Knowing God

What Does Easter Mean to You?

Christmas and Easter mornings were the highlights of every year of my childhood. From December 26th on, I anticipated celebrating Easter and all that went along with the holiday: going shopping with my Mom and sister to buy a new and frilly dress to wear to church; coloring eggs that mysteriously appeared outside our house for my siblings and I to hunt on Easter morning; singing favorite hymns like “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”; sharing a special meal with all my in-town relatives following church; and capping off the day with a huge Easter egg hunt at my Grandparents’ house, which resulted in an Easter basket filled with a bounty of egg shaped candy that I feasted on for days. I knew that Easter was a celebration of Jesus being raised from the dead, but like most children— and I venture to say even many adults— my focus was more on the accoutrements of the holiday rather than on the true significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection. My family and I always attended Good Friday services, where I faithfully remained somber during the sermonettes on Jesus’ last words from the cross. I remember thinking it peculiar that the day that Jesus died and suffered so much pain was labeled as ‘good.’ Now, with a much greater understanding of all that His death and resurrection accomplished, I consider it not just ‘good’ Friday, but GREAT Friday! Life giving, death-defying Friday!

Jesus-Is-Risen
Jesus-Is-Risen

I realize that Jesus Christ came to earth for the express purpose of delivering me from the pain, suffering and eternal death that I deserve for my sin of rebellion against a Holy God. I am overwhelmed with gratitude and awe that Jesus, the perfect Son of God, chose to take on human flesh and died in my place on the cross! Yes, Christmas Day when we celebrate Christ’s birth is noteworthy, but Easter—or as I prefer ‘Resurrection Day’—is now ‘hands down’ my favorite holiday. It commemorates the day that Satan and death were defeated! It is the day that reminds me that ‘because Jesus lives, I can face tomorrow’, and every tomorrow after that, no matter what! Death has lost its sting! It has been ‘swallowed up in victory’! (1st Corinthians 15:54-55) I no longer have to fear the death of my body and eternal damnation; I can embrace death when it comes as the doorway to seeing Jesus ‘face-to-face’ and spending eternity in His glorious Presence!

The ultimate significance of Easter is that what we believe about what happened on that day divides the world in two: those who believe that Jesus atoned for their sin on the cross and receive Him as their personal Savior and ‘Lord of their life’ and therefore will be resurrected to eternal life with Him, and those who reject Him as their personal Savior and Lord and therefore condemn themselves to being resurrected to eternal damnation.

What separates Jesus from every other so called god in the world is that He alone claimed to be God, and proved His claim by His perfectly obedient life…. and by His power to overcome death as evidenced by His resurrection from the dead! His tomb is empty! Jesus, ‘the Word Who became flesh’, is alive! (John1:14) His Words are just as alive today as when He walked on earth in the flesh, and they produce life in all who believe them. Jesus is alive; He is at the right hand of the Father; and He is praying for those who draw near to Him! (Acts 2:33; Hebrews 7:25)

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. “ John 11: 25

After making that claim, Jesus asked Martha, Lazarus’ sister, ‘Do you believe this?”

Imagine Him asking you that question right now. What would your response be to the One Who knows you best? Do you truly believe that Jesus is the Son of God Who laid down His life as the perfect sacrifice, and thereby paid the penalty that your sin deserves? (Romans 6:23)

Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, and His words and His life reflected and proved His claim to be true. If you claim to follow Jesus, do your words and actions support that claim? Would your family and friends say, “Wow! She’s a Christian!” or “Wow, she’s a Christian?!”Are you clinging to His words and closely following in the path that He has laid out before you and called you to walk in? Are you daily ‘denying yourself and picking up your cross’—in other words, putting aside your own selfish will and desires and living for the desires and will of God? (Luke 9:23)

Or, are you following Jesus from a distance…like Peter did when the authorities arrested Jesus? From a distance, it was easy for Peter to deny Jesus. Do not be deceived: from a distance, it will be easy for you to deny Jesus too. While they were in Jesus’ Presence and before the reality of the cross, all of the disciples had claimed that they would follow Him, even if it meant their death. (Matthew 26:35) However, their claim was proven to be false because their faith was proven to be weak. They all abandoned Him rather than follow Him to the cross. Why? Because their fear of man was greater than their belief in Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Man. Because they saw Jesus as their friend—even the Messiah— who was supposed to conquer and rule the world, but they had not yet seen Him as their personal Savior Who had died in their place, conquered death, and Who longed to reign in their hearts.

