He is not here, for He has risen.” (Matthew 28:6, New American Standard Bible)
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20, NASB)
For a unique period of human history, Jesus — God in human flesh — dwelt among us as a man. Being eternally God, when he came to earth, he became fully human as well. Because he is both God and man, he can be in heaven seated at the right hand of the Father and also be everywhere else at once.
Jesus is rightly called Immanuel, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
He took on flesh to live with us, die for us, and be raised from the dead, leading the way for us to follow.
His presence, power and authority are not merely confined to upper rooms, open fields or sandy seasides. Jesus is in every home, workplace and recreational space as He accompanies His faithful followers into all spheres of life. He is especially with and among His children. He is here with you.
As a follower of Jesus, you can have confidence through His resurrection that your sins are forgiven. Everything Jesus promised in His teachings you can trust to be true. You are a child of God, you will live forever with Him and your life on earth will be transformed as you continually entrust Him with it.
Jesus promised that the result of a close relationship with Him is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23, New Living Translation). These traits that He exhibits through you enable you to be an inviting and effective ambassador of His wherever you go. He is with you always, the senior partner in an ongoing quest to change the world, one life at a time.
Thank God that He wants to go through life with you, and ask Him what the first change you need to make is to experience life closer to Him.
Rejoice in the amazing grace we remember on Resurrection Sunday, which promises we can dwell with God, and He with us, for eternity.
Lent – Day 40 From Death To Life
With You in the Dark
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:1-5
The first Holy Saturday experience for Jesus’ followers was colored in dark tones and painted with despair. After witnessing Jesus’ death on the cross and burial in stone, His followers were left without their teacher, their healer or their hope.
They were without the One who spoke words of eternal life. Without the One who turned their lives right-side up. Without the One they intended to follow the rest of their lives.
A deafening “without” echoed on that mournful Saturday.
If you’ve lived long enough, you’ve experienced dark moments when you’ve felt alone. When the power of death felt present in your life. When you’ve been without. Easter Saturday reminds us of God’s power to turn “without” into “with.”
Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, reminds them of the death they once knew — full of overwhelming passions, unsatisfying desires and destructive cravings. These are dark sentences ending in wrath. But Paul tells them that in the face of this darkness and despair, God made them alive with Christ.
How did God do this for them? How does He do it for you?
Instead of leaving you alone in your darkness and despair, He enters into that pain to be with you. The cross on Friday and the grave on Saturday were the lengths to which God was willing to go to take your sin and death upon Himself.
He came to be with you in your darkness so you can be with Him in His life. By His grace, you do not have to remain in this Saturday despair, but you can live with Him in His new Sunday life.
The good news of the Easter story is that God made a way for you to be alive with Christ.
If you’re like me, the word “with” has never sounded so good.
How are you experiencing the darkness and death of Saturday in your life right now?
What would it look like to ask Jesus to be with you in those dark places so you can experience life with Him? If you’ve never experienced the love and grace of God, take time to read more about Knowing God Personally.
Lent – Day 39
The Torn Veil of Victory
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split. Matthew 27:50-51
Reading the phrase “the veil was torn in two” in 2022 doesn’t hold as much weight as it did in Jesus’ time. What comes to mind when you picture a veil? Possibly a bride? So, why would a veil have anything to do with Jesus dying on the cross?
In fact, this moment was monumental, and there is more to it than you may be able to see from your twenty-first-century perspective.
The temple was where God chose to make His home with His people. Within the temple, behind a heavy curtain (called a veil) was the Holy of Holies. Only the high priest could enter this sacred space, and only after following elaborate instructions for purification.
The ripping of the veil at Jesus’ death represents something profound. Jesus offered the final sacrifice for purification — Himself. The moment that looked like ultimate defeat, Jesus’ death, was actually ultimate victory because of what His death (and resurrection) accomplished.
The violent tearing of the curtain represents both Jesus’ gruesome death and sacrifice for our sin, as well as the removal of the barrier between people and God. Now that the curtain was left ripped and open, sinful people could enter into God’s presence. With sin taken out of the equation through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, all people could finally come freely into fellowship with God (see Hebrews 10:19-22).
The moment you confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you step into an eternal relationship with Him. No longer does the temple hold the presence of God, but His presence lives in you. As the Holy Spirit empowers you over time, you will experience Christ’s redemptive work in every area of your life.
Reflect and Pray
Read the full account of Jesus’ death on the cross in Matthew 27:45-55.
Also read Hebrews 10:19-22. What is one way your life is different because Christ tore the temple veil in two?
Consider this prayer: “Jesus, I’m amazed by Your wondrous mercy and love. Clear my mind and help me to focus on You. Thank You for giving your life in my place and for opening the way for me to have a restored relationship with You forever.”
