The 3:16 Challenge

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NASB)

 

What do all these people have in common: An AIDS orphan in Ndola, Zambia, a prostitute between clients in the Soy Cowboy district of Bangkok, Thailand, an abaya wearing divorcee raising a child by herself, a quiet art student in Chung Ching, China and a high schooler from Tampa, Florida?

 

Any guesses?

 

What about these people: A homosexual woman raising a child with her lesbian lover, a man who is the quarterback on his college football team, an illegal immigrant in hiding, a convicted murderer of a school shooting and a regular church attender?

 

Answer: Each and every person listed above needs to hear about the one and only Son of God, Jesus Christ.

 

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NASB)

 

And until these people hear of Jesus Christ, how will they be able to accept Him – if they do not know Him?

 

“11 Now the Scripture says, everyone who believes on Him will not be put to shame, 12 for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him. 13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

 

14 But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things! 16 But all did not obey the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message? 17 So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.” Romans 10:11-17 (NASB)

 

We may look back at these lists and think, “Well, I can see how that person would be loved by God, but that one…that one doesn’t deserve God’s love and forgiveness! It just wouldn’t be right!” If we find ourselves struggling to come to grips with the reality that all people are invited to come seek forgiveness through the completed work of Jesus Christ, it’s time to have a serious soul check before God Almighty.

 

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 (HCSB)

 

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 (NASB)

 

Ladies, let’s get honest here—the grace and eternal favor of God cannot be earned, manipulated, stolen, accumulated or statistically generated. It is not a matter of how “good” we may look to others or how detestable someone else’s life may look compared to our own; it all comes down to the rebellious nature of the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

 

“Boast no more so very proudly, Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; For the LORD is a God of knowledge, And with Him actions are weighed.” 1 Samuel 2:3 (NASB)

  

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10 (NASB)

 

 

When modern day slavery is at an all time high, when suicide rates of young ones has become a global epidemic, when the lost, broken and hurting feel that there is no way out of their lives of pain—MAY WE BE CROSS-EYED—and turn them to the cross of Jesus Christ. May we share with unabashed joy the hope, healing and new life offered to all who truly come and fall at the feet of Jesus Christ; who died upon a cross for all so that we may eternally live through accepting Him as the Lord of our lives (Acts 16:31)! 

 

I challenge each and everyone reading this article today, to take the 3:16 Challenge. What is it? You may be asking. Whenever the clock says 3:16, morning or evening, pray for the lost and hurting to come to a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ. And not just pray for them, but ask God for the opportunities to reach these lost people. Because, ladies, it doesn’t matter how “good” life on earth may look for a given person, if they do not know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, hell and eternal punishment for the rebellion of each soul awaits (John 3:18). And you know what? God loves each one of us enough to offer freedom out of this place of eternal separation from God—through personal acceptance of the love and forgiveness of the Lord Jesus Christ for our own lives (1 John 4:9-10).

 

You see, when Jesus Christ died upon the cross of Calvary between two criminals, He cried out, “Father, please forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). And when Jesus Christ rose from the dead, just as He said He would (John 10:18) on the third day from being in the tomb (Matthew 28:6), the punishment for all rebellion of humanity against a righteous and holy God was satisfied (Isaiah 53:5). Therefore, we now know the name by which we can be saved from hell—Jesus Christ, the one and only Son of God (Acts 4:12).

 

Check the time…is it 3:16? Let us pray with passion to the God who passionately loves all people from all backgrounds, all nations, all cultures and all twisted living. We do not earn the love of God–it is freely offered to all–now may we freely love those enough around us to share of God’s glorious plan of redemption, hope and healing for each complex situation and failed attempt at life….Jesus Christ proved that each and every heart was eternally valuable to Him through His death for our failings while He Himself was innocent of all sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). And now, it is our responsibility as the Church of Jesus Christ to pick up His passion for those He came to save–ALL (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

 

Dear Lord Jesus, please ignite Your Church to boldly proclaim Your name and Your message of hope, restoration and ultimate healing through You! May hearts be stirred, feet be moved and mouths be opened to share of this glorious news that You loved Your own creation so much that You gave Your own live to ransom us from the grip of condemnation and redeemed us to enjoy peace, purpose and eternal life with You! Give us Your eyes for those around our world and our cities who are in such desperate need of Your gospel of unconditional love for all people—for we all so desperately need Your forgiveness. Thank You for offering it so freely, without finding fault, for all who call upon Your name. You are the King of kings and the Lord of lords! We lift up Your name high, Jesus, and ask for Your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen!

