Matthew 28:1-15: 1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. 5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” 8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.
What must it have been like to be so close to Jesus for 3 ½ years, sharing meals with Him, walking and talking with Him daily, listening to Him teach? What was it like to see Jesus lay His hands on a blind man and suddenly the man could see, or to lay hands on the deaf man and suddenly he could hear, or to witness Jesus giving a command to the lame man to pick up his bed and walk, and see him suddenly rise up for the first time in years? What was it like to see the demons screaming out in terror of Jesus as they exited the people they were tormenting, because the King of kings had commanded them to leave? What was it like to see this amazing Man, the Son of God, calm the wind and the waves with a command, multiply the bread and fish, and raise the dead? What was it like after 3 ½ years of these amazing experiences, to see Jesus arrested, falsely accused at his trial, severely beaten, mocked with a crown of thorns and a royal robe, and then crucified with nails in His hands and feet?
Devastating! Heart-breaking! Crushing! Overwhelming!!
But then it happened—three days later, the most incredible event in history that completely changed everything!
The resurrection of Jesus was a transformative event. After the crucifixion, the followers of Jesus were hiding out behind locked doors for fear of the Jews. They were afraid they may be next to be arrested and executed. In fact, one of the amazing proofs of the resurrection of Jesus is that these servants of God went out and preached the resurrection of Jesus at the cost of their lives. There is no way that they would have suffered the way they did for a lie, such as the lie the religious leaders wanted the people to believe—that the disciples stole His body during the night. The first time they were faced with hungry lions or the whipping post, they would have said: “Just kidding. We made it up. We recant.”
But, that is not what happened! The disciples of Jesus were so completely convinced that Jesus is a alive that they were willing to be arrested, whipped, imprisoned, crucified, thrown to the lions, and so on—for the truth that Jesus is alive!!
The resurrection of Jesus is the reality that separates the Christian faith from all other faiths. The religious leaders who founded the other religions of the world are all dead and gone—in many cases you can find the tomb where they lay. But, if you visit the tomb of Jesus, you will find it to be empty—Hallelujah, Jesus is alive!
When loved ones who have walked with Jesus come to the end of their lives, the resurrection means everything to us, because suddenly the truth speaks soothingly to our hearts that death is not the end for our loved ones, but rather a transition from this life into the eternal, because Jesus has conquered death! The apostle Paul wrote those beautiful words in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (KJV). What a beautiful truth!
The resurrection of Jesus is key to the Christian faith. Some years ago I was ministering to a married couple. The wife wanted to give her life to Jesus and be baptized into him, and the husband desperately wanted to join his wife in believing, but he was stuck on the doctrine of the resurrection. He said, in essence, “I want to believe, but I just cannot seem to get there.”
I suddenly realized that he had a spiritual block, and that if he truly wanted to believe God would help him to get there—because that is the will of God. So, I asked him if I could lay hands on him and pray for him. He agreed.
I laid hands on his head and prayed something along the lines: “Loving Father, You know that Sam (name changed) here wants to believe in You, and You have said if we ask anything, according to Your will, You hear us and we have what we have asked of You. So, I pray now, in Jesus’ Name, that you will open Sam’s heart and mind to believe in the truth of the resurrection.”
Suddenly, Sam said, “I believe. I believe.” He had an amazing look of joy on his face, and his body began to tremble, and he said, “Look, my body is shaking.” With tears of joy Sam had, by the grace of Christ, experienced the power of the resurrected Christ saving His soul, and he actually experienced the Holy Spirit’s beautiful Presence.
Sam and his wife were baptized just minutes later, and began a new life in Christ.
What does the resurrection mean for you? How does it give you hope? Sometimes, I discover Christians who are feeling despair because their loved one may have died without Jesus. However, I will point out to people in these circumstances that we have no way of knowing whether our loved ones reached out to Jesus before they died. As I mentioned in last Sunday’s message, the thief on the cross is proof that the grace of Christ can be extended even upon the deathbed, if the person reaches out to Him in sincere repentance and faith.
The question we need to address, is what will I do with the resurrection? What will you do with the resurrection? Will you allow the truth of what Christ has done to permeate every area of your life? Will you and I choose to live in the power of the Holy Spirit who is the same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead?
