Positioned for Passover

Jesus is the Door

Positioned for Passover

We learn in the Bible from Exodus, chapter 12, that the first Passover was when God directed His people to slaughter, roast, and eat a perfect male lamb, and to spread the lamb’s blood over the door frames of their homes.  God told the Israelites to stay inside with their families that night and that when He saw the blood on the doors of their homes, that the angel of death would pass over them, but that every first born male in Egypt—among the humans and the animals—would die.  As promised, God spared the Israelites.  And in great fear of God’s power to destroy, Pharaoh finally consented to allow the Israelites to leave Egypt.

Passover takes place this year from sunset on April 8th through April 16th.  It would seem that God is ensuring that we are well-positioned for Passover this year!  We have been ordered to say inside our homes.  His command for future generations to remember God’s protection at Passover included doing no work for those seven days.  Many people are unable to work at this time.  And of course, all are crying out in hopes that COVID-19 would “pass over” their homes and families.

There are three key points to note about Passover that are relevant for everyone during these unprecedented days, regardless of whether we are Jewish, Christian, or not yet sure of our beliefs.

First, God is calling and preparing us to come out of Egypt.  Egypt represents the ways of the world, including its power structures, its culture, values, beliefs, and ways of knowing.  From the very beginning, God created a perfect order permeated by His peace and love of mankind.  But mankind chose to love the world more than God.  He is calling mankind whom He deeply loves back to Himself where they are safe, loved, and cared for.

Second, He is urging us to get rid of the yeast, sometimes called leaven.  During the Passover celebration, God ordered that there should be no yeast present in the homes or the bread eaten during the celebration of remembrance. Yeast represents those things that we are unwilling to give up that cause us to “puff up.”  Without realizing it, we have set up idols in our lives—things we love more than God.  So often, we find our joy in our possessions, social or professional status, our bank account, the next vacation, a win for our favorite team, and our relationships with other people.  God truly loves to bless us with good gifts.  Bur it’s when we desire the blessings more than the One who loves us the most—God Himself—that He will most assuredly cause a “reset” in our hearts and lives.  He calls us to know Him and look to Him for ALL things, and to thank Him always!  We are most definitely experiencing His “reset” right now!

Third, we must, without exception, ensure that our homes are covered in Jesus’ blood.  The Christian world celebrates Palm Sunday on April 5th.  On that day, Jesus entered Jerusalem just prior to Passover.  People cheered for Him and welcomed Him, even though they did not yet understand that He is the living Son of God.  The Last Supper He ate with His disciples was in fact the Passover meal as they all remembered God’s great goodness.  And then He died on a cross, shedding His blood, so that all men for all time would be covered by the sacrifice of a perfect lamb.

Being under Jesus’ blood is a sure guarantee that we will live for eternity, regardless of when our physical bodies give out.  There is no fear in death! But there is so much more!  Jesus deposited His very life and breath into everyone who agrees that He is the only way to a relationship with the Heavenly Father.  Once Jesus lives in us, we have the privilege of living under God’s power, protection, and unending love, as His Ambassadors to the world.  We get all of heaven in this life, not just when we die!

So during these days of being sequestered at home, crying out for the Angel of Death (i.e. COVID-19) to pass over, unable to work or engage in the busyness that used to overwhelm our days, let’s look to Jesus!  He is real and He loves us better than the most loving person we’ve ever met!  From Palm Sunday to Passover to the Easter celebration of Jesus’ coming back to life from the dead, let’s remember that God’s ways are the utmost best for our lives! Let’s begin to ask Him day by day to make Himself real to us so that we can know, trust, and love Him as He really IS! Remember and agree!

Lord Jesus,

We confess that we may not yet know You as You really are – Almighty God, Savior of the World, Redeemer of man, and a loving best friend. We open our homes and hearts to you today, and invite You in.  We ask that You show us who You are, willing to exchange our understanding of You and Your ways for an incredible upgrade!  Cause us to know You and to agree with You that You are the all-powerful God of the universe, still in control and still madly in love with us, even in our broken-down condition.  We invite you into our hearts and homes today, willing to welcome you even if we don’t yet fully realize all that You are for us today, tomorrow, and always!

Amen!

In Search of Joy

Yes! Tree

What is the source of your joy?  Success?  Good health?  Well-adjusted children?  A win for your favorite team?  Getting outside on a sunny day?