Artificial Flowers: The Acceptance of Other

“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” 

   2 Timothy 4:1-5 (NASB)

 

In recent days, it has become clear to me that many of those who claim Jesus Christ as their Savior, do not like to hear much about the reasons for which He came. For example, the topic of sin is uncomfortable, for it cannot be covered in name brand apparel or given a prescription drug to forever numb the pain. Another such topic of discomfort is that of hell. The point that really strikes me is that these topics should indeed cause discomfort. These realities should indeed cause each soul to pause and ask God Almighty where we stand regarding sin and hell. You see, to act as if one has never sinned—is to lie to oneself—and forgo the offer of eternal life.

 

“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:8-9 (NASB)

 

One must see their own depravity and their own shortcomings in order to more fully realize the sheer weight and gravity of the offense of our rebellion against the One and only Holy God of all things. The Bible assures us that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. This is why we must understand that because of God’s amazing grace and unabashed love for His creation, humanity, He sent His One and only Son, Jesus Christ to rescue us from a course bound for destruction that was never intended for us.

 

“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

Romans 3:21-26 (NASB)

 

The Bible clearly teaches, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). And as the pages unfold and the vast beauty of God’s detailed and complex creation is brought to life, we are first introduced to Adam and Eve within the perfect land called Eden (Genesis 2:7-10, Genesis 2:21-25). God had perfect fellowship with them and would daily walk in the garden with them, but as rebellion entered this perfect place, through the free will of Adam and Eve, guilt and shame also entered (Genesis 3). Only perfection could be in the presence of Almighty God. Thus, as Adam and Eve were banished from the garden, the epic and celestial rescue operation, of God sending His own Son Jesus Christ (John 3:16) to atone for the screw ups and rebellion of each and every human heart (Isaiah 53:5), was set into motion.

 

Hell was never intended for humanity, but rather for the devil and his minions (Matthew 25:41). Thus, we must be burdened, as believers in the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, to tell others to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved from a place that was never intended for them (Acts 16:31). Jesus clearly spoke of the reality of hell and the excruciating torment of hell for all who do not believe (Luke 16:19-31, John 5:39-47). Ladies, remember that the devil and his minions are determined to destroy all joy here on earth and cause each heart to reject God’s offer of eternal life through the penalty paid in full, on our behalf, by Jesus Christ the Son of God.

 

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10 (NASB)

 

Allow us to bring this point home: Ladies, rather than settling for an artificial flowers of carnal love or the inaccurate depiction of romance, may we repent from deception committed through smart phone screens and exploding text chains and return to the Lord who sees the value of each precious soul and poured out His own blood to rescue and redeem (1 John 4:9-10). Rather than believing that our culture or Hollywood knows best how to align our priorities and the allegiance of our souls, may we repent and return to the Lord for He promises plans filled with hope and a future for all who trust in Him (Jeremiah 29:11-13). Rather than settling for fashion that depicts the female body as a playground and shows the onlooker that the one wearing such articles only sees herself through the eyes of sex, may we repent and return to the Lord for He has so much better in store for you (Isaiah 61:10, Romans 13:14).

 

The time is now, Ladies. Let us not accept artificial lifestyles any longer. The King of Kings has called and created us for something much grander than simply updating an internet feed or chat chain; we have been called to righteousness as we advance the name of Jesus Christ and the power of His resurrection to all people (Genesis 1:26, John 4:24, Matthew 28:18-20). The time is now. Let’s go.

“For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift–not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.”

Ephesians 2:8-10 (HCSB)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Give Thanks To The LORD In All Seasons

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever.”

1 Chronicles 16:34 (HCSB)

 

LORD AND ETERNAL KING JESUS,

You are so good (Job 34:10, Nahum 1:7).

You are so faithful (Deuteronomy 32:4).

You are righteous (Psalm 92:15).

You are timeless (Psalm 90:2, Revelation 1:8).

The things You do no one can undo (Isaiah 43:13).

Your love is everlasting (1 Chronicles 16:34).

Your faithfulness stretches to the sky (Psalm 36:5).

You see value and eternity in each heart (John 3:16, 1 John 4:9-10).

You do not slumber or miss the details of Your children’s’ lives (Psalm 121:2-3).

You are sovereign (Psalm 145:13).

You are the only uncreated One (Romans 11:36, 1 Corinthians 8:6).

You hold all things together (John 1:1-2).