Friend, Jesus is alive. If you have not surrendered your life to Him, I urge you to do so today. Go to Christ in prayer, confess your sins to Him, repent—turn away from your sins—and invite Jesus into your heart. And then, at the first opportunity you get to identify with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus through baptism by immersion under water, I urge you to obediently be baptized. Giving your life to Jesus is the best decision you will ever make in your life. Let the resurrected Christ live in and through you. Commit to serving Jesus with a local church where the Bible is still believed and taught as the true Word of God that it is! Live an uncompromising life of faith and trust in Jesus. Let Jesus shine in and through you so that others may be reached with this glorious Good News!!
Let’s pray: Father, I pray in Jesus’ most powerful and holy Name, the Name that is above every name, that You will saturate with Your loving Presence each person hearing or reading these words, each person reaching out to You and seeking You. Release Your amazing grace and forgiveness, and fill people with Your Holy Spirit, with peace, with hope, and with faith. Release the power of Your Presence, with the beauty of Your tender mercies and compassionate grace, and fill us fresh with Your Holy Spirit. Lord, we ask You to bring awakening, revival, renewal, deliverance, and freedom to this world that is in turmoil. Bring an end to the Coronavirus disease, and to the spiritual blindness of the hearts of mankind. And, draw the people of this world into a deep abiding relationship with You. We pray all of this, in Jesus’ Precious Name. Amen.
I encourage you to use the link below and listen to the song, “He’s Alive” performed by the Gaither Vocal Band. I believe this song will lift your faith and spirit to an even higher level:
Blessings in Christ Jesus,
"Jesus Is Our Passover Lamb"
Greetings Destiny Church and blessings to you. We miss meeting together with you, and think of you often. I pray that you are all keeping healthy and safe, and that you are fellowshipping with the Lord and with one another.
As I have been serving as a hospital chaplain during this trying season, I have encountered so many anxious people—anxious patients, anxious nurses and doctors, and, yes, even chaplains. I have had my own moments where I had to grab my prayer journal, go sit with the Lord, and seek His peace through His Word and prayer.
As I was walking into the hospital yesterday, someone has written with colored chalk on the sidewalk encouraging messages to the hospital staff about the life-changing ministry they are providing. I had to look up in order to keep from crying because it was so touching I began to get choked up.
I saw a nurse who was sitting by herself in silence, and the stress was evident on her face. She is working on one of the Coronavirus Units. I talked with her and asked her what she does to help her come to a place of peace. She said, “Well, a while ago I went outside to get some fresh air, and I just cried.” I encouraged her to let the tears flow when she needs to, as that is a release. And then, with permission, I prayed with this nurse and invited the Prince of Peace to come and release His peace and protection upon her.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the crucifixion of Christ as we are in the Easter Season. I read from 1 Corinthians 5:6 which says: “…For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.”
I’ve been meditating on that passage: Jesus is our Passover Lamb.
Think about the story of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. On the night that the Lord was sending out the destroyer to strike down the firstborn in the land of Egypt, the Israelites escaped the wrath of God by applying the blood of the Passover Lamb to the lintel and the two doorposts of their home. Any home that had the blood applied to the door frame was passed over by the destroyer.
The Bible says that “…the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
Because of the purifying, cleansing, power of the blood of Christ, the wrath of God passes over us, and we come under the protection of our Heavenly Father. That doesn’t mean we won’t have hardships and trials. Remember, Jesus was hung on a cross. But, it does mean that we will never be alone, no matter what we face. And, it means that we are assured a place in our Heavenly Father’s Kingdom for eternity. Listen to the account of one of the first people to receive the forgiveness that comes from applying the blood of Christ to their life:
Luke 23:33-43: 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” 36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” 38 There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. ” 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Already, before Jesus had even breathed His last breath, the blood of Jesus was doing it’s cleansing work. All it took was for the thief on the cross to acknowledge His own sins, and to call out to Jesus those nine life changing words: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. ”
Jesus didn’t start lecturing him about all of his sins that had led to him being put on the cross as a thief. Jesus didn’t dangle them in front of him in shame. Jesus listened to the repentant heart of this thief and in compassionate love Jesus applied His Passover blood to this thief so that the wrath of God would pass over him and he would have a place in His Father’s Kingdom. 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
This past week, I spoke with at least two people who have family members who have died of the Coronavirus. I’m not in any way suggesting these people died because of their sins. I don’t think this plague is working like that. But, one thing that I hope is happening in this world is that people are taking an inventory of their lives, looking around them at what is important, searching their souls, realizing the brevity and uncertainty of life, and calling out to Jesus in repentance and trust. The blood of Jesus must be applied to all of our lives, if we would choose to have a place in Heaven with Jesus.
