Saturday, April 30, 2011

May 1, 2011

"I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength,  which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come."  Ephesians 1:18-21

I once hoped that I would grow to be tall so I could be a better basketall player. My hopes weren't realized and I had to settle for short and average.

There was a period in my life when I hoped to someday play major league baseball. But college baseball was as close as I got and I had to settle for that.

Even at my age I hope to become a better golfer but I don't have the time to spend practicing and playing like I would have to in order to realize that hope, so I settle for my 13 to 15 handicap range.

My point is this - there is a difference between HOPING and having HOPE. Wanting something to happen doesn't just make it happen. No matter how badly you want it. There must be a plan and there must be a power to make it happen.

I don't know many pastors who do not want their churches to grow. Most lay people do as well. But wanting or wishing or hoping doesn't make it happen. You must have enough hope in His power that you are willing to commit to His plan. That is what I intend for FWC this coming year.

Today is the first day of our new church year. Happy New Year! And I have a plan that I believe will release His power and unlock His blessing on our church. It is a plan for hope!


I am calling our people to personal holiness. The plan is to repent of know sins, to get right with God and live right. We can no longer be comfortable with secret sins or "little sins". We want to seek personal revival that will spark a corporate revival of joy and love in our fellowship. Let's be "ruthlessly righteous" this year! If we will commit to that plan we will see His power.

O- Outreach

Also, I am calling our people to outreach among their family, friends, business partners, and even casual contacts. If we will work on having our personal testimonies memorized and if we have a list of unsaved people we are continually pray for their salvation. And then, daily we will look for chances to touch others with the grace and goodness of God to meet needs, lift burdens, and encourage others. If we work that plan He will show His power.

P- Prayer

And I call our people to personal prayer and challenge them to start a prayer journal. Everyone will be urged to find a prayer partner to pray with and pray for. Then, throughout the course of the year we will have powertime prayer sessions which will be a call to prayer including some praise and worship periods. Prayer IS the power that channels His favor upon us.

E- Expectations

Last, but not least, for the Year of HOPE, I will challenge my people to expect more of God and of themselves. If they are working the other three parts of this plan, they can expect God to show - on Sundays, and whenever we meet! And, they can expect spiritual growth to happen. You should not be the person you were last time at this year and next year you should expect to be even more mature. So, you should model godly attitudes and behaviors and you should expect that of your brothers and sisters!

I have great hope for FredWes this new year! And I have hope for each of the members of our FWC family. HOPE is what I believe in - Holiness, Outreach, Prayer & Expectations! This is a plan that won't having us just hoping BUT walking and worshipping and working in HOPE! He has the power if we work the plan!
What is your plan? Do you have hope - or are you just hoping?

April 30, 2011

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time."  I Peter 1:1-5

Hope has been afloat this week.

Of course, the week began with Easter. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the source of all hope. There can be no hope without a Risen Savior. With a Risen Christ there is nothing that can defeat or destroy our hope! At least for as long as He lives!

Also, there was the hope that came from the wedding of the royal couple, William and Kate. New beginnings can be times of hopefulness. Certainly we hope that this lovely young couple will find great happiness together and everything they hope for will be realized.

There is the hope evidenced in the hearts and dreams of the dozens of young men involved in the NFL darft this week. After successful high school and college careers they are hoping to be drafted by an NFL team.

But true hope is rooted and grounded in Christ's mercy. Because of the sacrificial death of Jesus God extended His grace to us in mercy rather than treating us with the justice we deserved.

A second source of hope is in the new birth! This refers to a spiritual birth that is necessary due to the fact that we are born into this world with a sinful nature and that nature is dead, or non-responsive to God. So, in order to have a hopeful future there must be a new birth or a regeneration of the soul. The Spirit of God must be allowed to bring life to your soul through faith. You will be born again - born into hope!

The third source for hoping is highlighted here as well! And it is the living hope that results from the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The fact of His resurrection proves that Jesus has conquered death brings hope for all who receive Him by faith!

Fourth, this hope is secured in Heaven! And because it is secured in heaven it can never perish, spoil or fade!

Do you have that hope or are you just hoping that you catch a break? The difference between hoping and having hope is as wide as eternity. Hoping won't get you to Heaven. Having the hope that comes form a personal relationship with Jesus will!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

April 29, 2011

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."   Hebrews 11:6  

If you want to please God you have to have a clue about faith because without it you cannot please Him. And, if there is someone you need to please it is God!

What is involved in this faith thing? To give a simple answer to a profound question, faith is one part belief and one part expectation. Who do you believe God is and what do you expect from Him?

How important is that? Very!

Therefore, the "E" in H.O.P.E. is EXPECTATION. You cannot have hope unless you expect something good to happen because you are trusting in Someone good.

For the 2011-12 year at Fredericksburg Wesleyan Church, along with our emphasis on Holiness and our focus on Outreach and our concentration on Prayer, we are going to elevate our expectations. We are going to expect God to do amazing things because He is an awesome God.

What are you believing God for? What are you expecting from Him?

At FredWes we will expect God to show up! We will cultivate an environment of expectation.