You held heaven back as You died upon the brutal cross of Calvary for my shame and guilt (Isaiah 53:1-12).

You laid Your life down and You took it back up again on the third day (John 2:19, John 10:17-18, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Colossians 1:15-20).

You are the conquering King (Revelation 19:11-16).

You alone are the source of eternal life and peace (Titus 3:5, 1 Peter 1:3-9, 1 John 5:1-12).

Those whom have a broken and contrite spirit, You comfort (Psalm 34:18, Psalm 147:3).

Those who are lost, experience Your guidance as they reach out to You in earnest (Psalm 119:9-16, Jeremiah 29:12-13).

You did not need us to accomplish Your plan, but You give us the grand honor of taking part in the eternal story of Your love and faithfulness (Matthew 28:18-20, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Thank You for saving a wretch like me (Isaiah 6:1-8, Romans 3:19-31, Romans 10:9, 1 John 1:9).

In Jesus’ holy and victorious name I praise and pray, amen.

 

 

Running to a Dark World In the Name of Jesus the Christ

“9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

1 John 4:9-10 (HCSB)

 

Jesus Christ is LORD…this is how you would say it in Arabic…
~~~~~~~~~yaswae almasih hu alrrbb

 

 

Jesus Christ is Lord…as Ramadan has begun (marking the month of fasting and prayer for Muslims world wide)…as believers in Jesus Christ, may we PRAY FOR THESE PRECIOUS PEOPLE who are destined to eternal separation from God (Romans 5:8-10, 1 John 4:9)–just as each of us were (Ecclesiastes 7:20, Romans 3:10 & Romans 8:28)–before meeting our precious and victorious Savior Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9-10 & 1 John 5:11).

 

It is so easy to hate those who cause harm…so easy to put our faith aside and react to the chaos. Yet, may we claim the truths of Scripture. May we lift up those grieving and suffering from the most recent attacks in Manchester and Egypt as well as previous attacks in India, California, Germany, Florida and each place around the globe that experiences acts of terror against its people. May we be marked as a people of prayer for each one affected–both directly and indirectly (Psalm 34:18, Psalm 147:3, Isaiah 57:15).

 

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Psalm 34:18 (NASB).

 

Each brutal and horrific loss of life is truly tragic. But as believers in Jesus Christ, may we remember that we do not battle against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual realm (Ephesians 6:10-18). There is NO act that is beyond the grace of the Risen Savior Jesus Christ…

 

…if so…I surely would not be allowed into the Holy and Pure presence of the LORD (Isaiah 6:1-8).

 

May we remember that EACH of us has a desperate need for the Lord Jesus…and such acts of terror highlight the crucial need of EVANGELISM to such people…may we call it for what it is…another tactic of the devil to “steal, kill and destroy” … but in that same verse…Jesus Christ said that He came to give us “life and life in abundance” (John 10:10).

 

The time is now church…let us run to the DARK AND DYING WORLD…with the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19-20)…for the devil would LOVE to silence this message of eternal hope from each of our lips…may we fight back…with the same love, grace and eternal perspective that our Lord Jesus Christ showed towards us. The time is now.

 

“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,”

2 Timothy 1:7-10 (NASB)

Easter: Victory for the Soul (Part III)

The detachment of soldiers with its commander, along with the Jewish officials, arrested Jesus and bound Him (John 18:12). All of the remaining eleven faithful disciples then scattered and left Jesus to be taken by Judas and those who desired to bring Him to death; just as Jesus had prophesied (John 16:32).

Peter followed at a distance with John, as Jesus was then taken to Annas, the father-in-law of the High Priest that year, who was Caiaphas. Time had become a blur for the disciples as each soul-wrenching step of Jesus’ sorry excuse for a trial unfolded. He was beaten, slapped in the face, mocked and spit on (Isaiah 53:5, Matthew 20:28, Matthew 26:28 & Mark 10:45). Jesus was humiliated as He was dressed up with a military robe, made to wear a horrible crown made from twisted thorns and had a reed placed within his hand—as soldiers mocked him while laughing and bowing to their idea of a false king. They struck Him in the head repeatedly (Matthew 27:29-30 Mark 15:17 & John 19:2-3).

Within this depraved display of the rebellion of the human heart against the One whom in fact created all things, Jesus had been sent to Caiaphas, then before the entire assembly of the Jewish leadership, known as the Sanhedrin, where they met at daybreak and brought Jesus before them. The mighty Sanhedrin questioned Jesus as to whether or not He was in fact the Son of God (Luke 22:66-71). The Sanhedrin, as powerful as it was, did not have authority under Roman rule to crucify. Thus, Jesus was sent to Pilate to officially protest for the crucifixion of Jesus the Christ. Yet, Pilate found no such cause for death of this “King of the Jews” (Luke 23:4). Pilate, after learning that Jesus was a Galilean, sent Him to be seen by Herod Antipas, seeing as he held jurisdiction there and resided in Jerusalem (Luke 23:6-7). As a result of the cruel treatment Jesus suffered under Herod, Pilate and Herod (whom had been hostile towards one another up until that point) became friends that day (Luke 23:11-12). The badly beaten Jesus was then sent back to Pilate where three times Pilate appealed to the people that he found no grounds by which to kill Jesus—even stating that Herod found no cause to kill Him, hence Jesus had been sent back to Pilate (Matthew 27:21-26, Mark 15:7-15 & Luke 23:13-17).