I know most if not all of you are likely believers in Christ. But, I want to urge, if in your soul searching you discover that you have never invited Christ into your heart, that you have not turned your life over to Him, or that you have not been living for Him, apply the blood of Jesus to your life by calling out to Him in prayer. It doesn’t take a lot of words. It only took the thief nine words to transform his life, and change his eternal destiny. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. ” Invite Jesus into your life. Surrender to him.
After the resurrection of Jesus, on the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter told the crowd of people who had participated in crucifying Jesus how they could apply the blood of Christ to their lives:
Acts 2:38 states: 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Father, we pray, in Jesus’ Name, that You would awaken the hearts and minds of the people of this world to realize the wonderful love You have shown to us in sending Your Son to die for us. We pray for awaking and revival. We pray that people will be turning to you in faith and repentance. We pray this virus will be obliterated, and that people will pour into Your church with a new zeal for You—eyes fixed upon Jesus. Oh Lord, these are scary times we are living in. But, Jesus is the Prince of peace. Release Your peace and grant Your protection. Provide wisdom and guidance to the leaders of our nation and of Your church. Come, and reveal Yourself to the people of this world. We pray all of this, with love and faith, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
I was taking a walk a couple nights ago around 10:30p.m., and I looked down 116th street for as far as I could see and the only car I saw was in a gas station. I then turned around and looked towards Carmel, and I saw the headlights of one single car way off in the distance. It was weird and eerie. I told Julia I feel like we are living an episode of “The Twilight Zone.”
All that said, I am encouraged that our government leaders are doing everything they can to protect the people and get us through this crisis. Now, the church needs to do what we can do—and that is fix our eyes on Jesus, pray, stay in His Word, and encourage one another.
I have read three significant prophetic words that give me additional hope in the midst of this crisis. At the beginning of the year, Prophetic minister, Chuck Pierce, indicated that “there would be a massive plague-like invasion that would test us through Passover.” In interpreting the word, Chuck stated, “I would say: ‘God has put a PAUSE until He sees who is willing to cross over with Him through His Blood at Passover.’ This Passover will become a dividing line for our future!” Chuck did indicate he believes our nation will be facing a financial crisis throughout the year.
Prophetic voice, Shawn Boltz, stated back in February:
“The Lord showed me The end of the Coronavirus...the tide is turning now!
He is answering the prayers and cries of the nations and is putting an end in sight. The exaggerated fear based tactics of both the enemy and several media outlets for political reasons is coming to an end. The enemy has been trying to distract and steal from several equally important purposes and issues by dominating airwaves with conspiracy and fear.
Even now several vaccines are coming out as well as a natural dying out of the virus itself. The Lord is saying “I am removing the threat of this.”
Within a short amount of time the extreme threat will feel like it is in the way past.”
These words give me hope that an end is in sight.
As we watch the numbers COVID 19 cases and deaths in the United States rise, it is easy to feel anxious and overwhelmed. But, we serve the God who holds the world in His hand. That which seems impossible, is the very thing God can do.
The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:28: 28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
The church needs to pray that God will cause good to come out of our present crisis, that hearts will be turned to Him, that people would be awakened to the reality of the brevity of life and the need for all of us to be prepared to meet God. The church needs to pray for safety, healing, restoration, protection, and the revelation of God’s love and power to be poured out on the nations.
As I considered our present crisis, I was reminded of an inspirational story from 2 Kings 7. The story takes place during a time of great famine that was impacting the people of Samaria in a major way. Listen:
2 Kings 7:
1 Then Elisha said, "Listen to the word of the LORD; thus says the LORD, 'Tomorrow about this time a measure of fine flour will be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria.' " 2 The royal officer on whose hand the king was leaning answered the man of God and said, "Behold, if the LORD should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?" Then he said, "Behold, you will see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat of it."
