Do I love God’s Word, as much as Jesus did; to read, study and apply it to my daily life?

Do I appreciate the freedom I have to worship in a church building without persecution?

Do I fully understand the power and victory available to me because of Jesus’ triumph over sin and death?

Do I live each day fully as if it were my last?

And finally – am I ready for His return? What if it were today?

 

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Saturday – When Everything Was Wrong

Saturday – When Everything Was Wrong

The whole world had been turned upside down in one day. Confusion, Disbelief, Fear, Heartbreak, Shock… were just a few of the emotions the disciples were feeling. What had gone wrong?  Jesus was their friend. Rabbi, healer, miracle worker, they had believed He was Messiah! Some of the men and women, faithful followers of Jesus, gathered together while others were in hiding. It was the Sabbath and there was nothing they could do.

Friday sin was as black as could be. Jesus had been beaten, battered and nailed to a cross. The same crowd that had welcomed Him with praise now jeered, mocked and spit on Him. Jesus had done nothing to deserve this.

They had just celebrated Passover together! Jesus washed their feet and talked about being servants of one another. He talked about a “new Covenant” and His blood shed for jesus3crossesus…such odd sayings! He wanted us to pray together but we were so tired we fell asleep.  Judas betrayed our Lord! He was one of us, we trusted him, how could he? Peter wept bitterly because he watched Jesus as He was beaten and even denied knowing Him, just as Jesus had predicted. It couldn’t possibly be real – but they had watched with their own eyes as the soldiers nailed Him to a cross like a vile criminal! All their hopes and dreams in Jesus Messiah were destroyed. It was Saturday and everything was wrong.

Joseph, a righteous member of the Council, had taken Jesus’ body and laid it in his own womenattombtomb just before Sabbath began. Saturday was the blackest, saddest, most hopeless day.  Early the next morning a few women, who had loved Jesus dearly, gathered to go to the tomb and properly prepare His body for burial as was tradition.  There had been no time the night before and it was the least they could do. They wondered how they would move the stone sealing the grave and if the soldiers would give them grief.  But as they approached the burial site they were shocked to see the stone had already been rolled away….

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He is not here!

An angel up on the tombstone  – said He has risen just as He said                                                               Quickly now, go tell His disciples – that Jesus Christ is no longer dead! 

But then came Sunday!

We celebrate Easter because Jesus conquered sin and death, that is victory! He arose from the grave by HIS OWN ALMIGHTY POWER because HE IS LORD GOD!  Saturday was full of hopeless despair but instead we cry out with Joy-He is risen!  When the angels announced Jesus’ birth they announced “do not be afraid” and when Jesus met Mary at the tomb, He said, “do not be afraid”.

What does that mean for us my friends?  Jesus conquered the grave – if we have accepted Him as LORD and Savior – we have no fear of death. We’ve been given the promise of eternal life with Him. No matter what trials or circumstances we face – we can draw on His power knowing that nothing is impossible with God. When all seems hopeless – look to Jesus and He will turn your sorrow into Joy!

 

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Easter Song

Hear the bells ringing, they’re singing – that you can be born again!                                 

Hear the bells ringing they’re singing- Christ is risen from the dead!                                   

Joy to the world, He is risen, hallelujah – HALLELUJAH!

 

 

 

The Hope of Easter

The Hope of Easter

Spring brings the promise of renewal and new life. Even here in New England while we 1stcrocusare enduring our 4th Nor’easter, we know Spring will come. We long for warmer weather and outdoor activities. We look for the buds on the trees and bulbs poking through the ground. The birds have returned from their southern migration and daylight is lasting longer. Despite how things look right now, we have hope.

egg-innestNature burst forth in expectancy and hope. We plant seeds and wait for their growth with a promise of flowers or food. We watch the birds as they lay their eggs in expectant hope of new life. Easter is celebration of remembrance and thanksgiving because God is all powerful and keeps His promises. Easter is about hope. It does not matter who you are, where you have been. Because of God’s great love He offers a new life through faith in His Son.

 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16 (NLT)

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”   Luke 23:39-43 (ESV)jesus3crosses

Jesus forgave that repentant thief and promised him peace and a place in heaven.  He also had told His disciples that He would be leaving but come back for them.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” … 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.    John 14:1-6 (ESV)

But on that day – we call it black Friday – The disciples were horrified and devastated as they watched Jesus die. All their hopes and dreams seemed gone. Many ran and hid in fear. He had taught them so many things but they just didn’t understand what went “wrong”. A few friends hung around to do the only thing they could…give Him a proper burial. When the women arrived at the tomb, the stone was rolled away and an angel greeted them;

 “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead,      Matt 28:5-7 (ESV)

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Surprise, joy, wonder, awe, hope… ran through their hearts and minds!

Later the apostle John wrote,   …but these (scriptures) are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.  John 20:31 (ESV)

We believe that Jesus lived a sinless life, died for our sin on the cross, was buried, rose from the grave on the third day and is alive and coming again. This is our promise. This is the hope of Easter.

“Pardon for sin, peace that endures, His presence with us to comfort and guide, Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.”   (from the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness)

Because He Lives by Gloria Gaither

Because He Lives

Because He lives I can face tomorrow:

Because He lives all fear is gone.

Because I know He holds the future,

And life is worth the living just because He lives.