In John 15, Jesus identifies the true source of joy—to keep the Father’s commands and remain in His love.  He reveals that truth to us so that His joy might be in us and our joy complete.  And He encourages us to keep His commands and remain in His love. What is His command?  We are to love Him and love each other in the same way that He loves us! (John 15:10-12; Mark 12:30-31)

How can we begin to fathom the Father’s love?  Not only did Christ give His life for us, consider His countless promises! To name just a few, the Lord:

  • will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
  • will provide for all our needs (Philippians 4:19).
  • causes us to flourish, even in old age (Psalm 92:12-14).
  • will hear us and answer even before we call (Isaiah 65:24).
  • rescues the righteous from all their many afflictions (Psalm 34:19).
  • fills us with His Holy Spirit (Acts 13:52).

As if the promises themselves were insufficient, God’s Word confirms that all of His promises are “Yes” in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20), and that the One who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23)!  Plus, for everyone in Christ, He has filled us with all authority over every scheme of the evil one and with His power unto life!  (Luke 10:19; Ephesians 1:19)  It just doesn’t get any better than that!

God has the right to interrupt or redirect our lives.  He is God and we are not!  During times of trial, do we consider it pure joy that He is in the business of transforming His image bearers into faithful, persevering, mature sons and daughters (James 1:2-4)?  If God strips away everything, as happened to Job, will God’s love be sufficient to still fuel our joy?  Is His love our most priceless possession?

May you find fullness of joy every moment in His loving presence regardless of the swirl around you!  Declare from the bottom of your heart that the Lord is your strength and your shield, that your heart trusts Him, and acknowledge that He helps you.  May your heart leap for joy as you praise Him with your song!  (Psalm 16:11; Psalm 98:6).

Secure in His love, standing on His sure promises, and filled with the joy of resting in His unending presence, make a point to be His love for someone else today who desperately needs it! Love is an action, not just a feeling.  By giving away His love, you unlock the flow of pure joy into the earth!

Hope Lives!

Prisoner of Hope

On a call yesterday, the other person’s opening thoughts were, “I don’t know whether to worry about my family, my health, my job or my retirement!”  Our country is gripped with fear as we watch the moment-by-moment dismantling of the social and cultural structures that we have depended on for our security and our joy.  God most certainly has the world’s attention right now!

As Christ-followers, how are we to respond in our hearts and minds?  Psalm 31:24 tells us to “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord!”  Hope is the joyful anticipation of God’s goodness.  Hope is an all-powerful, living being named Jesus. We are to put all of our hope in Him alone.  God is wooing us away from our “idols of security.” He is beckoning us back to Him, “Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope!” (Zechariah 9:12)  God alone is our faithful, impenetrable fortress.  May He Himself be the prison where He holds us as we surrender our worries and fears to Him.

Jesus asked in Luke 18:8 if He would find faith in the earth when He returns.  Faith is God’s gift to us (1 Corinthians 12:9). Trusting Him is our response to that gift.  May the Lord Himself release His good and perfect peace into every troubled heart and allow our hope in Him to rise up, with greater power than every fear!  May the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father who love us and by grace have given us eternal encouragement and good hope be the cool, living water that refreshes our weary hearts and illuminates the loving, eternal purposes that He is working out in the earth and in each one of us (1 Thessalonians 2:16).

May we diligently revere Christ as Lord in our hearts and be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks us the reason for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15).  May we bow the knee to Christ’s Lordship in every area of our hearts, repenting of all things that we have allowed to occupy a higher place than Him and of every idol where we have anchored our hope except in Him!  (See 2 Chronicles 7:13-14.)

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13)!  The world needs hope right now!  You cannot give away what you don’t own. Let’s own hope by anchoring it in Christ alone and by sharing the hope that we profess with the watching, weary world!

Faith or Fear? It’s A Choice

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As Christ-followers, it is understood that when we think or act in ways contrary to God’s Word, we have sinned.  The LORD tells us repeatedly in His Book, “Do not fear!” “Do not worry!” “Do not be afraid!” (1 Peter 3:14; 1 John 4:18) And yet, as we watch the contemporary human drama unfold, fear is exactly the currency of the hour.

People are watching the global spread of the Coronavirus with great concern. The waves of stock market change are causing fear of lack. And there are always looming personal fears for our children’s safety, about a life-threatening medical diagnosis, about job security, and so many other things that press in every day.

Jesus asked in Luke 18:8 if He would find faith in the earth when He returns. Faith is our response to Almighty God who loves us beyond measure (John 15:9) and who has promised to never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5) When we give a foothold to fear, what we’re really saying is, “God, we don’t trust that You have a good plan and the power to accomplish it.  Jesus, we don’t believe that You have a compassionate heart towards mankind.” Fear and faith are moment by moment, thought by thought choices.  We get to choose what thoughts we will agree with. Choose faith in the One who is faithful!

Jesus knew very well that we would have troubles in this world because of the continued effects of evil. (John 16:33) But as believers, may we absolutely NOT give into the temptation to be afraid! Why not? Because the LORD has already given us authority over every evil scheme (Luke 10:19).