3 Now there were four leprous men at the entrance of the gate; and they said to one another, "Why do we sit here until we die? 4 "If we say, 'We will enter the city,' then the famine is in the city and we will die there; and if we sit here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us go over to the camp of the Arameans. If they spare us, we will live; and if they kill us, we will but die." 5 They arose at twilight to go to the camp of the Arameans; when they came to the outskirts of the camp of the Arameans, behold, there was no one there. 6 For the Lord had caused the army of the Arameans to hear a sound of chariots and a sound of horses, even the sound of a great army, so that they said to one another, "Behold, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us." 7 Therefore they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents and their horses and their donkeys, even the camp just as it was, and fled for their life. 8 When these lepers came to the outskirts of the camp, they entered one tent and ate and drank, and carried from there silver and gold and clothes, and went and hid them; and they returned and entered another tent and carried from there also, and went and hid them.
9 Then they said to one another, "We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent; if we wait until morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come, let us go and tell the king's household." 10 So they came and called to the gatekeepers of the city, and they told them, saying, "We came to the camp of the Arameans, and behold, there was no one there, nor the voice of man, only * the horses tied and the donkeys tied, and the tents just as they were." 11 The gatekeepers called and told it within the king's household. 12 Then the king arose in the night and said to his servants, "I will now tell you what the Arameans have done to us. They know that we are hungry; therefore they have gone from the camp to hide themselves in the field, saying, 'When they come out of the city, we will capture them alive and get into the city.' " 13 One of his servants said, "Please, let some men take five of the horses which remain, which are left in the city. Behold, they will be in any case like all the multitude of Israel who are left in it; behold, they will be in any case like all the multitude of Israel who have already perished, so let us send and see." 14 They took therefore two chariots with horses, and the king sent after the army of the Arameans, saying, "Go and see."
15 They went after them to the Jordan, and behold, all the way was full of clothes and equipment which the Arameans had thrown away in their haste. Then the messengers returned and told the king.
16 So the people went out and plundered the camp of the Arameans. Then a measure of fine flour was sold for a shekel and two measures of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the LORD. 17 Now the king appointed the royal officer on whose hand he leaned to have charge of the gate; but the people trampled on him at the gate, and he died just as the man of God had said, who spoke when the king came down to him. 18 It happened just as the man of God had spoken to the king, saying, "Two measures of barley for a shekel and a measure of fine flour for a shekel, will be sold tomorrow about this time at the gate of Samaria." 19 Then the royal officer answered the man of God and said, "Now behold, if the LORD should make windows in heaven, could such a thing be?" And he said, "Behold, you will see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat of it." 20 And so it happened to him, for the people trampled on him at the gate and he died.
Notice that what looked like an impossibility became a reality because of the power of God. Elisha spoke a word of hope, a word that seemed like an impossibility, yet God fulfilled his word. I am reminded of a couple of Scriptures that are especially worthy of our meditation and belief:
Mark 9:23: 23 And Jesus said to him, " 'If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes."
Mark 10:27: 27 Looking at them, Jesus said, "With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God."
Philippians 4:13: 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Indeed, all things are possible through Christ. So, let’s keep our eyes on Jesus, and cling to Him in faith, reminding ourselves that God is able, and God is love. The Covid 19 disease must yield to the command of Christ. I have great hope that indeed we will see a Passover and Easter miracle this year as healing begins to come to our land. Remember God’s promise: “I will never leave thee, nor* forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5)
And, 2 Chronicles 7:13-14: 13 "If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, 14 and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Blessings, peace, and protection for you all.
In Jesus’ Name,
"Do Not Worry: Trust In God!"
The title of today’s message, “Do Not Worry: Trust In God” may seem simplistic when it feels like the sky is falling. But, when we draw near to God, we begin to look at things through His perspective, and suddenly what looked very dark begins to shine with light, and we are reminded that God made the sky, and God sustains it. I have been studying the birds in our neighborhood, listening to their different tones and songs. In the last month, besides the Robins, I have seen owls, cardinals, Canadian geese (and the business they leave behind), and woodpeckers, just to name a few. When you get out and take a walk in your neighborhood, look at some of the beauty that God has created, and let the birds in your neighborhood remind you of the words of today’s text:
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?
26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.
29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.
30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Those are the words of Jesus. Consider that prior to Jesus coming to earth, we can see the tender compassion and mercy of God expressed towards His people even under the Law.
The prophet Nehemiah wrote about the wilderness wonderings of the Israelites. Nehemiah 9:19-21:
19“Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness. By day the pillar of cloud did not fail to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take.
20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst.
21 For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen.
God has always watched over His people—He cared for them in the Old Testament times, in the New Testament times, and now He cares for us in the last times.