However, following his death and resurrection they saw and knew Him as the ‘Risen Savior’, which solidified their faith in Him and simultaneously diminished their fear of man. They knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was the Son of God and the fulfillment of God the Father’s promise to send a Messiah to His people. The same men who had feared man and death prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection, would post-resurrection willingly lay down their lives for what they knew to be true and could not deny: the reality that Jesus is God, and the Way, the Truth and the Life! (John 14:6)

Do you know Jesus personally and experientially so that there is no doubt in your heart and mind that He is indeed God? Have you received the free gift of salvation and eternal life that He offers to all that humble themselves and believe that He paid the price for their sin and took on the death they deserve?

“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:3

If you do not know Him, you can! Ask Him to reveal Himself to you and to give you a heart that seeks after Him. If you ask, He will answer! (Matthew 7:7)

“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” James 4:8 “Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” John 6:29 "Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 “Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near.” Isaiah 55:6

May God grant us all hearts that seek after Him, believe in Him, receive His love, follow Him, and obey His word, proving ourselves to be His disciples!

Written by Julie Van Gorp

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Have We Been "Given Over?"

Have We Been “Given Over?”

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In our country, have we been “given over?”  Romans 1:21-32 mentions the following (in black below) and I’ve made bold certain portions for emphasis, and put my own thoughts and sources in italics.

21 Because when they knew and recognized Him as God, they did not honor and glorify Him as God or give Him thanks. But instead they became futile and[c]godless in their thinking [with vain imaginings, foolish reasoning, and stupid speculations] and their senseless minds were darkened.

These are not people in a “far away” land, these are people who “knew and recognized Him as God.”

22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools [professing to be smart, they made simpletons of themselves].

There is evidence of this in the teaching in every major university in our country.

23 And by them the glory and majesty and excellence of the immortal God were exchanged for and represented by images, resembling mortal man and birds and beasts and reptiles.

Self-worship is idolatry.

woman_mirror
woman_mirror

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their [own] hearts to sexual impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves [abandoning them to the degrading power of sin],

This reminds me of a parent who continues to tell their children that the hot stove will burn them, and finally, after many attempts to scold, discipline and remove the child from the hazard, the rebellious child once more goes toward the stove and the loving parent says, “fine…if you want to rebel so bad, then get burned.  This may be the only way for you to learn my truth.”

25 Because they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, Who is blessed forever! Amen (so be it).

Yes, self-worshipers, self-serving, and self-investing.  There are many lies that are being exchanged for God’s truth.  May we each pray and ask God to reveal if there are any in our own lives.  One lie is hedonism:

he·don·ism

noun

1.-the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the highest good.

2.-devotion to pleasure as a way of life

26For this reason God gave them over and abandoned them to vile affections and degrading passions. For their women exchanged their natural function for an unnatural and abnormal one…

This article is one of many that is an example of this point:

http://freedomoutpost.com/2013/12/legitimizing-polyamory-next-battle-war-traditional-marriage/

27 And the men also turned from natural relations with women and were set ablaze (burning out, consumed) with lust for one another—men committing shameful acts with men and suffering in their own [a]bodies and personalities the inevitable consequences and penalty of their wrong-doing and going astray, which was [their] fitting retribution. 

It is difficult to find primetime television shows that do not glorify this. http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/34273-gay-agenda-makes-not-so-subtle-inroads-into-primetime-tv

28 And so, since they did not see fit to acknowledge God or approve of Him or consider Him worth the knowing, God gave them over to a base and condemned mind to do things not proper or decent but loathsome,

Hence the taking God’s name out of nearly every area of teaching, military and public space.

http://radio.foxnews.com/toddstarnes/top-stories/air-force-removes-god-from-logo.html

29 Until they were filled (permeated and saturated) with every kind of unrighteousness, iniquity, grasping and covetous greed, and malice. [They were] full of envy and jealousy, murder, strife, deceit and treachery, ill will and cruel ways. [They were] secret backbiters and gossipers,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knockout_(violent_game)

30 Slanderers, hateful to and hating God, full of insolence, arrogance, [and] boasting; inventors of new forms of evil, disobedient and undutiful to parents.