Lent – Day 37 Connected to the True Vine
“Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5
One chore that is ongoing at our house through the years was picking up sticks and branches from our yard. Those withered, scrawny sticks aren’t good for anything. While trees and vines in our yard produce beautiful flowers and fruit, a branch can’t produce anything if it isn’t connected to the tree.
I like to think of myself as independent, capable and self-sufficient. But the truth is, apart from Christ, I can’t accomplish anything, much less something of eternal value. I was born with a sin nature that separated me from God; I was a dead branch right from the start. Even my first breath on this earth, my first word and first step, were a gift of God’s common grace.
But Jesus’ death on the cross on my behalf enabled me to be united with Him. Miraculously, we “dead branches” have been grafted into the True Vine.
We can bear fruit — live out qualities such as love, patience, joy and self-control — when we stay connected to God through daily prayer and Bible study. And we can help other “dead branches” experience new life when we share who Christ is and what He has done.
Reflect and Pray
Are you grateful to no longer be a “dead branch” on the ground? Thanks to Jesus’ death and resurrection, you have life, purpose and hope here on earth. If you’ve put your trust and faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are no longer separated from God. You are united to Him like beautiful, fruitful branches extending from a steadfast source of life. Not only can you experience the joy of connection to Christ now, but you can also look forward to one day being fully united with your Lord in eternity.
Consider this prayer: “God, I acknowledge that apart from you, I can accomplish nothing of eternal value. Please help me to bear good fruit in my actions and attitudes as I stay connected to you.”
Lent – Day 36
What Was It About Moses?
So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:6
“In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.” Proverbs 14:26
“It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8
Are you ever amazed at the immense faith of a fellow believer? Or at how confident they are? Does anyone in the Bible come to mind? For me, it’s Moses.
Moses was one of the most important prophets in the Old Testament, leading the Jewish people out of slavery in Egypt and acting as God’s mouthpiece to communicate His Law.
The crazy thing is that when God first called Moses to lead His people out of Egypt, Moses refused! In Exodus 4, as God speaks to Moses through a burning bush, giving him explicit instructions and encouragement, Moses continues to waver in his desire to obey, saying, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else” (Exodus 4:13). But God had patience with him and helped him embrace the faith and courage he needed for the job.
Moses’ confidence didn’t grow overnight, and it didn’t grow without him leaning into his fears and working through them. But he also didn’t have to overcome his insecurities alone. God was with him.
Only after Moses saw God miraculously free the Israelites from Pharaoh, divide the Red Sea and provide food and water for masses of people as they wandered in the desert could he confidently declare, “It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
God led Moses from a place of insecurity to a place of confidence, bravery and faith. Moses’ confidence didn’t stem from himself, but from his firm foundation; he was rooted in God.
You may have moments of insecurity and fear, but because of who you are grounded in, you can walk confidently knowing that, although the ground may shake, God will be there to secure your footing.
There will be times in your life when Hebrews 13:6, “The Lord is my Helper, I will not fear,” will flow easily from your mouth. At other times, though, the process of growing in faith will not be easy. You’ll take steps along the way that are scary, and you’ll need to trust that God will meet you in a vulnerable place.
When you reach a decision point or a place that makes you feel insecure, just pause. Remember God’s faithfulness to Moses. Remember the great love Christ demonstrated for you on the cross. Remember the times His presence covered you and His strength filled you. Remember He did not leave you then and He won’t leave you now.
Reflect and Respond
What are some instances when God strengthened you and was your rock in the midst of a hard time? Write them down, praising and thanking Him that you can have confidence in His faithfulness and love.
After focusing on your past, focus on your present. In what area or areas of your life do you need to ask God to help you find your security and confidence in Him?
Lent – Day 35
The Voice of Grace: How God Moves You From Rebellion to Obedience
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Titus 2:11-13
There are many ways to get someone to do something. Parents and children know how this works. You can use a reward (“If you clean your room, I’ll give you a donut”). You can use persuasion (“Wouldn’t it feel nice to have a clean room?”). You can use threats (“Clean your room right now or no Netflix for a week”). You can even use passive-aggression (“Well, when you get a disease from the filth in your room, don’t expect me to nurse you back to health!”).
These techniques come naturally to most people. But what about God? Does God use passive-aggression to get you to do what’s right? Does God threaten you to keep you from doing what is wrong?
Paul’s letter to Titus includes an insight into God’s method of growing you from a rebellious child to a person who loves and obeys Him. It is God’s grace that teaches you to say no to what is wrong and yes to what is right.
God’s primary tool for your transformation is not the threat of punishment but the promise of forgiveness. His love changes you into the person He wants you to be.