The Jewish leadership and outcry of the people for Jesus’ death had won out over facts. A terrorist of the day and known murdered, Barabas, had been released to the people—as they chanted and shouted for the death of Jesus and affirmed their desire to have Barabas back within their society in order to ensure the death of Jesus (Luke 23:18-25). Jesus had been led out of the city of Jerusalem to the Place of Skull to be crucified with a criminal on either side of Him (Luke 23:32-33). On the way there, the brutally beaten, whipped and bleeding humanity of Jesus was unable to carry His own death instrument. Thus, a man by the name of Simon, a Cyrenian, was made to carry the cross on which Jesus would momentarily be nailed and killed upon—until the final destination was reached (Luke 23:26).

Once at the Place of the Skull, large nails were then driven Jesus’ hands and feet. This was the most brutal and barbaric killing instrument of that day. And it was reserved for only the worst of criminals. Yet, here was Jesus the Christ, proven to be innocent by even Pilate and Herod, and he was experiencing a criminal’s death. It could not have even been carried out upon a Roman citizen. Thus Jesus, as an innocent substitute for each and every one of the human race, bore the brutal punishment of death upon a cross (Romans 8:28). To speed up the process, at the urging of the Jews, the Roman soldiers were instructed by Pilate to break the legs of those upon the cross to cause the arms to stretch higher above the head, ushering the arrival of death quicker—seeing as the following day was the Sabbath (John 19:31-32). Yet, this was not done to the Lord Jesus Christ as He was not a victim of His circumstances, but rather He had willfully determined to go through the brutal death of humanity in order to ransom His creations (Isaiah 53:9-11, Romans 5:18, Philippians 2:8 & 1 Peter 2:24).

 

“This is why the Father loves Me, because I am laying down My life so I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from My Father.” John 10:17-18 (HCSB)

 

While enduring the cross and continued atmosphere of satanic celebration, the soldiers divided Jesus’ clothing by casting lots (Psalm 22:18 & Matthew 5:44). Jesus had publicly cried out to His Father in heaven to “forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). He had also assured the penitent thief on the cross next to Him that “today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43). When all had been accomplished to fulfill the prophesies of the Old Testament of the Lord Jesus, He cried out in a loud voice “It is finished!” and gave up His spirit (John 19:30).

The crowd gathered below was a mixture of demonic taunting and agonizing screams of horror and pain. When it came time to break the legs of Jesus, He had in fact already died (John 19:33). This fulfilled the prophesy of the Psalms and the prophets (Exodus 12:46, Numbers 9:12 & Psalm 34:20). The rocks split and the veil within the Holy of Holies of the Temple split from top to bottom as a result of Jesus giving up His spirit (Matthew 27:51). The punishment for the depravity of all humanity had in fact been paid in full (Matthew 27:45-53, Mark 15:33-38, John 3:16, Galatians 3:13-14 & Titus 2:14).

“God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”  1 John 4:9-10 (HCSB)

It was still dark out on the morning of the third day since Jesus’ death. Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James and Salome were heading to the tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea, where the body of Jesus had been laid three days prior (John 19:38). It was now the third day since His brutal death on the cross. The women, with heads covered and ash covered faces, walked towards the borrowed tomb. It was daybreak and they were coming to place the customary spices upon the body of Jesus (Mark 16:1). They began to ask one another whom would open the tomb for them to complete their task; seeing as a large stone had been rolled across the entrance and Roman soldiers had been stationed in front of it to ensure it stay closed (Mark 16:3). Yet, as the women approached the mountain from which the tomb had been carved, there was a violent earthquake! The large stone—which had been secured by the Roman soldiers to avoid potential body snatchers (Matthew 27:64-66)—was no longer in front of the opening of the tomb at all! No, in this hour of daybreak, still from a distance, it appeared to the women as if the massive stone door had been rolled away (Matthew 28:2, Mark 16:4, Luke 24:2 & John 20:1)! The women hurried to the tomb, not sure as to what had taken place. But as they entered the tomb, not one of them could locate the body of their crucified Lord Jesus Christ. Rather, two men in glowing clothes appear next to them and the women fall to the ground in utter fear.

