MVS – ZECHARIAH

Zechariah 9:12

Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope;
    even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

The first time I read this verse, I was frankly unimpressed. I didn’t really understand what the Lord was declaring in these words. But think about it for a second, “I will restore twice as much to you.” WHAT?!

Can you imagine your teacher saying, “Don’t worry about the points you lost on this test, I’m going to give you back double.” I can’t!

Is our Lord not amazing that He has promised to give back to us two times what we have lost. How deep the Father’s love for us.

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Holy Week: Easter Sunday

Today’s post as part of our Holy Week series has been written by Mark Latulipe!

Happy Easter! – ALLELUIA! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! ALLELUIA!

Easter Sunday – the day that we remember the incredible and historical event that changed it all. On Good Friday Jesus hung on a cross and carried the weight of all our sin. He paid the cost of that sin, which is death; but it doesn’t end there. After his death on the cross and burial, Jesus rose and came up out of the tomb and was alive again. Not even death could hold Him down. Jesus did all this to accomplish everything that was promised and He did it because he loves more than we can comprehend.

Luke 24: 1-49 – This passage that has been on my mind this Easter season.  We read about three encounters that happen after Jesus had risen: the women at the tomb, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and the other disciples. The ones I want to talk about are the encounters with the disciples.

First, we have the two disciples who were walking to Emmaus. They were talking about what had happened – Jesus on the cross- and this “guy” comes up to them and asks them “what’s up” (paraphrasing). On any other day this would have been normal question; but on this day it was not. The disciples’ reaction was, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” (v18)

Given their emotional state, their snappy maybe even snarky remark was understandable. They “explained” to this guy what had happened and he turns around and says to them that they don’t even know what really happened. He explained to them that they were being foolish because despite knowing the scriptures and despite knowing what Jesus had told them before his death, they still believe that Jesus was actually going to come back from death. (Oh snap, they just got told!) So they continued their conversation with this man as they walked, still not recognizing that this man was Jesus. They didn’t realize it until he broke bread with them, just as He did before his death.

Then we have disciples. Fortunately they recognized Jesus or at least that this being, possibly a ghost, looked and sounded like Jesus. Even after all His teachings and all the time they followed Him before His death, it still took convincing from Jesus himself to make them believe. It took seeing the holes in Jesus’ hands and feet for them to know that this was Jesus, alive again.

For me these encounters these people have with Jesus really shows our human nature and a struggle we all face. Despite knowing the scriptures or the story, and despite knowing Jesus, we still need to be reminded of who He is, what He did, and why He did it. We constantly need Jesus to say to us “hey, remember me, remember what I did for you, and remember why I did it.” We need that reminder sometimes daily, but that’s ok. We shouldn’t feel ashamed that we need reminding; those who knew Jesus best on this earth, who actually witnessed his death, still needed a reminder. And that’s what Easter is about; we celebrate and remember Jesus and the incredible things He did for us.

So take time this Easter, before church and before the family dinner, to sit and pray, and ask Jesus to encounter you, so that you can truly be reminded of “who He is, what He did, and why He did it” – Happy Easter!!!

MVS – Haggai

Haggai 1:9

You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.”

Have you been paying attention to God’s house? YOU are the temple of God. When you are busy thinking “Me! Myself! and I!”, you don’t have time to think about “Me and God”.

Are their places in your life where you could think “God and I” more often?

Blogs of Speakers Past – Feather Duvets

Today’s blog post is brought to us by the amazing Jill Chapman who was a speaker at Crossroads this past year!

The Day my Feather Duvet Exploded and What it Taught Me About God.

Up until this point I have had a general policy of housecleaning: only clean the places people are going to look. This means you never have to clean closets, under beds or in drawers. Over the years this has saved me loads of time and energy. Until this one time, when suddenly it didn’t.

I have a feather duvet on my bed. It is the softest, warmest blanket ever. Everyone in my house loves it. My kids like to wrap themselves up in it and crawl around the house, pretending to be worms. They also like to use it as a crash landing pad when they are wrestling. As you can imagine, over time my feather duvet has become a little threadbare. So threadbare, in fact, that the holes got big enough for it to start shedding feathers. Tiny little bits of duck down poof out of my duvet whenever it is lifted or shaken. For a few weeks, I was too busy to do anything about this duvet, and so I just let it shed feathers.

Then one day, it got to be too much and I had to clean up the mess. Since I had not cleaned under my bed in a year, and I share my house with a husband, four children and a cat, it was a bit of a mess. You see, all kinds of toys, socks, dishes and sippy cups had somehow made their way under my bed. They had been gathering dust and fluff. And in the last while, they had also been gathering feathers. So by the time I finally started to clean up the feathers, I did not just have to vacuum up a little bit. I had a half day major clean up operation on my hands. It was a huge mess.

