Ultimate Authority

What strange times these are. I believe that these current days are likely the most significant days from an historical perspective that I will experience in my lifetime. Because of Coronavirus, record numbers of people all around the world are out of work due to orders to stay at home. They are understandably worried about their future, as many will not have a workplace to return to. The death toll from the virus continues to rise. Many are fearful for their lives or the lives of loved ones. Many are questioning their self-worth. We hear voices of authority offering differing opinions and conflicting guidance as to what we do next. The message from the media is often convoluted by political agenda. Indeed, there is a lot of noise out there. To Whom do we turn in times such as these?

“He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against His land and people. The Lord has spoken!

Isaiah 25:8

Yes, these are difficult times. But, thanks be to God, I know without a doubt that we will come through this. God tells us just that in His Word. Look at the promises in this verse from the prophet Isaiah.

  • He will swallow up death forever – Death is real. We will all face death, whether by COVID-19 or other cause, each of will face it. Just this past Sunday we celebrated Easter. The promise of Easter is that all who place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will not die, but will live eternally with God in Heaven. This prophecy – He will swallow up death forever – has already been fulfilled! Do you believe that? I do. For the one who trusts the Lord Jesus, death is not the end. It is simply the passage from life here on earth to life in heaven. If you don’t believe this, seek me out. I would be honored to discuss it with you.
  • He will wipe away all tears – Sadness can be an overwhelming emotion. It is natural to feel sad when life hands us an unexpected circumstance. Loss of work, loss of sense of purpose, loss of a loved one all trigger sadness. Fear of the unknown, fear of the future, fear of tomorrow can also trigger sadness. These are normal and natural reactions to life’s circumstances, and nothing to be ashamed of. God says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘ plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” (Jeremiah 29:11) God spoke this promise to Israel upon their exile to Babylon. Facing unexpected and daunting circumstances, God reminds them as He reminds us today that He has our backs. We can trust Him for that, as God always keeps His promises. Always.
  • He will remove all insults and mockery... – The executive I wrote about yesterday once told me during a rather heated discussion that I lack sense of urgency. He told me that my approach to the problem at hand was hurting our company and he was baffled at my lack of concern about what had transpired. He said this in a conference room full of people, including some of my team members, my boss, and other executives. As I listened to him rant, I understood in the moment that a rant is exactly what that was. This was his way of addressing a problem. And, while his words stung as the untruths hit me, I could see past them – not only because I knew they were not accurate – but because I knew that God knew they were inaccurate. Many of us, when we were young, learned this phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me.” While not from Scripture, I believe it to be true. People will unduly criticize and mock us in various ways under various circumstances. It’s OK. God has my back.

How do I know this to be true? How do I know that God will keep these promises? It’s right here. God, who spoke these words, is sovereign. The Sovereign Lord will achieve these things. Dictionary.com’s definition of sovereign includes, “having supreme rank, power, or authority.” The Bible tells us that God created the heavens and the earth (see Genesis chapter 1). It tells us that Jesus is the Son of God, the Author of Life and Creator of all that exists (see John chapter 1). From here comes the surety that these promises of God are true, they are eternal, and they will be fulfilled.

Lastly, we are told, “The Lord has spoken!” Friends, that’s it. That is the final word. The Sovereign Lord has told us what He will do, and His Word is the supreme and final authority in each of these circumstances – death, sadness, fear, mockery and insult. I tell people often, these are difficult times but I can see past them. I can see past them because I know without a doubt that God has this under control. God never tells us that we will have no difficulties in life; rather, He tells us that He will see us through life’s difficult times. That, through faith in Him, we will be fine. We will get through this.

Do you believe that? I do.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry 2020

Easter Monday: Now What?

I did a lot of soul-searching this weekend. It really began Saturday morning as I read my church’s suggested Scripture reading for Day 40 of Lent (James 5:13-18).

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other, so that you may be healed.

James 5:16

Confess. You see, I’ve always sort of wondered what to do with Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Years past, I would pretty much go about my normal routine. But these aren’t “normal” times, are they? As I read from James’ epistle, I felt that I needed to do something different from past years. So I embarked on a journey beginning with a 5 1/2 mile walk during which I listened to my favorite podcast pastor Alistair Begg. After his sermon, that word kept nagging on my mind. Confess.