The story of Easter you are preparing to celebrate this coming weekend reminds you that, when God saw the mess of your life, He did not condemn you from afar, but drew near and entered into our world to bring a solution. At the cross, God demonstrated His grace and kindness to you. Now you, His follower, can tune your ear to the voice of grace and to love and obey Him because He first loved you.
What motivates you to obey God?
How can you listen to grace as it teaches you to say no to what is wrong?
Where is God asking you to say no? Where is He asking you to say yes to Him?
Lent – Palm Sunday: Read, Reflect and Rest
Today is Palm Sunday, the day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and was welcomed as the long-awaited king.
As you rest today, take some time to read and reflect on Matthew 21:1-11 (New International Version):
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
“Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Strength for The Weak
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Most of my notions of weakness and strength come from what I’ve observed in the world. It seems that the big strong guy wins and the little weak guy loses. A scramble for success and power leaves no room for weakness. So most of us shun and avoid it in every form. In avoiding weakness, we can grow restless, willful, overly driven, stressed, impatient, isolated, unrelatable, harsh, selfish or unempathetic. A fun way to live, right?
Yet God offers us an entirely different way. In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Paul shares from his own struggle that God’s way is not the world’s. God chooses the foolish to shame the wise, taking what is nothing and making it grand 1 Corinthians 1:27-28
Just think of the disciples Jesus chose. A bunch of normal people — fishermen, farmers and a tax-collector — were his selected team to spread the kingdom of God to the world.
Ultimately, God uses the human weakness of His own Son, Jesus Christ, to show off His strength. At the Cross, Jesus willingly becomes worse than weak — a curse (Gal. 3:13) — and in so doing displays God’s strength in the form of love, sacrifice, redemption, resurrection and adoption. At the Cross, God reverses the curse of the Fall, including the world’s way of thinking. Strength, once associated with power, becomes strength bound to surrender and alignment with God’s ways. Weakness, associated with vulnerability and loss, becomes weakness associated with infinite gain.
His presence with you changes everything. So don’t be afraid to be weak today. Take it as an opportunity to rejoice that God uses weakness and humility to revolutionize the world.
By exercising your awareness of God’s presence with you and by meditating on His Word, you will discover an inner strength that will not only carry you through the trials of life but will bring with it a joy that will grow in eternity.
Take a minute to read Hebrews 4:14-16.
How does Jesus’ sympathizing with your temptations and weakness make you think about your own weakness?
When reading the Bible, look for examples of how God chooses the way of weakness to display His strength.
If you have extra time, look at Jesus’ blessings in Matthew 5:1-12. Do you see yourself in the progression of these verses?
Lent – Day 31
God Brings Hope Out of Despair
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
“I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in Him.” Psalm 40:1-3
“Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains.” Psalm 107:13-14
We are coming out of a season of such unknowns. Our world is swirling in unrest. Things that were once certain seem fleeting and unreliable. Food supplies have dwindled and the shelves at the grocery store less dependable than ever before. Not the mention price increases on everything. Covid and it’s aftermath has triggered doubt and fear in our world. And trust has been broken on every level. Relationships strained to the breaking point.
It has been wearying for so many. Small businesses have closed, family members lost and the world turned upside down has created an environment for even the strongest of faith to fear and worry. Spiritually defeated as we were unable to gather corporately. The isolation alone has given satan ground to work his evil way into the minds and hearts of us all. None of us immune to the spiritual warfare that has ensued.
People have been weary and heavy laden. But God. This season is the reminder of life. Fronds unfurl and are poking up thru the forest floor. Fresh greenery springing up as a reminder that God is only one who can do that. I cannot will the daffodils return. I have no power over the sweet smelling flowers that open on my Carolina Jasmine. I am reminded of His power. New life. Hope. The promise that with the seasons, there will always be the hope of Spring.
I hear your stories. I see your discouragement. I have known your grief and sorrow. I know the doubts and fears that feel like they will take the last breath you have.
But God. His love so real. The promise of a Savior when He could have just turned His back on us.
Serving. Suffering. Surrendering. Dying. Living. Comforting. Loving.
He came that WE may have life.
Salvation. Things eternal.
Today, let’s bow down together at the foot of the cross. Grab your Bible. Saturate your mind with worshipping Him. Set your mind on the things that you know are true not what you think are true. Pour out your heart to God and seek His way. Claim the promises in His Word as trustworthy. Pour out your feelings and struggles in a prayer, journal or conversation with a trusted friend.
Read, memorize and pray through Psalm 91 and 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.
Finally, as a follower of Jesus Christ, use Jesus’ delegated authority (Matthew 28:18-20) to resist and rebuke any spiritual attacks.