Norman Vincent Peale, in his book Positive Imaging, wrote the following about worry:
“The final and best antidote for worry is simply this: Image Jesus Christ as actually your personal friend. Don’t regard Him as some remote, historical, stained-glass kind of figure. Image Him as your constant companion throughout the day. Paint a portrait in your mind of what you think He looks like. Fill in the details: His compassionate eyes, those strong carpenter’s hands. How did His voice sound when He talked to people, when He told the story of the Prodigal Son, for example? He must have had a wonderful laugh; can you picture yourself sitting on a hillside in Galilee, hearing it? If you can picture that, why not picture Him sitting alongside of you right now?
The more vivid that image in your mind, the freer from worry you will be. Some years ago a professor of physics from a famous university came to see me. He was a very intelligent man, but haunted by irrational fears and worries that were interfering with his work and making his life miserable. After some discussion, it became evident that the trouble lay in certain immoralities he had committed years earlier. He had asked for forgiveness of those sins, and I was sure it had been granted. But, like many of us, he had not forgiven himself, and his worries and his sense of inferiority and inadequacy came from these deep guilt feelings.
I decided to suggest something that I had used successfully with people of less formidable education. I didn’t know how he would react, but my suggestion was that every night, upon going to bed, he place a chair beside his bed and tell himself that Jesus was sitting in that chair all night, watching over him and lifting the burden of worry from his shoulders.
As I expected, he looked uncomfortable. ‘But that sort of fantasy is for children,’ he protested.
‘The Bible tells us to become like little children, ‘ I reminded him. ‘Maybe that is because they are less likely to be doubters. All you need is a grain of faith—one about the size of a mustard seed will do.’
Finally he agreed to try it. At the end of two weeks he called me. ‘I was about ready to give up on that idea of yours,’ he said. ‘But two nights ago—well, I can’t exactly explain it, but suddenly I knew in some way much deeper than reason that the Lord actually was there beside me. I’m sure of it. And I believe the grip that guilt and fear and worry and all that depressing stuff had on me is broke. For the first time in years, I actually feel set free.’
And subsequently he found that he was, for a fact, free! That was why Christ came into the world, so we are told—to free captives like my physicist friend. And anyone, including you, can be free of worry if you will fill your mind with the factual idea that God is with you and is giving you a normal, steady, intelligent attitude toward the problems of life. When you image yourself as living close to God, you will have the ability to get your mind above the confusion and heat of worry into a place of clarity and calm. Many have found this practice the best way to outwit worry.
Imagining outwits worry. Try it. You’ll see” (PP. 151-152).
What do you see or imagine when you consider that Jesus is with you right now and every moment of every day? Right now, you can receive a fresh download, for free, of the “anti-coronavirus” software known as the Holy Spirit. As You draw near to God in prayer, worship, and the study of God’s Word, the Holy Spirit will cause the truth and reality of Christ with you and in you to saturate your heart and your mind, and fill you with His beautiful perfect peace. Just receive it.
And, for a bonus spiritual boost of peace to combat worry, I recommend two songs for worship today (or pick some of your own). Links are below:
“I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Calvary:
“Tis So Sweet To Trust in Jesus”
Blessings and peace to you, through Christ Jesus,
Pastor Jeff Conrad
The following is the message I shared with Destiny Church on March 15, 2020, via written message, due to the Coronavirus crisis making circumstances such that I could not meet with them personally. Our members who live at the Reserve at Hamilton Trace were able to gather:
Good morning Destiny Church. I wish I could be with you today for this service, but I am excited to know that you are meeting, and I am thankful for each one of you being present to encourage, serve, and minister to one another.
Mamma Mia! People in our world are in need of a sound mind in the present crisis we are in. Instead, people are acting like they are losing their minds—fighting over toilet paper and other supplies!