Why are you looking for the living among the dead? ” asked the men6He is not herebut He has been resurrected!  Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee7saying‘The Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful menbe crucifiedand rise on the third day’? ” 8And they remembered His words.” Luke 24:5-8 (HCSB)

Mary of Magdala, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the other women ran back to alert Simon Peter and John of this terrifying and exciting news.

“So she ran to Simon Peter and to the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put Him!” John 20:2 (HCSB)

Simon Peter and John simply could not believe what was being shared and they set out for the tomb themselves. John outran Peter and looked inside, seeing the burial clothes and no body. Peter finally arrived and also saw the burial clothes and noted that the cloth used to cover the face of Jesus had been folded up and placed separately (John 20:3-7). At seeing this for themselves, both Simon Peter and John returned home (John 20:10). Mary of Magdala remained facing the tomb of her missing Lord. As she wept, she stooped down to see into the tomb and she was amazed at what her eyes beheld! In the place of the missing body of her Lord Jesus, there sat two angels; one where His head was and another angel where His feet were! The angels asked her why she was crying. Mary of Magdala explained that her Lord Jesus’ body was missing and that she didn’t know where to find Him (John 20:11-13).

14Having said thisshe turned around and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not know it was Jesus.

15“Woman,” Jesus said to her“why are you cryingWho is it you are looking for? ”

Supposing He was the gardenershe replied, “Sirif you’ve removed Himtell me where you’ve put Himand I will take Him away.”

16Jesus said“Mary.”

Turning aroundshe said to Him in Hebrew“Rabbouni!”  — which means “Teacher.”

17“Don’t cling to Me,” Jesus told her“for I have not yet ascended to the Father.  But go to My brothers and tell them that I am ascending to My Father and your Father — to My God and your God.”

18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord! ” And she told them what He had said to her.”

John 20:14-18 (HCSB)

Jesus Christ’s resurrection over death and the grave is essential to the heart and soul of every individual to ever tread this vast planet. It is the most passionate expression of unconditional love, unyielding loyalty and determined redemption in all of human history. The Creator of all things, was willing to ransom humanity out of the place of depravity and eternal condemnation by taking upon Himself the shame, guilt and suffering due for each foolish, manipulative and sinful thing each and every person on this spinning rock have ever done. And in return—what’s in it for us? A new identity—complete reset. Forgiveness and pardon from every twisted and even unspeakable things we have said, thought or did. It’s all covered by the brutal price He was willing to pay—to show you, and each person alive—that your life has eternal meaning, your days have infinite value, a you are deeply loved by the God who made you.

As Jesus ascends into heaven, the baton had been passed in a sense. Jesus had charged His disciples to now GO into all the world and tell everyone about Him and the NEW LIFE that is available to ALL PEOPLE from EVERY NATION by calling upon the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior for cleansing and redemption (Joel 2:28-32, Mark 16:16, Luke 24:45-47, Acts 2:21, Acts 16:31, Romans 10:13). And the beautiful thing—this message of radical redemption is still available for one and all for all time. If you have never made a decision to follow the Risen Savior, Jesus Christ, I encourage you to do so this very day and get cleaned, forgiven and eternally set right with Almighty God. You are worth it…Jesus Christ proved it (Revelation 5:12).

Happy Easter, one and all. He is risen! Jesus Christ is risen, indeed!

Easter: Victory for the Soul (Part I)

As the victorious season of Easter is upon us, have you ever stopped to wonder, “Could these things actually have happened?” Well, if so, you are not alone! For the sake of understanding the Easter story from a different angle, we will put ourselves into the shoes of the disciple called Thomas (in Aramaic) who was also called Didymus (in Greek) both mean “twin”. Although Thomas is famous for being remembered as a disciple who doubted (John 20:29), we will see that Jesus always provided comfort and answers to his questions. And, Ladies, may you be encouraged that God is the same, yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He will answer all of your questions, too. Why? Because you are eternally worth it to an infinitely loving God (1 John 4:9). The story of Jesus’ Resurrection is the ultimate story of epic and unabashed love as He carried out celestial victory over death and suffering for the entire human race! These are exciting times as we boldly declare, “He is risen! He is risen indeed” (John 20:18)! Allow us to begin!

 