Whenever we gather in His name, whether on a Sunday morning for worship or Sunday evening for LIFE Group or any other time, we should expect God's Spirit to be there. We should expect that He will come to bless and come to convict and come to cleanse and come to heal. What is the point of coming to church if you don't expect God to show up? And if you do come and are not expecting Him, He could show up and you would miss Him.

Do you expect to meet God when you go to church? Do you expect Him to show up when you have your quiet time?

And, do you expect growth to happen in your life? Do you expect growth to happen in your church? Do your expect in your LIFE group? If not, why not?

You can be sure of this, if God shows up, growth with happen! Things will change!

The men and women listed in Hebrews 11 are there because they expected God to do something unexpected. Abraham expected a son. Noah expected deliverance from a flood. Moses God to speak when he climbed Mount Sinaii he expected God to meet Him there. And God did!

Our third emphasis for expectation deals with our expectations of others in whom God dwells - the people of God.

What should we expect from Christians is Christ-like attitudes and Christ-like behaviors. Not only should we expect it but we should encourage it when we notice it happening. We should humbly and firmly confront a believer if we detect words, conduct, or attitudes that are not consistent with the nature of Christ. We should set our expectations based on what the Bible sets out as a standard for the people of God.

Are you living up to what you expect from a follower of Christ? Are you living up to what He expects from you as His follower?

At Fredericksburg Wesleyan Church we will build an environment of expectation. We will expect God to show up and we will expect growth to happen because God has shown up. And we will expect those who call themselves Christians to experience a real personal presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Over the past several years we have had a year of moping as we dealt with a church split. Some people did not measure up to what we recognize as godly behavior. We did not measure up to their expectations and stress resulted.

That was followed by a year of coping and we tried to adjust to a loss of attendance and offering and momentum. Out of that came a period of groping as we struggled to discover who we could count on and what we would become.

2011-12 is now a time to begin hoping again! We will put our hopes in God and demonstrate that hope by seeking Holiness, by doing Outreach, by Praying and by Expecting. We will expect God to have favor on us as we live according to His will and in obedience to His Word.

What is your plan?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

April 28, 2011

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:6-7

"God is great and God is good....."

"Now I lay me down to sleep....."

"Our Father, which art in Heaven....."

You have no doubt known those prayers for as long as you can remember. Practically every child is taught to pray but not every child is taught why. Is it for good luck? It is to stay on the good side of the "Big Guy"? Does it have more to do with superstition that with spirituality?

I have been sharing the four points of emphasis for Fredericksburg Wesleyan Church in 2011-12. These points form the acrostic "HOPE".  The "H" is Holiness and the "O" comes from Outreach. You have probably figured that the "P" represents Prayer. Prayer will be a third point of emphasis for the coming year.

This is not to say that prayer is not important today. It is! All this year we have been calling FWC family to Friday Fast and Prayer and God has been faithful to answer.

For 2011-12 we will call our people to private personal prayer. We will encourage FWC family members to start and maintain a personal prayer journal. That journal will include prayer requests, prayer concerns and answered prayers. Having the discipline of filling an empty page will be motivating. Tracking the answered prayers over time will trace the Hand of God in your life.

So, how is your prayer life? You would know if you had a journal!
And we will form prayer partnerships. Primarily, through our LIFE groups we will challenge our people to pair up with a partner to pray with and pray for and keep one another accountable. The Bible teaches that where "two or three are gathered together God is there"!
So, how is your prayer life? Do you have a prayer partner?
Occasionally we will have powertime, an evening dedicated to extended prayer and praise times with the worship team where we can come together and call on God in behalf of our church and our families our community and our nation.
There is no hope without prayer! Prayer is at the heart of hope! For 2011-12 we will be putting our HOPE in Holiness, Outreach, and Prayer!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

April 27, 2011

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Acts 1:8

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, if you have come to know Him as your Savior, it is because someone witnessed to you. Through the way they lived, and the words they said, and because of the quality of their walk they made the Christian faith seem credible to you. You had to investigate their claims because of the integrity of their lifestyle.

As this verse reminds us, Christians are called to be witnesses for Jesus Christ wherever we go. During 2011-12 in our Year of Hope emphasis will be a call to Holiness and a call to Outreach.

What will that involve? What does the call to outreach ask you to do?

For Fredericksburg Wesleyan Church, the call to outreach means we will ask you write and memorize your personal testimony. Like most people, you underestimate the power of your story of how you became a follower of Christ. Anyone who values you as a friend will find your story important. It is important that you prepare a two or three minute of what your life was like before you believed in Christ, how you came to know Him and how He has changed your life. We will call our people to work on these testimonies and share them in their LIFE Groups.

Also, our challenge to outreach will involve a target list of three to five non-believing friends for whom you will regularly pray and interceed for their salvation. You would not be a Christian if it had not been for a person who loved you enough to pray for your salvation. We have been doing this for about 18 months at FredWes and have regularly seen people from these lists crossing the line of faith.

Being prepared to share your faith and being faithful to pray for your friends are two big pieces to the outreach puzzle.