I had to laugh as I began to prepare this message, because when I went onto my Bible program to look up Psalm 91, I accidentally typed Psalm 911. And, I thought to myself, “How appropriate!” There is indeed a sense in which we need to turn to the Lord and His Word as our emergency 911 rescue worker in a time of crisis. For certainly, our nation and world is in a crisis (illustrated by the fact that I cannot be with you this morning) and it is not just a health crisis, but it is also a crisis of fear. The remedy for this crisis is laid out in a beautiful way in our text this morning. I have entitled today’s message: “Under God’s Protective Shelter.” Listen to our text (read meditatively a phrase at a time):
Psalm 91:1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say to the LORD, "My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!" 3 For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper And from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. 5 You will not be afraid of the terror by night, Or of the arrow that flies by day; 6 Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon. 7 A thousand may fall at your side And ten thousand at your right hand, But it shall not approach you. 8 You will only look on with your eyes And see the recompense of the wicked. 9 For you have made the LORD, my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place. 10 No evil will befall you, Nor will any plague come near your tent. 11 For He will give His angels charge concerning you, To guard you in all your ways. 12 They will bear you up in their hands, That you do not strike your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread upon the lion and cobra, The young lion and the serpent you will trample down. 14 "Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name. 15 "He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. 16 "With a long life I will satisfy him And let him see My salvation."
Our text is a beautiful declaration of the faithfulness of our God to watch over and take care of those who love Him. This text is not a promise that we will never have a problem in life, but rather a promise of a life blessed with the Presence of God to shelter us as we go through this life. I can experience peace in a shelter during a storm, but I may still have to face the storm.
Norman Vincent Peale in his book, A Guide To Confident Living writes of a friend named Jerry Henderson.
“Henderson was in the Canadian Rockies at Lake Louise to climb and to ski with a party of friends. Shortly before, one of the most famous ski masters had been killed in a heavy avalanche and the suggestion of danger was potent.
Henderson’s party went with their guide to climb White Eagle peak. They climbed all morning, and by noontime had surmounted five thousand of the nine thousand feet they had set out to climb. At this point the guide told them that they had to cross a transverse valley lying before them. The sides shot down at an angel of forty-five to fifty degrees.
‘Do not call of whistle or raise your voices for it might start an avalanche,’ the guide warned. Since hearing of the death of the ski master all had been impressed by the danger of avalanches.
The guide took from his pack a big ball of red yarn. He cut off fifty-foot lengths and gave to each one.
‘Tie this around your waist, ‘ he said. ‘If an avalanche starts, shake off your skis, throw away your poles and start swimming just as if you were in the water. This will tend to bring you to the top. If the avalanche buries you, the end of this red yarn will protrude and we can find you.’
In the party was a girl in her twenties. She looked down at this steep declivity and thought of the possibility of an avalanche, and she became very frightened. She began to whimper and cry, and said to Jerry Henderson, ‘I can’t do it. I’m terrified. I simply can’t do it. ‘
He did not feel any too blithe about it himself, but Henderson believes in and practices the ten great words (“If God be for us, who can be against us?”). He takes the position that one need not fear if God is with him; that one can reasonably count on God to see him through whatever comes.
He turned to the trembling, hysterical girl and said quietly, ‘The Lord has watched over you throughout your life, hasn’t he? You believe that, do you not?’
‘Yes,’ she sobbed.
‘Well, then, can’t you trust Him to take care of you for the next twenty minutes?’ he asked.
A remarkable change came over the girl. She made the descent beautifully, taking her place in the long graceful line as each skier followed the other about forty yards apart. She made the descent with exultation. She had achieved a marvelous sense of victory over herself” (PP. 60-63).
The apostle Paul wrote to 2 Timothy 1:7: 7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (KJV)
Friends, we are not alone! We have an invitation to dwell in the shelter of the Most High God, to find our refuge under His protective wings, to abide in His Presence. And, the Lord has promised to be with us always, to never leave us or forsake us. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and He will bring us into His beautiful rest as we trust in Him.
So, I encourage you, look up, fix your eyes on Jesus, and remember that our Redeemer, our Savior, our Fortress and Protector, is mighty, powerful, and strong. We have nothing to fear!!!!!!!
I close with this blessing from Numbers 6:24-26: 24 The LORD bless you, and keep you; 25 The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; 26 The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.'
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Temptation and Repentance
We live in a time when the philosophy of “whatever feels right do it” seems prevalent. I believe that the idea of there being temptation in this world to sin is giving way to an identity crushing lie—a lie that prevents people from becoming the people God wants them to be and thus experiencing true fulfillment—the lie seems to be the idea that if the urge or feelings are strong then it must be okay, it must be the way God made me or the way God wants me to live, the lie that this is who I am.... Could it be, is it possible, that what people are experiencing is temptation to sin? After all, temptation is by definition, in part, alluring, enticing, a strong pull in a direction God does not want us to go. Just because it "feels right or feels good" does not mean it must be okay.