We now join the other eleven disciples with Jesus in the town of Bethany. Jesus had chosen to return to Judea just after the Jews had tried to stone Jesus (John 10:31-39). Yet, Jesus had told His disciples that He was glad that each of them would be able to witness Lazarus being raised from the dead so that they, too, may believe (John 11:14-15). Thomas had resolved to go back to Bethany to die with Lazarus, given the hostile climate they had experienced from the Jewish leadership just a few days previous (John 11:16). Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, all of whom were dear friends of Jesus (John 11:1-3) was indeed raised from the dead, after four days in the tomb, by a simple shout from the mouth of Jesus (John 11:43). Many of the Jews who saw this marveled and believed in the power and divine nature of Jesus (John 11:45). His fame and following had grown greatly in the land of Judea and the religious leaders had finally heard enough.

 

The chief priests and Pharisees called for the seventy-one members to assemble, which was called the Sanhedrin (John 11:47). This prestigious council was made up of scribes, elders, prominent men of high priestly families and the high priest of the year, who was the head of the council. This council held much authority under the Roman government, as a tribunal, to govern the Israeli people. Not wanting to loose their political status and power under the Roman government, it was time to shut this Jesus character up for good (John 11:47-48). Jesus of Nazareth had a significant following with now even the confirmed deceased being brought back from the grave to highlight of His divine power (Mark 5:35-43, Luke 7:11-17 & John 11:38-44). The Chief Priest of the Sanhedrin that year was named Caiaphas. As word got to them of the raising of Lazarus from the dead after four days in the tomb, decided termination of Jesus was the topic of conversation. Yet, as the seventy-one members spoke, Caiaphas prophesied, under the influence of God, that Jesus would die to spare the nation (2 Corinthians 4:10) and unite the scattered children of Israel (Isaiah 53:8, Luke 1:7 & John 18:4). From that day forward, the Sanhedrin plotted of ways to kill Jesus (John 5:18).

 

53So from that day on they plotted to kill Him54Therefore Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews but departed from there to the countryside near the wilderness,  to a town called EphraimAnd He stayed there with the disciples.

55The Jewish Passover was near, and many went up to Jerusalem from the country to purify themselves before the Passover. 56They were looking for Jesus and asking one another as they stood in the temple complex: “What do you think? He won’t come to the festival, will He? ” 57The chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it so they could arrest Him.

John 11:53-57 (HCSB)

 

As the Festival of the Passover was drawing near, Thomas tried to wrap his head around all that had taken place to lead them to this hide out in Ephraim near the wilderness in Judea (John 11:54). He and the other eleven disciples had watched Jesus perform many miracles over the past three years of His public ministry. And now, they waited with Him as they prepared to purify themselves before the Passover in Jerusalem was to begin. (Numbers 9:4-11).

 

Seven Signs telling of the Messiah:

1.Turning Water into wine (John 2:7-10)

2. Healing an officials son (John 4:49-53)

3. Healing the sick (John 5:8-9)

4. Feeding the 5,000 (John 6:10-11)

5. Walking on water (John 6:19-21)

6. Gave a blind man his sight (John 9:6-7)

7. Raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43-44)

 

They had watched as over 5,000 people had been fed on a hillside from only two little fish and five little barley loaves (John 6:9 & Matthew 14:21). They had watched a little girl come back to life at the words of Jesus (Mark 5:40-43). They had witnessed the blind and paralyzed be given back their sight and ability to walk (John 9:6-7 & Matthew 9:1-8). Jesus had forgiven adultery (John 8:2-11), healed bleeding disorders (Mark 5:24-34), cast out demons (Mark 1:21-28 & Luke 8:26-39) and now, most recently, raised his friend Lazarus from the dead (John 11:41-44). They had seen so many things come to pass at the hands of their leader, Jesus of Nazareth, who was indeed the Christ (in Greek) and Messiah (in Hebrew) which both mean the Anointed One (Luke 2:11).

 

A gentle breeze blew across Thomas’ face. He was lost in thought as the other disciples spoke to one another while Jesus prayed. He recalled with a deep sigh that a death warrant for Jesus had gone forth from the mighty Sanhedrin and any who saw Him was to report it immediately for His capture (John 11:48-53). It almost seemed surreal. He recalled the words declared from the high priest of the Sanhedrin, Caiaphas, relating to Jesus (John 11:49-53).

 