Third, you will be asked to demonstrate the love of Christ by touching your friends with acts of kindness. It may be a card to encourage or springing for lunch. Perhaps you could help with yard work or offer to babysit to give a friend a night out. There are dozens of ways to touch others with the love and grace of Jesus if you are looking for them!

So, the Year of Hope will involve an emphasis on Holiness and on Outreach.

What are you doing to witness for your Lord? If you don't consciously and intentionally make an effort to have a positive witness, you will unintentionally become a negative witness. I am sure you don't want that.

Will you formulate your testimony? Will you have a target list? Will you touch others with the goodness and grace of God?

April 26, 2011

 "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”  “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”  “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God."  II Corinthians 6:14-7:1
For Fredericksburg Wesleyan Church, this Sunday is New Year's Day. Yes, it begins our 2011-12 Fiscal and statistical year. We begin the counting all over again.
2011-12 is going to be a Year of Hope at FWC. I am not just talking about hopeful thinking or wishing and hoping, I am talking about a plan to bring hope to the people of FredWes.
This coming year we will focus on four points of emphasis that will guide our sermon preparation, our LIFE Group studies, our fellowship and the personal attitudes and actions of our individual live.
H.O.P.E. will be an acrostic made up of the four great themes we will unite around this year. In that acrostic there will be four great themes for our focus on 2011-12. The first one, the "H" if you will, stands for holiness.
In 2011-12 we will be calling for each of our members and regular attenders to emphasize personal holiness.
What does that mean? What will I be expecting from my people?
Paul gives an excellent brief explanation of what holiness looks like and how it happens.
First it means guarding your relationships- "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God."  II Corinthians 6:14-16

You can never experience holiness if you are not in intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. He is the source of all righteousness and you cannot be in an intimate relationship with God and at the same time have intimate relationships with evil friends. (Not my word But God's)

So, if you value having an intimate satisfying relationship with God then you must closely guard your heart and mind at all times during the day. You must resist every temptation that comes at you. You must renounce all sin in your life and repent of it. Call on God for strength to stand in it. If you do, you will have a good chance to say "no" to sin and "yes" to obeying Jesus!

You must read and memorize His Word daily. The Psalmist said, "I will hide your Word in my heart that I might not sin again you". A regular reading of the Bible and taking time to meditate and commiting it to memory will help develop a heart for hearing and obeying Him!

Holiness renouncing sin and not being casual about sinful thoughts, attitudes, or behaviors. Allow God's Spirit to search your heart and be quick to repent when He convicts you of a sin.

The evidence of holiness is righteous living - "Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God."  II Corinthians 7:1

2011-12 is a year of H.O.P.E. and that begins with holiness. Will you answer the call to personal holiness?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

April 25, 2011

"Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"  John 11:25-26

This is quite a claim made by Jesus! Very confident and quite comforting!

If you will live and believe in Jesus, and if you allow Him to live in you by faith, you will never die!

However, there ARE several things that WILL die when you die and I feel compelled to point those out.

When you die, suffering dies. The moment you slip away from your earthly body and into eternity with Jesus - your suffering is over! Forever!

When you die, sorrow dies. At your last breath in this life, you are done with sorrow! Once your spirit enters into the presence of God there will be only joy! Sadness has no place in Heaven! You will shed no more tears. You will know no more heartbreak!

When you die, sin dies. If you die in Christ and enter into His paradise you will enter a safe, secure, sin-free enviornment. Not only will you be free from sin but you will not have to deal with temptation either!

So, you see, death is final - final for the things that are not worthy of God or right for eternity!

As we bring the Easter Holiday to a close I just wanted to remind you of a few reasons why it is the pivotal event in all of human history! You will never die, but all the things that make your life difficult or painful will die!

He's alive! You will live! Your heart-ache and hardships won't! Your crises and crosses will become crowns!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

EASTER SUNDAY! April 24, 2011

"The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 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.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”  Matthew 28:6-10

I want you to try and put yourself in the place of these women who went to the tomb in the early morning hours of that first Easter. But I want you to imagine that instead of going to the burial place of Jesus, you are going to the grave of your mother, or your father, or your child, or that of your best friend. As you approach you are struggling with that same old sense of sadness that always grips you when you visit here. But this morning is different! For when you get there the grave is open. Your sadness turns to shock, then to horror, but then you hear the voice of your loved one and you turn immediately toward the sound.

You cannot believe it! You blink once and then you blink again. There stands your loved one - alive and well! In fact, they look better than they ever! Without thinking or speaking or without consciously moving you find yourself locked in a warm tight embrace! They are alive! They are back!

Can you imagine the joy? If you can you may begin to understand what these women experienced outside Jesus' tomb that morning.

Sound impossible? That is precisely what happened that morning! These women arrived grieving and ready to prepare a dead body but found a risen Savior Who looked better than they had ever seen! They were filled with joy - and wonder - and hope! All the grief and despair of the last two days was gone! He was alive! He arose as He had said!

Easter is about life! Powerful life! Resurrection life! Eternal life! God's life! The only thing that died that morning was death!

Oh, about that scenario involving your loved one! It has happened! Because of the atoning death and because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, your loved one IS alive - more alive than ever! And some day their grave WILL be empty and you will see them in their glorified body! That very same type of glorified body the women saw that morning by His tomb!