Temptation and repentance—two ideas that for many seem to be falling out of popularity—are ideas that when grasped and believed have the potential to lead to true freedom in Christ. Keep in mind, that if we deal with and overcome temptation, then we do not have to deal with sin, because temptation precedes sin. But, because we do occasionally sin, repentance becomes a necessity.
In Acts 10-11, after the Gentiles, Cornelius and his family and friends, came to faith in Christ, and Peter described what had taken place, in Acts 11:18 we read:
“When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, ‘Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.’”
Jesus said: “So if the Son makes you free,you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
Repentance that leads to life is a turning over of our lives to Christ so that He may live in us the victorious life of freedom He died to give us. Christ in us, empowers us to overcome temptation and sin.
So many blessings in Christ and His way!
Be victorious in Christ and live in true freedom!!!!!!!
"A Fresh Look At 7-11"
When I was a kid, 7 eleven was the convenient store closest to our house. I used to save my money so that I could go to the 7 eleven and buy some candy. So, when I think of the number 7 11, I have some fond memories.
But recently, I found another reason for liking 7 11, as I have been seeking the Lord’s direction and guidance in my life, 7 11 has stood out to me. In fact, I kept seeing that number stand out to me when I looked at my clock on multiple days. Finally, I began asking the Lord, and “Matthew 7:11” came to mind. And, I believe that this was the Holy Spirit guiding me to this passage as I have been seeking God’s guidance in my life. So, consider:
Matthew 7:11: 11 "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
Or, we can break it down this way: Matthew 7:7-11: 7 "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 "Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 "Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
7 11 takes on a whole new significance when looked at in this way. 7 11 is so much more about seeking direction from and a deeper walk with the Lord than it is about buying gas or candy. It is a passage of great promise and hope! It is a wonderful Word in which to anchor our hope.
Two other passages I would bring in to build faith and strengthen the hold of our anchor would be Luke 11:13 and Mark 11:24:
Luke 11:13: 13 "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly * Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?"
This makes it clear that the key need of the moment for all of us is a greater fullness of the Holy Spirit. What Matthew records as “give what is good”, Luke records as “give the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus walked in the fullness of the Holy Spirit like no one else. When we ask, seek, and knock, there may be many things on our hearts—a new or better job, finances to pay our bills, healing and comfort…. The list is huge. However, at its heart, there is actually ONE core need that will cover all of these requests—and that is for more of His Presence—more of the Holy Spirit. For, in the intimacy of our fellowship with His Presence, we will find all that we need. And it is out of this intimacy, out of our times in His Presence, we can then more easily apply the words of:
Mark 11:24: 24 "Therefore * I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.
The way to come to a place of being able to “believe that you have received them” is to listen to the voice of the Lord to begin with, to know His heart and desire for the moment. When we have so connected with Jesus that His heart has become ours, we will pray and speak and do His will—mountains will be moved, and answers to prayer will be realized in marvelous ways.
So, ask, seek, knock—lay your heart out, and draw into His Presence in worship, prayer, and listening to His voice in His Word, and in your hearts and minds. Delight in His Presence, and ask for more—more of His beautiful manifest Presence. Out of His Presence within us, all of our needs and deepest desires will be met.
The next time you see a 7-Eleven store, or you look at your clock and see 7:11, I hope you will remember Matthew 7:7-11.
May the Presence and blessings of Christ overwhelm and overflow you and me—to the praise and glory and honor of Jesus Christ! Amen.
In Christ’s service,
"The Shift in Psalm 23"
I recently preached a two part message on Psalm 23. The video for these two messages is posted on this website. One detail in particular really stood out to me, and that detail is what I am calling "The Shift in Psalm 23."
In the first 3 verses of Psalm 23, King David talks about the Lord as his shepherd. He uses the pronoun "He" repeatedly: "He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake."
Then, beginning in verse 4, the shift takes place. Instead of talking about the Lord as his shepherd, David begins talking directly to the Lord. The Psalm becomes very personal and intimate. One can sense the deep fellowship David is having with the Lord, his shepherd. It is as he talks about the "shadow of death" that the shift takes place:
"4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever."