Let’s speak to the Coronavirus,

We will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
 A thousand may fall at our side,
    ten thousand at our right hand,
    but it will not come near us.” (Psalm 91:5-7)

 

Let’s rebuke the wind and waves on Wall Street saying, “Peace, be still! (Mark 4:39)

Yes, there are most certainly difficult and heartbreaking times around us. There have always been. Let’s use these current opportunities to exercise our faith muscles and to show the watching world how faith rises up to meet the power of God so that His glory will be seen and known in the earth! Let’s be a people who recognize that Jesus has and IS the answer to every problem. Let’s trust beyond measure that God will supply all of our needs.  Let’s PRAY for God to intervene. Let’s PRAY and ask God for the wisdom needed to implement His creative solutions to every presenting challenge. And for heaven’s sake, let’s not be afraid of heaven!

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

The Gift of Peace

Peace

During the days leading up to Christmas, we sing, “Peace on earth.” We read Isaiah 9:6 to celebrate Jesus’ arrival as the “Prince of Peace.” What exactly is this mysterious substance we call peace? For most, it is perceived as the somewhat unattainable goal of every nation living in harmony, absent of the desire to devastate another people group through the use of power led by the depravity of man.

Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” For most, peace is often the most lacking heart quality, given the swirl of social, political, relational, physical and emotional turmoil that befalls us. Our automatic responses to the heartbreaking human condition include complaining, fearfulness, self-protection and judging others. How is it even fathomable to live in complete peace (let alone joy)?
The answer lies in where we live. Where do you run for cover when bombarded with the stuff of life? Because we are in Christ, He is our fortress. He encourages us to return to Him where He holds us in His “prison of hope” until the storms die down (Zechariah 9:12). Simply put, the LORD, and no other source, must be our present help and protection during our inevitable times of trouble (Psalm 46:1). When we hide ourselves in Him–our prison of hope—He promises a double portion of restoration. By holding
steadfast to our Fortress, hope rises up to meet its welcome companions, peace and joy. Thanksgiving must be our outward response to the abundant knowing that God constrains us in His “prison of hope” until our hearts have allowed His peace to settle all matters.

Not only must we cultivate peace in our own hearts, but God says in Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Being at peace with family members, co-workers, friends, neighbors, and the annoying customer ahead of us in the check-out line is yet another matter. How often we point to the scoreboard of judgement over another individual because of the offense, pain, or wrong they caused us. How often do we miss the blessing of a relationship because we are unwilling to see the offender through Jesus’ eyes of mercy, much less extend compassion and forgiveness? We make our personal contribution to world peace by sowing the seeds of peace into our God-given spheres of influence.

Peace is the currency of the Kingdom. Jesus commissioned us to release His peace into any storm, but we can’t give away what we don’t own. Once the eyes of our hearts see human circumstances through God’s perspective, we gain a confidence that He has and is the answer to every problem. From our safe place hidden in Him, we can begin to release His peace. As we release peace over the past, we release freedom from those matters that have hurt, offended, or shamed us. As we release peace over today, we experience joy in the absence of strife. Over time, we amass a beautiful collection of joyful yesterdays that replace a legacy of pain. And as we release His peace over our worries about the future, we discover an array of hopeful tomorrows.

By releasing the power of peace that passes all understanding through ourselves and into others, may the watching world recognize the manifestation of the heavenly Kingdom peace with God, with ourselves, and with one another on every level!

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13)!

To whom will you gift the gift of God’s peace this season?

Identity Theft Protection

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Unfortunately, identity theft is rampant these days. The motivation behind identity theft is to assume the legal authority to transact business secretly on behalf of the victim for the purpose of personal gain. We go to great lengths to protect our identity from scheming thieves in order to preserve our personal, legal and financial standing.

Are we even aware that the evil one, the father of all lies (John 8:44), has as his main purpose to steal and destroy our identity in Christ (John 10:10)? Do we recognize his tactics and make as much effort efforts to protect our eternal identity in Christ as we do our earthly wealth and right standing?

Enemy Tactic #1. We know ourselves all too well. We remember the sins from our past and recognize the self-centered, self-protecting motivations in the present to keep the knowledge of those sins hidden. (God already knows!) Satan is all too happy to remind us of our sins, heaping on guilt and shame to convince us of our unworthiness before the LORD.

The antidote for this tactic is to agree with God that through Jesus He has separated our sins from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), and in Christ has made us perfect as He is perfect (Matthew 5:48). As we allow the LORD to release His perfect peace into our hearts and memories over anything hurtful that we have done or that was done to us in the past, the fruit of that peace is true freedom from the perceived dishonor of unworthiness (Philippians 4:7).

