Jesus is Risen—Nothing Else Matters

Hope Is Alive

SYNOPSIS: Jesus died on Good Friday, but rose again on Easter Sunday, so that you and I can live with hope on Monday—and every other day of the week, month after month, year after year, throughout the rest of life and for all eternity. That is what the Bible calls living hope. When you fully embrace this living hope, you will quit living like Jesus is still dead! That is our problem: We embrace Good Friday and rejoice in Resurrection Sunday but go back to work or school on Monday and live as if the Lord’s body is still in the tomb. He is not there, he is risen indeed!

Easter Monday

Moments With God // Matthew 27:50, 1 Peter 1:3

Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit…. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Jesus died on Good Friday, but rose again on Easter Sunday, so that you and I can live with hope on Monday—and every other day of the week, month after month, year after year, throughout the rest of life and for all eternity. That is what Peter calls living hope:

Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Because of his great mercy, he gave us new life by raising Jesus Christ from death. This fills us with a living hope. (1 Peter 1:3)

When you fully embrace this living hope, you will quit living like Jesus is still dead! That is our problem, I think: We embrace Good Friday and rejoice in Resurrection Sunday but go back to work or school on Monday and live as if the Lord’s body is still in the tomb.

The story is told of Martin Luther, who once spent three days in a deep depression over something that had gone wrong. On the third day his wife, Katie, came downstairs dressed in mourning clothes. Luther asked, “Who’s dead?” She replied, “God!” Luther was offended, “What do you mean, God is dead? God cannot die.” Kate replied, “Well, the way you’ve been acting I was sure He had!”

Peter calls to us today, to snap out of perpetual post-Easter funk, because Jesus lives! We have a living hope that really matters beyond Easter!” I love how historian Jaroslav Pelikan said it, “If Christ is risen—nothing else matters. And if Christ is not risen—nothing else matters.”

What difference does an Easter resurrection make on a back-to-work Monday?

  1. Christ’s death and resurrection are the foundation of your faith. The fact is, without the resurrection, your faith (and life) is meaningless. I Corinthians 15:14 says, “If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.”
  2. Christ’s death and resurrection are the basis of your hope. 1 Corinthians 15:19-20 says, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than anyone else in the world. But Christ has been raised to life! And this makes us certain that we will also be raised to life.” Hebrews 6:19 says, “We have this hope as an anchor of the soul, firm and secure.” Romans 5:5 say this “hope does not disappoint us!
  3. Christ’s death and resurrection are the guarantee of your resurrection. Jesus said in John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” If you do—believe, that is—the cross and the empty tomb become God’s signature on the Divine contract with you assuring you of eternal life after you die.

Yes, Christ is risen, and nothing else matters!

Take A Moment: When you wake up tomorrow, try singing, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” It just may fill you with hope, and that can’t hurt.

Spitting In God’s Face

Contempt for the Creator

Synopsis: When we look without compassion at people trapped in a cycle of economic despair or act as if they deserve what they are getting due to their own poor financial management, we come dangerously close to spitting in God’s face: “Those who mock the poor show contempt for their maker.” (Prov 17:5) Scripture repeatedly warns that those attitudes have no place in Christ’s community. Rather, when we lift the downtrodden, bear each other’s burdens, strengthen the weak, and love the unlovely we’re literally doing it to Jesus. (Matt 25:40) Jesus himself said that the defining mark of his followers would be that they have a full-throttled love for 1) God, 2) one another, and 3) a hurting world. And guess what? Two out of three won’t cut it! Let’s help the hurting. Do it for Jesus … do it to Jesus!

Spitting in God's Face

Moments With God // Proverbs 17:5

He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.

Contempt for the Creator—really?

Yep! That’s what Creator says in the Operator’s Manual he’s provided for us—the Bible. It says that when we look without compassion at those who are trapped in a cycle of economic despair or who have suddenly fallen into financial ruin, or act as if they deserve what they are getting due to their own poor financial management, we come dangerously close to spitting in the face of God.