The Festival of the Passover was nearly upon them now. Thomas and the other eleven disciples had shared three Passovers with Jesus over the past three years. And this year would mark the fourth. Jesus was preparing with much prayer, to become the ultimate Passover sacrifice; not just for those in Judea and Galilee, but for each and every heart whom would put their trust and hope in His mighty name (Isaiah 53:5). Soon, very soon, Jesus Christ would offer up Himself to pardon the wrong and shameful things that each person alive has done, said and thought. The time had come to reveal the ultimate champion and protector of the human soul.

 

It was now six days before Passover, and Jesus traveled to Bethany with His twelve disciples. There he stayed with his friends Lazarus, Mary and Martha. It had only been a few days since Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. All was still so fresh in their minds. And now, as they reclined at the table, Mary entered the room with an alabaster box. As the meal finished, Mary kneeled at Jesus’ feet and poured a pound of costly perfume, pure nard, on His feet and wiped it with her hair (John 12:3). The disciples looked at one another in amazement. What were they to think of this? Judas Iscariot was very vocal with his disgust, but Jesus told Judas that Mary was preparing His body for burial (John 12:7).

 

Many had learned that Jesus was in Bethany and had come to see both Him and the man He had raised from the dead, Lazarus (John 12:9). The chief priests now had concluded to not only kill Jesus, but to have Lazarus killed as well! Seeing as many Jews believed in Jesus as a result of seeing this man. Lazarus was very much alive (John 12:10-11)! The crowd which had now gathered traveled with Jesus, His disciples and Lazarus the two miles from Bethany to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast.

 

12On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the King of Israel.” 14Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, 15“FEAR NOT, DAUGHTER OF ZION; BEHOLD, YOUR KING IS COMING, SEATED ON A DONKEY’S COLT.” (Zechariah 9:9 & John 12:12-15 NASB)

 

As the young colt’s hooves crunched atop the palm branches, Thomas looked up to His leader, Jesus, whom was seated upon the young donkey as it plotted along. Excitement and praise were painted across the faces of those lining the path for Jesus to travel into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:9-10). All were dressed in their best as they had come for the feast of the Passover. As the donkey’s colt walked closer to Jerusalem, the strong aroma from the pure nard perfume, which had been place upon Jesus’ feet by Mary, could still be smelled in the desert air. With arms raised and others running to lay more palm branches onto the ground, the atmosphere was filled with great anticipation and victory. It was truly one of triumphal entry. The death warrant from the Sanhedrin was still active for Jesus, but no one in that moment could think of anything but shouting for joy! The same people whom Thomas had seen at the tomb of Lazarus, when Jesus raised him from the dead, were now shouting of these very things! At this, even more people ran to Jesus to meet Him, who has power to raise people from the dead (John 12:17-18).

 

Not only Jews, but also a few Greeks were in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. They approached Philip and asked if they, too, could see Jesus. His fame had truly spread throughout the land. Philip and Andrew both asked Jesus if He would see them. At this time, Jesus foretold of His own approaching death.

 

23And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (John 12:23 NASB)

 

Then, Jesus did something no one was expecting. From atop the young colt, He prayed to the God the Father in heaven, “Father, glorify Your name!” At that moment, Thomas, along with the other eleven disciples and all others around Jesus were startled as a voice was heard thundering from heaven!

 

“I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again!” (John 12:28 HCSB).

 

With eyes wide, loud gasps and murmuring were heard all around. This was now the third time a voice had thundered from heaven to affirm the deity and Sonship of Jesus. The first was at His baptism (Matthew 3:17), the second was at His transfiguration (Matthew 17:5) and now the third time was here at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem for Passover (John 12:28).

 

30Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes.” (John 12:30 NASB)

 

After conversing with the crowd a while longer, Jesus and His disciples left the crowd as they were growing irritated by His responses. Jesus had performed so many signs and miracles in the presence of the Jewish people, yet many still did not believe. This fulfilled the prophesy of Isaiah (John 12:37-40). Even still, people believed, but silently; seeing as they did not want to be cut off from the Synagogue for confessing faith in Jesus (John 12:42-43). They loved the approval of men more than that of God. Yet, Jesus had come to save them, and all of humanity, from disbelief and complacency by displaying His gift of ultimate love that would soon be hung from a cross (1 John 4:9).

 