Enemy Tactic #2. The idol of self and the pride of life blind us from knowing who we are in the Kingdom of God (1 John 2:16). Our culture tells us that we only live once, so we must “make the most of it,” in order to find personal significance and satisfaction. Hence we define ourselves and the perception of our worth by our professional careers, through our kids’ accomplishments, and so many other standards that are not from God. Contemporary media encourages the development of personal platforms to radiate a “glorified persona,” so that the world won’t know the reality of what someone is truly like on the inside. We become convinced that if we don’t look and live like superstars, we have somehow failed at life. Comparison is surely the thief of our joy as we trod the pathway of trying to become something that we were never intended to be, exhausting ourselves in the process. We live out of the fear that if people really knew us, they probably wouldn’t like us very much, always striving to be loved for how we are known by others (Proverbs 29:25).

We break free from the cycle of seeking love and acceptance by others’ opinions of us by agreeing with God that we are His masterpieces, created in Christ for good (Ephesians 2:10), knowing that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) in God’s image and that is very good (Genesis 1:27 & 31). As we begin to love ourselves—not in a narcissistic, self-aggrandizing way, but by agreeing with God that we are worthy of His love (1 John 4:16)—He can begin to strip away the cultural lies and the self-loathing that we have agreed with for far too long. A true friend is someone who knows our song and can sing it back to us when we forget who we are. Ask God for a friend who will challenge you in loving ways to see yourself as God sees you and to agree to receive His good and perfect love!

Enemy Tactic #3. This third enemy tactic is the most insidious and similar to Tactic #2 because it keeps the focus on ourselves spiritually. It is good to recognize that having accepted Christ, each of us is a child of God (John 1:12), redeemed (Galatians 3:14), heirs to all of His promises (2 Corinthians 1:20), and we get heaven instead of hell when we die (John 3:16). But when salvation and how God can make my life better in the here and now become the primary focus of our faith, we fall short of the fullness of what it means to be “in Christ.”

Becoming saved is just the beginning – the “key to the Kingdom.” God’s Word says that the fullness of His Son (Ephesians 3:19), His immeasurably great power (Ephesians 1:19), and all of Christ’s authority over the devil and every form of darkness (Luke 10:19) belong to those who are His, for the purpose of demonstrating and advancing His Heavenly Kingdom in the earth (John 14:12). His Word also says that as we fix our eyes on Christ, we become transformed into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18), and that we are “like him” in the earth (1 John 4:17).

Only when we know who we are in Christ can we truly act like ourselves. May Jesus Himself cause us to know ourselves seated in Him on His throne (Ephesians 2:6), one with Him and the Father (John 14:20), seeing His eternal perspective on all of life’s circumstances, and exercising the fullness of who we are in Him so that we may indeed see His glory, radiating through us, covering the earth as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14). Let’s invest in God’s identity protection plan for ourselves and others by overtly transacting Kingdom business in such a way that all may understand the good news of who they were created to be in Him!

Powerful or Powerless Christians?

Lion

 

How strong is a lion? In one blow of its paw, a lion can demolish a bear, horse, cow, or Siberian tiger; it can break a 2 x 4. Lions have excellent night vision, well able to see through darkness. The scriptures refer to our Lord as the “Lion of Judah,” (Revelation 5:5), and to us as possessing His same power (Ephesians 1:19, John 14:12).

The challenge for us today is to overcome the poverty of understanding and experience related to the Good News of the Gospel! So often, the Good News is restricted to the point of salvation with great relief that eternal “fire insurance” has been guaranteed. While many self-identify as Christians, in our contemporary culture, there can be little evidence of the personal transformation promised in Christ resulting in an abundantly powerful life to all who call Him “Lord.” Salvation is merely the key that opens the door to the fullness of Christ dwelling in each of us (Colossians 2).
“The gospel is the Good News of the presence and availability of life in the kingdom, now and forever, through reliance on Jesus the Anointed” (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy). According to Romans 14:17, the kingdom of God is characterized by righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit—the agent of God’s powerful presence indwelling us. Have we determined daily to live fully aware of His presence? Does the barometer of our peace and joy depend on our presenting circumstances or do we allow the LORD to show Himself faithful to every one of His promises (2 Corinthians 1:20)?

Knowing that the unconquerable Lion of Judah cares deeply for us, never leaves us
or forsakes us, and empowers us to usher His Kingdom into the earth, we must recognize that the power to overcome every slice of darkness is fully available to us all!

Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), and everything that
does not come from faith is sin (Romans 14:22). So then, do we trust Him
sufficiently to live out the truth of those Scriptures? May the Lion of Judah cause us
to rise up into all that we are in Him so that the world may see His manifest power
and glory in this age as well as in the age to come!