In fact, there are an astounding number of places in the Bible warning us that those kinds of attitudes have no place in the community of Christ. Rather, we have been called to lift up the downtrodden, we are to bear one another’s burdens, and we are to strengthen the weak and love the unlovely. Not only that, but Jesus himself said that the defining mark of his followers would be that they have a full-throttled love, one, for God, two, for one another, and three, for a hurting world. And guess what? Two out of three doesn’t cut it here!

It is not that we have ignored the hurting, the fallen, or the poor entirely. We do a pretty good job of giving to disaster relief, sending our unused clothing to thrift stores, and donating canned goods to shelters. That’s not the problem; it’s the attitude with which we do it. You see, we engage the hurting but we don’t empathize with them very well. We open our wallets, just not our hearts. Yet the Bible tells us that God is on the side of the poor and the downcast. In fact, to ignore their needs or to judge them is to show contempt for God himself:

You insult your Maker when you exploit the powerless; when you’re kind to the poor, you honor God. (Prov 14:31)

It’s criminal to ignore a neighbor in need, but compassion for the poor—what a blessing! (Prov 14:21)

Mercy to the needy is a loan to God, and God pays back those loans in full. (Prov 19:17)

Jesus said it this way in Matthew 25:40, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

So the bottom line is this: We had better guard our hearts and watch our attitudes very carefully when it comes to the poor and hurting. We, as individual believers and corporately as churches, need to develop a sensitive heart and a willing response. Compassion is the rightful domain of Christ’s community and we need to seriously up our game when it comes to care and involvement with the less fortunate.

Why is this such a big deal to God? Five reasons.

  1. God is on the side of the poor.
  2. Not to take their side too is inviting the judgment of God.
  3. Taking care of what God cares about invites God to take care of what you care about.
  4. Care and involvement with the poor will nourish your spirit and transform your own character
  5. Expressing God’s heart for those trapped in misfortune will exert the awesome, life-changing power to lift a person out of their despair—something that may never occur without your helping hand.

So, my friend, do you have God’s heart for the poor?

Take A Moment: In the Incarnation, Christ left his glory to enter into our poverty. We have been called to the same kind of incarnational living. So here’s the $64,000 question: What about your attitude, your schedule, and your activities need to change to fully, personally, and practically exude the Incarnation in your world?

Your Judas

God’s Deeper Work Sometimes Comes Through A Betrayer

SYNOPSIS: In living out the law of agape love, we become like God—something that truly honors and pleases the heart of our Father. That’s what Jesus said: “You will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.” (Luke 6:35, NLT) That’s a pretty compelling reason for choosing to express unconquerable, benevolent, kind, invincible, reconciling agape love—especially toward people who least deserve it. It is who God is, it is what God does, it is when we are most like God, and it is what his Son asked us to do.

Moments With God // Matthew 26:16

From that time on, Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.

From that time on, Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.

Sorry to be the one to break the news to you, but everybody gets a Judas in life. At one point or another, you will bear the pain of someone you trusted thrusting a knife in your back. It is simply, and sadly, the awful reality of living in a broken world alongside fallen human beings.

Among the sixty conspirators who assassinated the Roman leader on March 15, 44 BC was Marcus Junius Brutus. Caesar not only trusted Brutus, he favored him as a son. According to Roman historians, Caesar first resisted his assassins, but when he saw Brutus among them with his dagger drawn, he gave up. He pulled the top part of his robe over his face, and uttered those heartrending words immortalized by Shakespeare, “Et tu Brutus” … “You, too, my child?”

Julius Caesar was not the only one to know such treachery. The passionate Scottish patriot William Wallace experienced it when Earl Robert de Bruce betrayed him. Not even the brightest theological mind who ever lived—the Apostle Paul—or the most perfect human being ever—Jesus Christ—was spared. No one gets a pass on betrayal.

So here’s the thing: Are you willing to consider the possibility that God has a far deeper work to do in you that can only come through the betrayer’s knife? Charles Spurgeon said,

I bear willing witness that I owe more to the fire, the hammer and the file than to anything else in the Lord’s workshop. I sometimes question whether I have ever learned anything except through the rod. When my schoolroom is darkened, I see the most.

The truth is, the fire, the hammer and the file of a betrayal may result in some of God’s finest craftsmanship—if you keep your heart soft and your eye on him. If you are going through the pain of a betrayer’s wound right now, remember, you are walking where great people have walked before. Their greatness came because they didn’t allow betrayal to ruin them; they learned how to turn their pain into greater usefulness for the Lord.