It occurs to me that there is a practical dynamic here that David experiences that we can encounter too. The more David talks about the Lord, the more naturally he wants to talk to the Lord. In fact, I find that the more I talk about the Lord, the more I am drawn to the Lord, and I experience this spiritual hunger and thirst to grow deeper in my understanding and fellowship with the Lord. Talking about the Lord can easily lead me in to talking to the Lord. And, this is what happened with king David. Perhaps there are a lot of folks who talk about the Lord who may not talk to the Lord very much. That is possible. But, I doubt there are many people who talk to the Lord who do not have a practice of talking about the Lord. We enjoy talking about the things in life we love and value. And, we value talking the people who are precious to us in this life.
The Lord is my shepherd, and the more I connect with this reality and truth, the deeper I go into intimacy with Him. And one day, I too will dwell in the house of the Lord forever--and what a glorious experience that will be!
June 20th, 2018
I have been meditating on the idea of Christians as the salt of the earth.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:13: 13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot."
One thing that salt does is it makes me thirsty. (It can also raise my blood pressure, but that is besides the point). I believe the real idea is that of creating a thirst in others to know God. I like to imagine authentic believers in Christ salting people with the loving Presence of God.
Whenever we listen to a person who is hurting, grieving, lonely, or even happy, we are, at least potentially, salting them with God's love, because we are showing them we value them and what they have to say. This world can feel mighty lonely. And, life can be so fast paced these days, that many people feel almost invisible.
So, how about taking the salt shaker of God's love and sprinkling people with His kindness and care?
As people experience (not just hear) us carrying and expressing the love of God, a hunger and thirst will develop in them to know this amazing God we serve. We have the truth of God's Word to give to the world, and sometimes His Word needs to be read through our lives before people will be willing to read the beautiful pages of the Holy Bible, After all, Christ is living in and thru His people.
Are you salting people with the loving Presence of God? In Christ, you are the salt of the earth. Go make someone thirsty for God, today.
Learning from Jesus
When Jesus said: "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men (Matthew 4:19), He was not inviting His followers to simply look at Him in awe at what He could do. But rather, the goal of Jesus was to model, to demonstrate, and to release His followers to do what He did. Jesus was establishing His Church body--His hands, His feet, His mouth, His eyes, etc.--to go and do His works. Thus, when we read about the works of Jesus in the Bible, we ought to read with a goal toward learning to minister like Jesus did.
I challenge you to sit down and read through the Gospels, and ask yourself, how did Jesus love? He did Jesus show compassion? How did Jesus heal the sick? How did Jesus drive out demons? How did Jesus bring the Kingdom of Heaven down to earth? And what did Jesus teach about these things?
I want to suggest that much of the church has lost sight of how to minister like Jesus did. We have our own models that we have developed for praying for the sick--and these models usually involve simply asking our Heavenly Father. It is okay to ask our Heavenly Father, and sometimes He will just sovereignly respond with His touch, but the approach that Jesus used--in dealing with sickness--was more effective. His approach was to listen to the Heavenly Father, (knowing the Father's heart is essential, so if you don't know, ask Him) and do what the Heavenly Father told Him to do, and then to release the power of Heaven through command and often touch.
Jesus' disciples learned this well. When they encountered a lame beggar at the gate of the temple called beautiful, they did not use our common approach of asking the man: "Can I pray for you?": "Our Father, I ask you to heal this lame beggar in Jesus' Name." That was not their approach. Rather, they sensed the heart of God for the moment, understood their authority in Jesus Christ, and gave the command:
Acts 3:4-8 (NASB): 4 But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, "Look at us!" 5 And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, "I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene -walk!" 7 And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. 8 With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.
I do not believe this healing took place because Peter and John were apostles, but rather because they had paid attention to what Jesus taught them about how to minister to the sick, and how to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. They understood the authority that we have all been given as children of the King of kings and Lord of lords. They had learned well how to make Fishers of Men-- by releasing the power of God's kingdom to heal, people were drawn to Jesus as a result:
Acts 3:9-10: 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God; 10 and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
I like the approach and results of Jesus much better than the approach that many of us have used in the past. I am ready to learn to make fishers of men in the way Jesus demonstrated--through the proclamation of the Gospel and the demonstration of God's Kingdom power backing up His Gospel.
How about you? Will you read the stories of Jesus as you might read a history book? Or, are you ready to read the stories of Jesus as an example of how God is calling all Christians to live and minister--including you? Jesus knows best how to catch the men. I want to learn from Him.
Blessings to you in Christ Jesus,