"So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable;  it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;  it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”  “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."  I Corinthians 15:42-58

Celebrate! Rejoice! He has risen from the dead! He arose as He said! He is alive! Hallelujah!


Friday, April 22, 2011

April 23, 2011

"Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  John 11:25-26

You often hear this portion of Scripture read at funerals for obvious reasons. I have shared it a number of times myself. And why not? What a comforting message these words give.

As good as they sound, take a few moments to absorb what they say!

Think of the Source of these words - "I am"!

God identified Himself to Moses as, "I am". So, when Jesus announces that "I am the resurrection and the life" He is saying, "I am God - and because I am God I am life!" What other source of life is there? What other source do you need?

Think of the Substance of these words - "the resurrection and the life". You could paraphrase this sentence to say "I am the life before death and the life after death - I AM LIFE PERIOD!" And, He is!

Think of the Solace of these words - "He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die". Life in Christ is eternal! It never ends! Even when you die - you live! The body may die but the real you never does! HE IS LIFE! THE LIFE! And why is He life? Because He is the resurrection! Easter changes everything!

Think of the Stipulation of these words - "He who believes in me", "whoever lives and believes in me",  "Do you believe this?”  If you want to live on with Jesus you must live in Him! That requires faith. That requires confessing your sins and repenting of them and receiving Jesus for your Savior. Once you receive Him for your salvation you must remain in Him by obedience. Salvation comes by faith and then is followed by faithful service. It is not enough to believe Jesus in your head, but you must live out His love through your life. And when He dwells in you by His Spirit, His life also dwells in you! Because He lives in you, His life is at work in you. So when your early life ends, His life will carry your spirit to the "place He has been preparing for you"!

Do you believe this! Easter says, "Believe it! He has risen!" and if you live in Him and believe in Him you will never die!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

April 22, 2011

"When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”  Luke 23:33-39

Not much good on this Friday.

Terrible Friday makes sense. Horrible Friday would be accurate. Awful Friday certainly would fit. But GOOD Friday?

If you were lynched by an angry mob in the middle of the night, betrayed by a close friend, arrested on trumped up charges, ridiculed and then spat upon, would you call that a good day?

Would you call it a good day if you were savagely beaten and scouraged until your back looked like hamburger and then have a roughly hewn cross thrown onto your raw shoulder and forced to carry it one-half of a mile to the place where you would be nailed to that cross?

Jesus was cruelly crucified on a day that has come to be known and even celebrated as Good Friday! How can that be?

It can only be known as Good Friday because of what happened bright and early on Sunday morning! Good Friday was good only because of the resurrection! That single miraculous event changed everything before it and everything after it forever! The bloody cross of Golgotha led to the empty tomb in the garden!

And since that empty tomb, indeed, because of the resurrection the dark, difficult and painful Fridays of your life will always be followed by a Sunday! That is the power of a Risen Savior! That is the promise from a Risen Savior! Thus is the presence with a Risen Savior!

As Tony Campolo has declared, "It's Friday - but Sunday's coming!"

That's the glory of Easter! He's alive! He has risen as He said!

"But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you."  Romans 8:10-11

If you are in a Friday time in your life - hold on - Sunday is coming!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

April 21, 2011

"And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep"..........."When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? "Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."   I Cor. 15:14-20 & 54-58

Life is about figuring out what matters and what doesn't. The sooner you figure that out the better your life will be. Some never figure it out.

Usually, you figure out what matters through being told what matters by someone who matters a lot to you. Most often you are taught what matters by your parents because they matter most to you and you learn to value what they value. Over time, as you mature, you begin to develop your own value system to determine what matters most to you.

If you are a Christian you must ultimately develop your value system according to the truths and people who are recorded in the Bible. When you decide that Biblical values will matter more to you than material or temporal or cultural values you will begin to experience some push-back and that pressure forces you to regularly examine and evaluate what matters to you. That can be a healthy process! Perhaps you are in that process right now.

So, what matters most to you? What should matter to you is what matters to God since pleasing Him should matter most to you. In this message to the Christians at Corinth, Paul states clearly and confidently that what matters most is the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

That is why Easter is such a big deal! Easter is a big deal because the resurrection IS THE DEAL! Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, He was a liar, because He promised His disicples that He would return from the dead. Without the resurrection, God is a failure, because His plan for redeeming the human race depended on His Son dying and then rising from the grave. And, as Paul says his preaching is useless, as is your faith, and we are fools or liars, we are trapped in our sins, and we have no hope in life or at death if Jesus did not die for you and me and if He did not arise from the dead.

Without the resurrection of Jesus, nothing matters. With the resurrection, every promise in the Bible matters! Without the resurrection the Bible is a fable and the Old Testament Prophets are fools. With the resurrection, God has proven He has power over sin and death! His power matters! With the resurrection we have the hope of our own resurrection! That matters! God made sure the resurrection matters because He wants you to know how much you matter to Him!

Jesus' resurrection matters because it is the heart of the matter!