I spent the second half of my walk talking with God. I felt closer to Him than I have for quite some time. I offered up various confessions and felt this tremendous sense of reassurance. As I approached home, I knew what I needed to do. I needed to take some time along to *finally* design my 2020 Vision Board in my Christian Planner. How’s that for procrastination? Now, I’m not much of an artist. But this came very quickly, and I am pleased with the result.

Here it is. My roadmap. This represents all that is most important to me. With Christ at the center, I will do a better job of nurturing the three important components to living a happy, fulfilling, God-pleasing life:

  • Something to do;
  • Something to love;
  • Something to hope for.

I am grateful to Pastor Larry Coulter for sharing this wisdom at my brother-in-law’s funeral service this past December. His passing came as a shock, and we all miss him terribly. Larry reminded us that these three fundamental needs are necessary for us to live out our lives here on earth as we await the great reunion that will take place in Heaven one day.

Easter morning I woke up – wide awake – at 4:25 AM. I couldn’t wait to worship with a few congregations online. I worshipped with Holy Trinity Brompton in London, Immanuel Lutheran Church in Greenfield, Iowa and Word of Life Fellowship in Cibolo, TX before joining my home church’s online service here in Houston. My wife and I watched “The Passion of the Christ”. As strange as this Easter was, unable to gather in person but able to gather online, it was exactly what I needed. I just love it when God anticipates and meets my needs!

So – Easter was yesterday and today is Monday. What next? Well, here you have it. Knowing that I can rest assured in my salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection, I am free to pursue my hopes and dreams – hopes and dreams that I will consistently seek to align with God’s Word, His perfect will, and His perfect ways.

He is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Now let’s get on with living!

Soli DEO Gloria!

Marvelous Indeed!

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

The pastor of my youth opened every Easter Sunday service with this ancient declaration and response. This Truth and its acknowledgement is a succinct statement of what makes me tick.

“But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened.”

Luke 24:12

Luke tells us, early on the morning after the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James gathered the spices they had prepared for the anointing of Jesus’ body. They headed to the tomb where He had been laid and discovered that the tomb was open and His body was gone. I cannot imagine what was going through their minds. Just as they stood there, “perplexed,” Luke tells us, two men appeared to them “in dazzling clothing” and declared the shocking news:

“Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” (Luke 24:5-7)

The women, remembering Jesus’ words, went and told the disciples what they had seen and heard. The disciples didn’t believe them. But Peter had to go see for himself.

I have focused on Peter these past few days. Peter was one of three disciples, along with James and John, who seemed to have a particularly close relationship with Jesus. Jesus took only these three up the mountain to witness His transfiguration for example (Luke 9:28-36). Peter was the disciple who vowed to stand with Jesus on Maundy Thursday, but soon afterward deserted Him, denying Him three times. Luke wrote that Peter wept bitterly upon hearing the rooster crow, just as Jesus said. Here, we see Peter, gathered with the other ten disciples, receiving this incredible news from the women who had visited Jesus’ tomb. As the others expressed doubt, Peter went to see.

I love what Peter did upon looking into the the tomb, containing only the linens that once wrapped Jesus’ body, but otherwise empty just as the women had said. Luke doesn’t say he returned to the place where the disciples were gathered; maybe he did. But what Luke tells us Peter ultimately did really resonates with me:

“…he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened.”

This is a lot to take in. Sometimes we just need time alone to ponder, consider and pray. Peter “marveled” at what had happened. Have you ever marveled over the works of God? Have you ever watched the sun set over a vast ocean or mighty mountain range and marveled at the glory of God’s creation? Have you ever found yourself in need, really in need, and have God meet that need seemingly out of nowhere? Have you ever opened Scripture and heard God’s voice as you read it? Does the reality of what Jesus’ death and resurrection mean for those who believe hit home?

Today we Christians celebrate the most important event in all of history and the greatest miracle of all time – the resurrection of our Lord from the grasp of death. The victory lies not with those who killed Him. The victory is His, and through His victory, we have assurance of eternal life with Him in Heaven. This, my friends, is something to celebrate. This is something worth marveling. This is most certainly and eternally true.