Jesus responded to Judas’ money-making treachery with obedient submission to God—and transformed the world. Perhaps God wants to use your pain to form you, and to transform your world.

To what enemy do you need to extend unconquerable, benevolent, invincible, reconciling kindness? Go do it! It’s what your Father would do—and you’ve got his DNA.

Take A Moment: If you are going through the pain of betrayal, memorize and pray this psalm of David, who knew a little about betrayal: “But I call to God, and the LORD saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice…Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” (Psalm 55:16-17, 22)

The Simple Recipe For True Success

Follow It And You Will Achieve It

SYNOPSIS: Success! A lot of books have been written about the secrets of success. Thousands of people attend expensive seminars on how to be successful. A mindboggling amount of brainpower is exerted every second of the day on Planet Earth to achieve success. And to be sure, much of what has been written, offered, and exerted is quite good. But there really is no secret to being successful. It’s quite easy, actually. It’s not hidden but is open to everyone. It’s more of a recipe, if you will, that anyone can follow to achieve it. It’s simply this: find out what God wants—then do it.

Moments With God // Proverbs 16:3

Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.

A lot of books have been written about the secrets of success. Thousands of people attend expensive seminars on how to be successful. A mindboggling amount of brainpower is exerted every second of the day on Planet Earth to achieve success. And to be sure, much of what has been written, offered, and exerted is quite good. But there really is no secret to being successful. It is quite easy, actually. It is not hidden but is open to everyone. It is more of a recipe, if you will, that anyone can follow to achieve it. It is simply this:

Find out what God wants—then do it.

That is what Solomon is saying: “Put God in charge of your work, then what you’ve planned will take place.” (The Message) Many other Bible figures have said the same. Consider the following:

Moses: “I am about to go the way of all the earth, so be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the LORD your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go.” (I Kings 2:2-3)

Joshua: “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8-9, NLT)

King David: “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.” (Psalm 37:4-6)

Jesus Christ: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

So what is the recipe for success? Quite plainly, here it is: Take care of the things that God cares about, he will take care of the things you care about.

That is his promise, not mine.

Take A Moment: Take time today to run each of the things in which you are striving to be successful through the filter of the verses mentioned above. Are they aligned with God’s truth? Are they what God wants? Are they kingdom-focused? If not, I think you know what to do.

Fruit Inspectors

We Are To Know Them By Their Fruit

SYNOPSIS: Our calling as ambassadors for Christ is to compel people to righteousness, but we are to do so without being self-righteous and moralistic. If we fail at that, truly our judgmentalism becomes a turn-off to everyone—sinners, saints, and even God himself. And while we have failed at that on occasion, past failure is no reason to abdicate a role that is critical to both the purity of the church and the salvation of the lost—fruit inspection. And a good place to start is by inspecting your own spiritual fruit–both internal (character) and external (works) kingdom produce! That in itself will most definitely keep you from being judgmental.

Ambassadors for Christ

Moments With God // Matthew 7:16

You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

When I was growing up, I remember hearing the pastor of our church, who happened to be my dad, exhort our small congregation with these words of wisdom: “The Bible says we’re not supposed to judge other people, but it doesn’t say we shouldn’t be inspecting their fruit.” In light of what Jesus taught here in Matthew 7, that pastor was standing on solid theological ground.

Now the world has used Jesus’ words in verse 1, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged” as a sledgehammer against Christians who take a stand on the cultural issues of our day, but Jesus never intended his words to intimidate believers into moral silence. The truth is, we have been called to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) both to wayward Christians as well as lost people who are headed for a Christless eternity. Who better to stand on the wall as a moral and spiritual watchman than an authentic Christ-follower?

Our calling as ambassadors for Christ is to compel people to righteousness, but we are to do so without being self-righteous and moralistic. If we fail at that, truly our judgmentalism becomes a turn-off to everyone—sinners, saints, and even God himself. And while we have failed at that on occasion, past failure is no reason to abdicate a role that is critical to both the purity of the church and the salvation of the lost.