It’s interesting to me that the people who are being described here are not saying that God doesn’t exist.  They know He exists, and choose to hate Him.

31 [They were] without understanding, conscienceless and faithless, heartless and loveless [and] merciless.

This verse should scare those who don’t like calling sin; sin.  Many in our society prefer to not confront sin: Saying to themselves, “As long as it doesn’t hurt me, then, who am I to judge?”  We must recognize there will be a point at which people are without conscience. When we repeat what the Judge has already said, we are not judging; we are teaching, sharing, educating and honoring God; He is our Judge and has judged, and has determined these sinful ways to be unrighteous.

32 Though they are fully aware of God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them themselves but approve and applaud others who practice them

Notice that God says these people are “fully aware,” not partially aware, or somewhat aware, no, they are “fully aware” of God’s righteous decree!  If this happens to those who are “fully aware” of God’s righteous decree, imagine the state of those who are not.

These people are engaging in and applauding others who are also practicing sinful ways!  I feel like we are all watching this unfold before our eyes.  These are not people of some far away land, but are our neighbors and loved ones.  May we be found faithful to put on the ‘full armor of God’, and to pray on all occasions and for all of those who know Him and yet deny Him, while standing firm, knowing that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but are powerful in bringing down strongholds.

So I ask again, in our country have we been “given over”  by God?  Share your thoughts with us.

Written by Jamie Shaver

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God Revelation- Blessing of Trials

“What does eternal life mean to you?” For many years the answer would have been for me— and I would imagine for many people “heaven”.  That changed for me when I read John17:3:  “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” God’s desire for us is that we know Him; when we come to experientially, personally know Him we go from death to life.

One of the reasons that the Lord leads us to and through trials is so we can come to really know Him. It is through trials that we often come to recognize our great need for Him and understand aspects of His character, His holy ways, and His amazing love for us.

The apostle Paul experienced countless trials as he obeyed God’s call on his life.  Before becoming a Christian he had everything the world considers valuable. Yet, he states in Philippians 3:8-11: 

“…I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him…I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings…”

Do you too consider everything garbage (literally ‘dung’) compared to knowing Christ Jesus?  There was a time when like Paul, I considered the things of this world of great value. But then I came to know Jesus, and realized that all I truly desire in life is found in knowing Him intimately. 

I fervently prayed that He would reveal Himself to me and that I would be conformed more and more into His image. I admit that it didn’t occur to me that the answer to my prayer would necessitate suffering.  It was in the midst of a great trial that I came to understand that since Jesus was a “suffering servant” Who “learned obedience through the things He suffered”, that if I was to understand and become more like Him that I too would have to experience trials and suffering. 

When I experienced a gut-wrenching betrayal by someone whom I had considered a close friend and was reeling from emotional pain, I heard in my spirit, “You asked to be conformed to my image.  Look to the cross. I know what it feels like to be betrayed by those you love. I chose to endure betrayal for your sake. Allow your suffering to draw you closer to me.”

In that instant, the pain of my betrayal actually became a blessing and gift to me! God used it to reveal to me how great His love is for me. I realized that He loved me so much that He chose the pain of betrayal that He experienced when Judas betrayed him and Peter and all the disciples forsook Him at the time of His greatest need.  He gave me the privilege of allowing me in a very small measure to be a “partaker of His suffering”. I came to know Him and the depth of His love in a way that I never could have without going through that trial. 

That incident also taught me to appreciate that God often uses trials in our lives to reveal Himself to us in ways that we never could comprehend without suffering. If there is no perceived need for Him, we may not look to Him or appreciate all that He is.  If we never stop to consider what it cost Him to bring about our salvation, we can easily take His love for granted.

For example, although this list is far from comprehensive it gives us a few examples of Who Jesus is. You will only come to know Him in the following ways if you recognize your need of Him:

 As your Refuge if you are in need of safety

As Shepherd if you need guidance. 

As The Great Physician if you have need of healing

As Your Strength if you are weak

As Your Provider if you are in want of something

As Your Comforter if you are experiencing loss

As Your Encourager if you are downcast

As Your Rock if you are needing security and steadfastness

As Your Savior if you know you need saving

What trial has the Lord allowed you to experience in order for you to know His character and love even better? What are you going through right now that He wants to use to draw you even closer to Him and to His heart of love for you?

Written by Julie Van Gorp

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