44Then Jesus cried out, “The one who believes in Me believes not in Me, but in Him who sent Me. 45And the one who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. 46I have come as a light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me would not remain in darkness. 47If anyone hears My words and doesn’t keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48The one who rejects Me and doesn’t accept My sayings has this as his judge: The word I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49For I have not spoken on My own, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a command as to what I should say and what I should speak. 50I know that His command is eternal life. So the things that I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.” (John 12:44-50 NASB)

 

While Jesus was alone with His disciples, prior to the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His time to reveal His Passion for all of humanity had come. He knew that He had been sent to Earth by the will of His Father, and had been given authority over all things by His Father (Matthew 11:27, Matthew 28:18 & John 17:2). And now, it was time to return to His Father in heaven (John 13:3). Jesus then took off His outer robe, wrapped a towel around His waist and poured water in a basin to wash the feet of each of His disciples (John 13:4-5). All the while, Jesus knew that Judas had been plotting evil against Him and that the time of ultimate betrayal had arrived (John 13:2-5). As Thomas and the other disciples reclined around the table, they were curious as to what Jesus was doing. Surely, He was not going to wash their feet! That was beneath such a man of power and prestige. Thomas looked at Philip, who looked at Andrew and Matthew. Simon Peter could not accept this. Yet, Jesus spoke to confirm the need of this very thing.

 

7Jesus answered him, “What I’m doing you don’t understand now, but afterward you will know.” 8You will never wash my feet — ever! ” Peter said. Jesus replied, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with Me.” 9Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” (John 13:7-9 HCSB)

 

After Jesus had finished this act of servant leadership, He then instructed the twelve that no master is greater than his servants (John 13:16). Thus, seeing as Jesus had demonstrated how to take care of others, it was now their responsibility to take care of one another. Yet, Jesus shared that not all present really loved Him. The disciples looked at one another to see who could possibly be the one to betray Jesus the Messiah. And Jesus spoke,

 

26Jesus replied, “He’s the one I give the piece of bread to after I have dipped it.” When He had dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son. 27After Judas ate the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Therefore Jesus told him, “What you’re doing, do quickly.” (John 13:26-27 HCSB)

 

Thomas and the others did not think anything out of the ordinary with this comment. Judas Iscariot was the moneybag holder. They thought that Jesus was telling Judas Iscariot to go purchase the necessary items for the Festival or to give money to the poor. No one anticipated the gravity of what Christ was telling Judas, except Judas himself. At this time, Judas Iscariot received the bread and quickly left. It was now night (John 13:28-30).

 

Once Judas Iscariot had left, Jesus told the eleven disciples that He would be with them only a little longer and gave them a new commandment. They were instructed to love others as He had loved them (John 13:34). The eleven listened diligently as candles flickers on their table which still held the remnants of dinner and the washing basin. Simon Peter wanted to know why he would not be able to immediately follow Jesus onto His next place. It was simply too much for the human mind to wrap around. Simon Peter then stated that he would lay down his own life for Jesus (John 13:37).

 

38Jesus replied, “Will you lay down your life for Me? I assure you: A rooster will not crow until you have denied Me three times.” (John 13:38 HCSB)

 

In sincerity of heart, Jesus then continued to speak to the eleven disciples. He described how to get to the Father in heaven (John 14:6), who is the Father (John 14:11), the power of praying in Jesus’ name (John 14:14), the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-18), the gift of peace from Jesus Christ (John 14:27) and many other spiritual truths. All of the eleven listened intently and with great desire to comprehend all that was being said by their Master and Lord, Jesus. As Jesus finished, He spoke plainly and the disciples breathed a sigh of relief. Thomas and the others told Jesus that now they believed Him and knew that Jesus was really from God (John 16:30).

 

31Jesus responded to them, “Do you now believe? 32Look: An hour is coming, and has come, when each of you will be scattered to his own home, and you will leave Me alone. Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. 33I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:31-33)

 

Thomas and the other ten disciples marveled as Jesus then began to pray out loud to the Father. He prayed for Himself, for the disciples and for the believers that would hear the words of the disciples (John 17). The night had grown late and the tension in the room could be cut with a knife. The disciples did not know what was to come next, but it was obvious that they were standing on the brink of an eternal shift. 

(End of part 1)