Now as it relates to Matthew 7, what we need to understand is that when Jesus spoke against judging in verses 1-8, he was specifically taking a stand against what had become the national pastime in Israel: evaluating the spirituality of others by their outward observance of the Mosaic law and their acts of religious piety. The fact is, Jesus said in verses 21-23 that there will be those who were pretty good at being religious and who will be able to claim an amazing record of good deeds but will still be refused entrance into the eternal kingdom when they stand before God. Thinking religious piety was their meal ticket to heaven, they will be shocked and dismayed to discover that their good deeds didn’t get them “in” with God—only grace can do that.

So in that regard, we are not to be judgmental, as the Jews had become. We are, however, to evaluate the spiritual quality of those who claim to know Christ by inspecting the fruit being produced from their lives. We are to “know them by their fruit.” What is “knowable” fruit in the life of a Christian?

  • The fruit of repentance: John the Baptist called attention to that in Matthew 3:8. This is the first fruit we can observe in a God-honoring life—a complete turnaround from sinful patterns to the pursuit of God’s righteousness.
  • The fruit of abiding: Jesus addressed this in John 15, saying that when a believer is fundamentally connected to him, abiding in the True Vine, there will be much fruit that brings great joy to the believer and much glory to God the Father.
  • The fruit of giving: In Romans 15:14-29 Paul speaks of the fruit that comes when we financially resource God’s work: redeemed souls and relieved suffering.
  • The fruit of the Spirit: The most revealing fruit of authentic faith and growth in Christ is the fruit the indwelling Spirit produces in the believer—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
  • The fruit of the light: Ephesians 5:8-12 speaks of observable fruit in a believer that consists of goodness, righteousness, and truth.
  • The fruit of praise: Our lips are to offer up the sacrifice of praise that glorifies God through Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 13:14-16)

For sure, we must avoid the spiritual pitfall of becoming judgmental. Nothing destroys Kingdom life and blocks Kingdom growth quite like that. Nothing sullies God’s reputation more on Planet Earth than self-righteous pain in the neck busybody believers sticking their opinion into everybody’s business. But if we are going to protect God’s family from false believers and fake teachers, if we are going to exhort and admonish one another on toward growth in grace and the character of Christ, and if we are going to call a lost world to a loving God, we can’t shy away from inspecting the fruit once in a while.

And a good place to start is by inspecting your own! That in itself will most definitely keep you from being judgmental.

Take A Moment: Do a little fruit inspection in your own life today. Is there visible fruit in the areas the New Testament calls you to fruitfulness? The fruit of repentance—Matthew 3:8, the fruit of abiding—John 15:5-8, the fruit of giving—Romans 15:14-29, the fruit of the Spirit—Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of the light—Ephesians 5:8-12, and the fruit of praise—Hebrews 13:14-16.

Control Your Rudder, Brudder!

Loose Lips Really Do Sink Ships

SYNOPSIS: This will be your toughest assignment today, but hands down, the most important. It could be that relationships will be helped or hindered based on your success. It might be that witnessing opportunities will appear or disappear commensurate with your mastery of the mission. It is likely that the door to greater opportunity will open or shut depending on how well you do. It might even be that your destiny will rise or fall relative to your ability to gain the upper hand in this task. I am talking, of course, about the use or misuse of the words you speak today! The direction your life takes will be determined by how well you control your tongue.

Control your mouth

Moments With God // Proverbs 15:1

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

This will be the toughest assignment you will have today, but hands down, it is the most important. It could be that relationships will be helped or hindered based on your success. It might be that witnessing opportunities will appear or disappear commensurate with your mastery of the mission. It is likely that the door to greater opportunity will open or shut depending on how well you do. It might even be that your destiny will rise or fall relative to your ability to gain the upper hand in this task.