Will you bow before the Father and thank Him for the Resurrection of Jesus? Will you stand up and rejoice that you serve a Risen Savior? Will you go to your church Sunday and worship for all you're worth? Will you worship like it matters? Worship matters because He matters. And He matters because of His resurrection!



Tuesday, April 19, 2011

April 20, 2011

"So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples." Matthew 28:8

These  women loved Jesus passionately and arose before sunrise in order to get to the tomb to prepare their Lord's body. I'm sure they were filled with grief and some dread as they prepared themselves to see His badly battered and bloody corpse. The horrible events of a few days ago seemed like a terrible nightmare but one from which they could not awake. But now, on this chilly morning as they hurried through the darkness to the tomb they must have been trying to prepare themselves mentaly and emotionally for the jarring reality of a cold, dead, and badly disfigured body.

While they were still trying to prepare themselves for what they thought they would see, upon arriving at the tomb they saw something they were totally unprepared for - the stone was rolled away, the tomb was empty and a angel appeared to explain why!

"Why do you seek the living among the dead?", the angel asked.

And the discovery they made that morning has changed the course of history as well as the changing the trajectory of eternity! About the time day was dawning it was dawning on these women what had happened! Jesus was alive! He had risen from the dead! With the breaking day, they rushed back to break the joyous news to the rest of His followers!

Can you imagine the joy? As the Gospel records, "They were filled with joy."

As I read this story this evening and tried to imagine how these women must have felt as they discovered the good news of the resurrection, I could not help but wonder, "Where is the joy?"

Is the resurrection any less significant today than it was then? No!

So, where is the joy?

Is Jesus any less alive today than He was then? No!

So, where is the joy?

Sunday after Sunday we come to our churches to worship and celebrate that Jesus is risen from the dead!

So, where is the joy?

How can we be so somber about something so significant as a Risen Savior?

Where is the joy?

Oh that we could celebrate and worship with joy like this:


So, where's YOUR joy?

Monday, April 18, 2011

April 19, 2011

"And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.  But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive."  I Corinthians 15:17-22

Do you remember as a kid how you played soldier or maybe cowboys and Indians? You would hide behind a tree or in the bushes and shoot your cap gun to make sure you got the "bad guys" before they got you! The idea of the game was to make sure you didn't get "killed". But, in fact, you got "killed" a number of times. Other than the sting of losing the battle, being "killed" was no big deal because you would rise to play again! Over the course of a long Summer day of cowboys and Indians you probably got "killed" a dozen times or more!

If death were no bigger of a deal than it was in a game of cowboys and Indians, then the resurrection of Jesus Christ would be of no consequence. But death IS real. And death IS final. Therefore, death is fearful.

But Jesus died. The Son of God succumbed to death! That is a big deal! It is not easy for God to die and it was anything but easy for Jesus. He suffered unimaginable cruelty. The agony inflicted on Him has been experienced by no other in history. It is a big deal because He did it for you! He took the shame and the penalty of your sinfulness and paid it for you on the cross! Though He was innocent He took your guilt! It killed Him so you wouldn't have to die for your sins!

Jesus' death was a big deal because by dying in sin He conquered sin!

As significant as His death was, His resurrection was even bigger! In this cosmic battle between good and evil, the Good Guy won! He arose from the dead on the third day! By rising from the dead - coming back to life after being dead for three days - He defeated death! And He defeated it not only for Himself but for you and for me! That is a big deal! That is worthy of celebrating!

So, one of these days when death comes to claim you, because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ - the miraculous return from the dead, the best documented return from the dead - you will re-enact your cowboy and Indian days of getting back up after you are dead!

That is a big deal!

That is something worthy of celebrating!

Celebrate it now! Celebrate it tomorrow! Join your Christian brothers and sisters and celebrate it BIG TIME this Easter Sunday! Celebrate it as though your life depends on it! Oh, by the way, IT DOES!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

April 18, 2011

"Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground, terrified."  Matthew 17:4

I can relate to Peter. Perhaps you can too.
Just like him there is a part of me that wants to camp out a certain comfort level. When something good happens or especially when I experience a spiritual high, I want to linger there for awhile. I understand his desire to want to pitch a tent.

But God would have none of that. Before Peter could even finish his thoughts, he was interrupted by the voice of God. God doesn't let me get away with it either.
Why is that?

God loves us too much to allow us to level off. There too much growth that has to happen in you and in me to allow us to camp out in a comfort zone. There are too many other people to be reached to let us pitch a tent at a past event. God is too dynamic and has so much He wants to reveal to us about His nature and His will to allow us to live on yesterday's experience. God wants to stretch us and grow us so he can do greater things through us and show greater things to us!

Our relationship with God is often described as a walk or sometimes as a race or even as a journey - but never is it called a camp out! When we walk with God we must keep up with Him - stay in step with Him. The Bible urges us to "wait upon the Lord" but it doesn't say He should wait on us!