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Happy Easter!

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

What Now?

I’ve never really known what to do with the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It seems that it should be different from other Saturdays, given the events of Good Friday and the coming celebration of Easter Sunday, like we’re sort of on “pause” as we await Jesus’ resurrection. Reading my Holy Week devotional this morning, God offered this:

“and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”

1 Peter 2:24

While this is not a direct answer to my Easter Saturday dilemma, it made me think: what do I do with Good Friday? Do the events of Good Friday have any lasting influence on my life here on Earth? Or do I simply coast, awaiting the day when God calls me home to be with Him, thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross?

As I pondered this, it struck me that the man who wrote this letter is Peter, the disciple who swore vehemently that he would never abandon Jesus, to which Jesus replied, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.” (Luke 22:34) Through the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, the disciples still did not understand what God was unfolding. I can only imagine the disciples on Saturday, sitting together, wondering what to do next. Their beloved teacher, Jesus, was gone. His enemies had won (or so it seemed). I’m sure they feared potential repercussions upon themselves. Scripture does not tell us how they spent Saturday – probably because that is not what God wants us to focus on.

In reading Peter’s letters, we see a different person than the man who cowered by the fire that Thursday night, denying Jesus as the young girl and others pointed him out to those who had gathered (Luke 22:54-61). Jesus was right. Peter would deny Him three times. When that reality hit, Peter “went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62). And then, after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter and the disciples finally got it, thanks to Jesus’ appearing to them and to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1-2). Peter and the rest were changed forever and God worked through them in incredible ways.

So here we sit in 2019 with the benefit of Scriptural insight, including eyewitness accounts of the events that first Easter weekend. And, Peter, the one who denied Jesus, offers this. Jesus, by His sacrifice, healed the wounds that our sins heap upon us. It was His action that saves us for all eternity. Our response: to reject sin (“die to sin”) and seek a righteous, God-pleasing lifestyle (“live to righteousness”). The fact that we are freed from sin’s bondage and eternal consequence offers the opportunity to open our arms wide, embrace life and approach it from an entirely different perspective – the perspective of one who is free, one who is loved, one who is saved. The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is, I believe, the ideal time to ponder this. What does this mean for my life? What changes will I make? What will I do to live a life that honors and pleases my Lord and my God?

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Mission Accomplished!

“Good Friday”. What an ironic name for the day on which Jesus was humiliated, hung on a cross, and suffered a horrible death by those He came to save. But – that was exactly why He came to Earth.

“Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”

John 19:30

Just a few days ago, I wrote about Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on what we now call “Palm Sunday.” Jesus, riding into Jerusalem, was on a mission that only He understood at the time. As the people celebrated what they thought would be a conquering king and warrior, Jesus knew what was to take place over that coming week. He knew His mission. He knew it would be agonizing. He knew it would be humiliating. He knew it would be excrutiatingly painful. He knew it was necessary. And, so He went.

So, on Friday, after being betrayed by one of His disciples and deserted by the rest, after facing severe beatings and being convicted of false charges, there He hung as soldiers and bystanders mocked His name and cast lots for His clothes. When I was young, I thought these words of Jesus were words of defeat. The Pharisees and scribes had been plotting His death since the beginning of His ministry three years’ prior. They finally got their way in most dramatic fashion. But that is when I was young and naive.

“It is finished!” That mission that Jesus came to exact was completed! Jesus, God incarnate, true God and true man, achieved the perfect sacrifice for our sins. He was no victim; He “gave up His spirit” willingly for you and for me so that we might be saved.

Dear friends, this is indeed “Good Friday”. And you know what? That conquering king and warrior the people wanted? That is exactly who Jesus is: King of kings and Lord of lords. By His sacrifice, Jesus won the victory over sin and death once and for all. It was not the victory that the people anticipated on Palm Sunday, but it was the victory they most needed. Indeed, Jesus achieved the greatest victory of all time. By His sacrifice, we who believe in Him are saved for eternity by grace through faith.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019