I am talking, of course, about the use or misuse of the words you speak today! Your tongue is, in reality, the rudder to the ship of your life, and the direction you take will be determined by how well you control it. Seriously, brother and sister, tame your tongue or you are likely to shipwreck your life sooner or later! If you think I am overstating the power of your words, take a moment to read James 3 and Matthew 12:33-37. If you doubt me now, you won’t then:

For sure, perfectly controlling your speech is tough work, but the payoff will be immense. Think about the personal power of the one whose tongue has been brought under control by the Spirit-formed heart:

  • Conflict is diffused! Proverbs 15:1says, “A gentle answer turns away anger while harsh words fuels the fire.” Proverbs 15:18 tells us, “A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.”
  • Knowledge is distributed! Proverbs 15:2 says, “The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of a fool gushes folly.” Proverbs 15:7 reminds us, “The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the hearts of fools”, while Proverbs 15:14 follows with, “The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.”
  • Life is dispensed! Proverbs 15:4 says, “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” Proverb 15:30 offers this reminder: “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.”

Just think, if you can control your rudder today, and develop a track record of rudder control, then you can initiate peace, instill knowledge and instigate life! Now that kind of personal impact is worth the effort!

Take A Moment: If you work next to someone, give that person permission to remind you every time you utter a negative, harsh, coarse or foolish word. Agree to pay them $5.00 for every infraction. If you work alone, ask the Holy Spirit to be your accountability partner…and Just pay me the $5.00 every time you blow it. And if you’re tempted to fudge the results, remember, the Spirit knows!

Depressed? Practice Hope!

The Sure Path to Emotional Balance

SYNOPSIS: Depressed? Practice hope! How? Start by dwelling on the love and kindness that God has for you. Dwell on all the things he has done for you for which you are grateful. Dwell on all the promises he has made to you in Scripture. Dwell on the promise of heaven. Basically, just do some reverse worrying. What do you do when you are worried? You dwell on the negative. So just turn that around and dwell on the positive truth of God’s Word. Do that—practice hope—and watch it “rock your world.”

Practice Hope

Moments With God // Psalm 42:11

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

I am not a mental health expert, so don’t go throwing away your meds if you are under the care of a medical professional. And please don’t take this as the final word on clinical depression. So with that caveat out of the way, let me just say that I think the authors of this psalm, the sons of Korah, David’s worship team, are on to something.

And since we believe this sacred book, the Bible, is God’s perfect revelation of himself and his will for mankind, then let’s lean into it as our only rule of faith and practice, perfect in all it affirms. Let’s treat it as we should—as the first, highest, and best authority by which we will live our lives!

So when it comes to the ups and downs that we commonly experience in our daily existence, this psalm reminds us that the sure path to emotional balance and inner joy is to practice hope. The psalmist says, “put your hope in God.” The Apostle Paul said it a bit differently—but he had the same thing in mind: Put on…hope.” (I Thessalonians 5:8)

Practice hope! How? Start by dwelling on the love and kindness that God has for you. Dwell on all the things he has done for you for which you are grateful. Dwell on all the promises he has made to you in Scripture. Dwell on the promise of heaven. Basically, just do some reverse worrying. What do you do when you are worried? You dwell on the negative. So just turn that around and dwell on the truth of God’s Word. Do that—practice hope—and watch it “rock your world.”

Don’t believe that will work? Well, let me give you just one example of how hope can change you. Suppose you were to receive a phone call later today from an old friend who enthusiastically says, “Friend, I have good news. You can take a 7-day trip to Hawaii with my company that won’t cost you a dime. We have room for two more…but here’s the catch: we leave tomorrow evening at 9:00 PM. The boss is taking us on his private jet, and we’ll be staying at his beachfront villa in Maui.” You tell him you’ll call him right back, and the minute you get off the phone, you and your spouse, who was listening in, start thinking and planning. Out comes the pen and paper, and you begin to prioritize what you need to do to make this happen. Then you call the friend back and tell him you’re in.

If that were to happen, I guarantee that you would then begin to ruthlessly align your life over the next 24 hours to pull off that all-expenses paid trip to paradise. You might say that the hope of Hawaii tomorrow changed the way you lived today.

There’s something even better and more permanent than Hawaii. It’s called heaven. So why don’t you live like you are going there tomorrow—every day! Here’s the deal: You’ll be amazed at how hitching your hope to the promise of heaven (or the love of God, or the blessings of salvation, or any other truth of God’s Word) will change everything you experience today—even your emotions.

Practice hope!

Take A Moment: So why don’t you give it a try! As the psalm says, “Hope thou in God!”