Some of the old hymns used to refer to the Christian walk as a march. Marchers move forward steadily and purposefully in step together with each other and with their leaders. You may remember this one:

Come, we that love the Lord,
And let our joys be known;
Join in a song with sweet accord,
Join in a song with sweet accord
And thus surround the throne,
And thus surround the throne

We’re marching to Zion,
Beautiful, beautiful Zion;
We’re marching upward to Zion,
The beautiful city of God.
Let those refuse to sing,

Who never knew our God;
But favorites of the heavenly King,
But favorites of the heavenly King
May speak their joys abroad,
May speak their joys abroad.

Notice the hymn-writer said we are "Marching" not camping! And we are marching forward as we march! And, we are marching upward!

So, following Jesus requires us to walk with, to stay in step with Him. As His disciples, what happens if you walk ahead of Him?  What might happen if you don't really keep up with Him? A distance can develop then, right?  And what happens if He wants to lead you to a higher place or share a newer revelation of His glory and you are still looking back?

As we head into this Holy Week finalizing preparations for a great celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, intentionally order your schedule and your stuff so you can enjoy this journey with the King of Kings. Revel in His presence and praise Him for keeping in step with the will of God for you. Chase the Risen Savior with all your heart and never pitch a tent! Never get too comfortable or casual so as to lose the blessing, the significance, the hope, or the presence, or the peace of following Jesus who rose from the dead to set us free!

Comfort is over rated. God designed and wired us for challenges, not for camp outs!

What comfort zone might you be caught in?


Saturday, April 16, 2011

April 17, 2011

"There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.............When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus."   Matthew 17:1-3; 7-8

What was it that they saw on the mountaintop that so affected them?

As they headed up the mountain I wonder what they thought they were going to see?

I have a feeling they didn't expect to see what they saw!

When you think about a mountaintop experience with God, what is it that you want to see? Have you ever thought about that? Maybe you should.

Of course, I wasn't on the mountaintop so I can only speculate, but I'll tell you what I think they saw. I believe what they saw that so changed them was the holiness of God!

Why do I say that? What do I base that on?

First, the Word says they saw a brilliant light. What would cause such brilliance other than the pure radiance of a holy, sinless Presence! That brilliance is the light of pure love, the light of pure wisdom, the light of pure knowledge and the light of pure never-ending life! Those are the components of holiness and that is Who God is! As John wrote later in His Gospel, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind."

Second, the record says that His clothes became was white as the light. To be that white and shine that brightly denotes the absence of sin. What is holiness except the absence of sin? Doesn't it remind you of another time John saw Jesus, "The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire, His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance."

You may disagree with me if you wish, and you may be right. But I think what they saw on that mountaintop was the holiness of God!

After three years of following Jesus and sharing in His life and ministry they had seen His power in countless manifestations. They had witnessed healings! They had seen the dead raised! They had seen water turn into wine and a lunch turned into an all-you-can eat buffet! They had seen Him walk on water and they watched Him still a storm. You would think that with all those experiences with His power, they wouldn't have needed a mountaintop experience.

But they did.

I would venture to guess that when you think of a mountaintop experience you envision a manifestation of His power. You long for that. You pray for it. Sometimes you even fast for it. But is that what you really need? Does God still have to prove His power to you?

And if you did receive that mountop experience and if God DID show you a supernatural manifestation of His power - then what? Would you believe more or would you cry out for another one? How would you be different coming down the mountain that you were climbing it? Would you be different in your hidden places that you were on the high place?

Isn't holiness what you really need? Would His purity be a better answer to your problems than His power?  Everyone looks good in the high places. Wouldn't it be great if the mountaintop experiences made you different in the hidden places of your life?

When you long for a mountaintop experience you had best know what you are asking God for. And if it is not a fresh vision of His holiness - do you really need it? And if you are not ready to receive His holiness - do you really want it?

Friday, April 15, 2011

April 16, 2011

"Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”   Matthew 17:4

I contend that the reason we need a mountaintop experience is not always the reason we want one. Just as Peter wanted to build three shelters on the mountaintop, I believe there are three boxes we are especially prone to want to build for Jesus. A fresh revelation of Who He is can help us confront those. This morning I want to focus on those three "shelters" or boxes where we try to "store" Jesus.

The first is the emotional box. We want to be able to pull Jesus out to give us an emotional lift whenever we feel we need it and then put Him back in. With all the dangers of 21st century living and the demands of being a parent, a spouse, and employee - a child of God - emotions can get stretched and strained.

Certainly, God cares about our emotions, but He wants to do more than just thrill us - He wants to fill us! I believe that was one of the messages of the mountaintop. Jesus had worked with these disciples and in these disciples but a His time on the planet was nearing an end He was going to have to work through them. To do that He need to fill them. If you just want God to thrill you and you try to keep Him in that emotions box, you need a fresh revelation of Who He is!

Also, if you just want Jesus in your emotional box so you can pull Him out for an occasional charge, you will find that doesn't work. Jesus didn't lead these three guys up the mountain to charge them, He took them up there to change them!

God didn't want them to build three boxes and He doesn't want you to try and confine Jesus in your emotions box.

A second box we try to build is the emergency box. We want Jesus to be like the fire alarm in our lives - "In Case of Emergency Break Glass". Rather than allow Him to guide us and keep us on His path, we ask Him to guard us when we've wandered off the path and into danger. We want rescue but not responsibility. It is hard to be responsible. It costs us something and makes demands of us. To just keep Jesus in the emergency box and have Him on call when we get in a bind seems much easier to us.