What does this have to do with you or with God? Everything. We live in a culture that often tells us to stuff things. If something goes wrong, we are told “All things work together for good. Just keep going.” When we are angry with God we are told, “God’s thoughts are above our thoughts. There’s nothing you can do. Keep going.”. If we have questions about our faith, we hear, “Faith is believing what we can not see. Keep going.” And in order to appear like good Christians, we often smile and tell everyone we are fine, meanwhile stuffing our sin, our sorrow and our doubts under our metaphorical bed. And this works out for us, for a while. Until something happens that is too big to fit under the bed. Until life gets the better of us and throws feathers all over the place. Because we did not deal with things as they came, we now have a huge mess to deal with.

This is not the example of faith we see in the Bible. In the Psalms, the Bible’s prayer and worship book, we see a different way of dealing with sin, doubt, anger, hurt and despair. We see David and the other writers giving these things up to God with open, honest hearts. They seek God, and take comfort in what they know of his character and his faithfulness. Here are a few examples:

Psalm 6: |”O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me for my bones are troubled.”

Psalm 10: “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

. . . . Arise O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted . . . O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice.” (vs. 1, 12, 17)

Psalm 13: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? . . . But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.” (vs. 1, 5).

In each situation, David turns to God and tells him what is going on. He doesn’t stuff things. He has it out with God. And this reminds him of God’s good character, and of His past faithfulness to David. This means David can move forward without a big mess under his bed. If a challenge comes his way, he does not need to self-destruct. He is already in a good place with God.

I want to encourage you to do the same. Talk to God about everything. Turn it over to him. Let him heal and comfort you. Then when trials come, you will be ready to face them together, assured of His faithfulness and love for you.

Sacrifice—What is it supposed to be?

During the weeks leading up to Easter we will be having a post on Lent every Thursday, here’s Part 1 of Luke Bayly’s post to kick us off!

Hey all!

Kicking off the season of Lent, this is the first of a two-part series on sacrifice. This week, we’ll ask what sacrifice is supposed to mean in a life lived for God—why is it necessary; what is its purpose? Next week, we’ll look at a little application—what sacrifice can often look like in our lives in this day and age.

To address the first question, we’ll analyze a small passage of scripture. I encourage you to read it through a couple times. Take note: what are all the instructions it gives? What are all the claims it makes?

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

  1. We offer our bodies (or lives) as living sacrifices. In the Old Testament, people would sacrifice animals they owned to God, either as an act of repentance or an act of praise. This was like giving away some of your wealth, recognizing that God gave it to you in the first place. But to be a living sacrifice means to honour God with more than just your wealth—also your time, your talents, your body, heart and mind—everything! God gave you your body; your life. What are you going to do with it?

 

  1. Our sacrifice is a spiritual act of worship. Again, the Old Testament sacrifices were a physical act. A person could sacrifice an animal without actually trying to change their heart or honour God. It could just something to tick off the to-do list; like paying your credit card—done, and forgotten. A duty to be done so it’s out of the way. But our sacrifice is to be something that changes us in our inmost being

 

  1. …leading to the third point! Do not conform…but be transformed. God doesn’t ask us to make sacrifices just for laughs. Every challenge we face, every difficulty we must overcome is designed to make us grow, even if it’s not fun at the time. God loves us already, whoever we are right now, but he longs for us to become wiser and more loving…more like Jesus, who is a role-model for how we should live our lives. It’s easy to stick with the patterns we’re used to, but God has bigger things in mind for us.

 

  1. The result of all this is that we will be able to test and approve what God’s will is. Living our lives as a sacrifice to God leads to understanding more of what God’s will is—and, by extension, more about who God is. The verse describes God’s will as good, pleasing, and perfect. This is to indicate that God’s plans are not esoteric, abstract things that don’t matter to us—the meaning of our lives, our self-worth, and our joy in living are all bound tightly to God’s intentions for us, his creations, whom He loves.

 

If we believe that this God exists, and is who Jesus proclaimed Him to be, there’s no reason to doubt these claims. So we should recognize that sacrifice is a necessary and ultimately good part of following God, even though it is (by definition) painful or difficult at the time we face it.

Thanks for reading!! Looking forward to next week—see you then 🙂

-Luke

Essential Questions: What is the Gospel?

Over two thousand years ago, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, led His followers into a life-changing relationship with Himself and with God the Father. Jesus calls His followers even today into a lifelong commitment, equipping them with the Holy Spirit for their mission in the world.

Every second Monday, we’ll be looking at essential questions of faith and life. Looking at these questions will help us further experience the love of God by opening the door further on our faith.  Wherever you are on the journey of faith, pray honestly about it, and God will answer your prayer.  You could say something like:

Lord Jesus Christ, open my eyes to all that you are, and draw me closer to you.  Amen.

What is the Gospel?

Consider the following passages. What do they say to you about this question?

1 Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15: 1-4)

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. (Romans 5:15)

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, (John 1:12)

11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:11-12)

Essentially, the Gospel is the good news of God. The good news about how God saved humanity who was lost through the ministry in word and deed of His Son, Jesus Christ.

We are all out of step with God. We all sin. God took loving action and to enable us to have an intimate relationship with Him. The details of this action are contained in the Gospel (meaning good news).  As we are growing our faith, we should spend more time learning the details about how God has saved us, by reading the gospel.