If that is where you are with Jesus you need a fresh revelation of Him. You need a mountaintop experience that will cause you to take responsibility for your spiritual progress and not use Him for rescue missions.

A third box we want to keep Jesus in is the encouragement box. Life is hard! The grind of daily routines and rituals take a toll on you physically, emotionally and spiritually. But we tend to try to go it on our own and find our own ways of coping until we run out of gas. When we feel discouraged and need a lift out of the mundane exoeriences of doing life then we let God out of the box and demand that He encourage us. We grab the devotional or the Bible or the latest worship CD and say, "Okay, God, do your thing!"

If all Jesus is to you is a means of encouragement in the midst of the mundane, you need a fresh revelation of Who He Is! He doesn't exist just to encourage you - He lives to empower you! He wants to be your Master so He can turn the mundane into your ministry and your mission field! Your routines are where your life is lived on a daily basis and if you miss Him there you miss out on Who He is and what He can do!

As Peter was proposing his plan to construct the three boxes he was interrupted by God with an announcement that Jesus is HIS Son! He is God in the flesh! He is not to be contained or confined to any shelter or boxes. He did not come to emotionally charge you - He can to essentially change you! He did not come to be an emergency response, He came to call you to responsibilty. You are to build His Kingdom! And He does not exist just to brighten your day, He wants to empower you to live in the fullness of His love and power everyday so what was once mundane can become a mission!

Mountaintop experiences happen not to construct boxes but to crush them. Are there any boxes you are clinging to? Do you need to allow Jesus to be much more than He is in the area of your emotions, in the realm of you will, or in the midst of your daily living?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

April 15, 2011

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."  I John 4:18

The final fear we will deal with in this "FEARLESS" series is the most obscure of the fears we have confronted but it could also be the most fundamental. I think you will understand better as I explain. This fear is the "Fear of God Getting Out of Our Box".

What do I mean by that? What is this fear?

To understand this fear is to understand the problem with fear in general. The reason we put God in a box is because that is how we naturally handle fear. It is called "compartmentalization" by psychologists and what it means we tend to put things we fear into boxes or compartments. We respond to anxiety not by facing it but by filing it! By splitting it up into small parts and filing it into little compartments (boxes) we think it will be less threatening. But, what actually happens is rather than having less fear we have more because we have to worry about each of those little fears getting out of their little boxes.

So naturally, how are we going to handle God in our lives? We try to put Him into the "box" we have created for our faith. But how can an infinite and onmipotent Spirit like God be kept in a box? He can't and that frightens even more. So, we vacilate between the fear of having Him get out and the guilt of trying to keep Him in.

Does that make sense?

What Jesus did with Peter, James and John after leading them up the mountaintop was to peel back His humanity for a minute or so and showed them Who He REALLY was. Not only did He shine for them but His holy light penetrated their hearts and souls as Jesus said essentially, "Fear this!" Or, in terms of this discussion, Jesus was saying, "Box this!"

Once they were confronted face-to-face with the glorified Jesus, they were forced to realize how futile it is to keep God in a box. But they also saw how unnecessary it is. There petty fears were overshadowed by a greater fear. Jesus was calling them out of their compartments and into His completeness. They didn't need a bunch of little fears, they just needed one BIG one! Him!

When John (who was there) wrote, "Perfect love casts out fear...." perhaps what he was really saying was, "Perfect love cleans out the files (or compartments, i.e. boxes)...". I think so! I think that is exactly what He was saying.

So how do I do that?

Stop trying to control Him or manage Him and surrender to Him in holy fear. Allow Him in to all your compartments to clean out all your filed away fears. Then let His vast and powerful Holy Spirit fill all the files, all the compartments, and all the boxes! The holy fear of God - His perfect (complete) love can fill you until there is no room for human fear.

Then, and only then, will you know what it is to live "FEARLESS"!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

April 14, 2011

"Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”   Matthew 17:4-5

One of the reasons you like the mountain-top is because it momentarily rescues you from the mundane grind of daily living.

When Peter, James and John were led up the mountain with Jesus for an eye-witness gaze into His true nature, they experienced the essential difference between the glory of the revelation and the grind of the routine. No wonder they wanted to remain up there! Who wouldn't?

The word "mundane" has an interesting origin. It comes from the same root as "world" and refers to how you live out your life in this world of time and space and physical demands. That is why the distance between the mountain-top and the mundane can seem so vast.

Jesus and His disciples faced a daily routine of perpetual need and never-ending demands. Everyday they were challenged by the "religious establishment". Each day they were beseiged by helpless, hopeless, and healthless people with no where else to turn but Jesus. And for everyone they helped and healed there were three or four more who they couldn't reach. It was unrelenting day after day. Even tough they moved from village to village the desparation was the same. But up on the mountain it was quiet and safe and simple! For nearly three years they witnessed on a daily basis what Jesus could do - but on the mountain-top they got to see Who He is!
I have had mountain-top experiences! There are those moments when I receive a fresh revelation of Who Jesus is! Once I get a clear glimpse of His glory you really don't want to stop looking. The thought of returning to the ordinary is a bit depressing and a tad scary. When Jesus ministers to me and restores me, it feels so good I don't want it to end. If you know what I am talking about I need no further explanation and if you don't, no amount of explanation will suffice.
At the end of those mountain-top moments there is always a dread or a fear that when I come down from the mountain to the mundane I will lose that feeling and that focus I received. There is a fear that when I get back into the mundane it will grind the glory out of me! That is what I mean when I refer to the "fear of the mundane".

But, a proper understanding of what the mountain-top means can deliver us from the fear of the mundane. Understand that Jesus did not call Peter, James and John to remove them from the mundane - He called them up there to remove the mundane from them! He wanted them to understand that there should not be this dicotomy between the spiritual and the secular. He didn't call them to overcome the secular by His Spirit! The purpose of the mountain-top is to transform the mundane! When the glory of God resides in us, everything we do is holy and everywhere we go becomes holy ground! Jesus is not just glorious when He is on the mountain-top, He is glorious everywhere but that glory must be expressed through us!

As long as the enemy can maintain a distance between the mountain-top and the mundane - he wins! But when God's people Who Jesus - "Christ in you the hope of glory" - and when we bring the glory of God into the grind of daily living faith rises and fear falls!

Don't just go to the mountain-top, be the mountain-top for others!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

April 13, 2011

"After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus."  Matthew 17:1-3

Jesus had twelve disciples but He had three "go to guys" whom He led up the mountain. They followed Him with no real idea what He had in mind for them. They loved Him and trusted Him and wanted to be where He was - so they followed! That was good! How can you be a follower of Jesus if you don't go where He leads? How can you be a follower of Jesus if you don't value intimate time with Him? These guys where and they did!

Because they followed Him up the mountain they got to experience something only a select few can claim this side of Heaven. They got to witness the glory of Jesus! They saw the "real" Jesus, the Son of God outside the "box" of His flesh! Wow! What a charge!

Now, you need to ask yourself, "What was Jesus' purpose in sharing this personal, powerful side of His nature to these followers?" Do think it was just to give them a charge? Or could it have been to inspire them to change? And what change was He after?

Good questions? I guess your answer depends on whether you want to change or not. Or, are you just following Jesus for the charge He can give you?

If you just want an emotional charge from following Jesus, He will not care to reveal Himself to you because He is after effective change in your life. If God has not revealed Himself to you lately, perhaps you should check your heart to honestly examine why you follow Him.

One way to recognize those who merely follow Jesus for the charge they can get is that they always go back - they live in the past to the place of the last revelation. When you hear them testify it is always something that happened "back then".

Notice, the disciples where led "up" not "back". They went to a new place with Jesus and got a new look at Him. Jesus wanted to increase their faith and take away their fear - including the fear of changing.

Let me ask you, when you look for a spiritual charge, do you go "back" or do you go "up"? What changes have happened in your life since the last time God revealed Himself to you? Are you walking closer to Him? Is your witness stronger and more effective? Is there joy in the work you do for Him?

Jesus only gives you a charge when He wants you to change! If you are following Him for the charges but unwilling to change, you will find yourself frustrated because God's job is to change you - not charge you up!

Monday, April 11, 2011

April 12, 2011

"Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”   Matthew 17:4

Who doesn't enjoy a mountain-top experience?

If I ask how many would like to have to see fresh inspiring personal vision of our Lord and the manifestion of His glory - everyone would sign up! I don't think there is any doubt about that.

Is it realistic to expect a mountain-top experience every Sunday? How about every day?

Why don't we see more of them?

Even the inner circle of disciples only had one of them in their three years of following Jesus?

So, what SHOULD we expect?

While that would be an interesting discussion to have, let me tell you one thing I know from this Biblical account - REVELATION BRINGS RESPONSIBILITY!

The disciples where so excited about what they beheld during Jesus' transfiguration that they wanted to build some shrines and camp out up there! Who can blame them?

But, God Himself, shut that idea down by interrupting Peter in mid-sentence. God is not nearly as interested in happy days on the mountain as is about what happens in human hearts! He wants your worship to reflect in your walk! If your worship doesn't reflect in your witness what good is it?

Old-timers who were dubious about charismatic worship used to say, "I don't care how high you jump but I care about how straight you walk when you hit the ground!" I think that fits in this event!

Let me offer this opinion for your consideration, "We will have more mountain-top experiences when our witness and our walk reflects the passion, power and presence of our worship." Make sense?

Revelation carries with it responsibility. If you want the joy, sign up for the job! If you want to see His glory, live out His story! You can't have the experience His glory if your are willing to be an example of His glory! Mountain-top experiences are not about a thrill up your leg, it is about a transformation of your life!

The reason we are talking about this is not primarily because of what happened on the mountain-top but because what happened after they came down! John, James and Peter took the responsibility of the revelation!

Do you want more thrills on the hills? Live in the power of His Presence in your daily walk and be a witness to His glory! If you want the revelation - take the responsibility!