“He sat down in the ashes” after his whole life had crashed. — Job 2:8
The ocean is an amazing place to be. The power and majesty it holds demands respect. I was privileged enough to spend a week at the beach, resting in God’s creation. As the week passed on, the ocean grew more and more angry as a tropical depression moved in.
On the last day I was there, I sat just observing and listening to the sounds of the great waves beating the shoreline. In the midst of the crashes, I could almost hear the roar of God making His presence known. I’m certain, if given the chance, I could have sat there all night listening to Him.
While sitting there, I noticed a little sandcastle a small child had built earlier. He was so very proud. I remember him chattering to his family to “look!!” But now the huge swells were crashing down on the little castle, washing it away in a single moment. I couldn’t help but think of Job 2:8. Satan wouldn’t let up on Job, convinced he could get Job to sin against God. As Job’s whole life seemed to crash around him, leaving him sitting in the ashes, he still praised God. “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” (Job 2:10)
How often does life treat us like the waves crashing on that little sandcastle? If you’re like me, you have experienced a few moments sitting in the ashes while your whole world seemed to crash around you. But unlike the sandcastle, if you have surrendered your entire life to Jesus Christ, you will ultimately rise above those waves. Only through Jesus. Only through His strength. Only Jesus.
As I sit here in my office, I can’t help but notice the busyness all around me. Cars flying by. People walking here and there. Children playing on the playground behind me. Life is busy today. And as I notice this, I can’t help but wonder if any one of these people know today is Ascension Day. Today marks the moment when Jesus Christ completed his work on earth and ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Today is a BIG day. Did you miss it?
Ascension. It’s not really celebrated in our society. Even churches will give a cursory acknowledgement of it but it doesn’t get the same headlines that Easter or Christmas receive. And yet, without it, the Holy Spirit would not be with us. Without it, many of the promises of Jesus would not be fulfilled.
Forty days after his resurrection from the dead, Jesus and his disciples went to the Mount of Olives, near Jerusalem. It was there that Jesus explained that He would send a counselor to guide them — the Holy Spirit. He promised them the Spirit but asked them to remain in Jerusalem until the day the Spirit would come (it is called Pentecost).
So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”
He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. —Acts 1 6-9
It was in that moment that Jesus Christ finished his work here on earth. He would now prepare a place in heaven for each of us. And it is that promise that is the gift of our salvation. To be forgiven for our sins here on earth is incredible but to have a place prepared for us by Jesus to live with him for all eternity is priceless.
So why don’t we celebrate Ascension like we do other Christian holidays? I think it’s because we have stopped believing in resurrection power and promises that come with it. We have stopped believing that we have been raised with Christ. We talk about our time with Jesus as if it’s in the future. When we do that, we deny him in the present.
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. —Colossians 3:1-3
“Seek the things that are above…” One translation (the NLT) says it like this: “Set your sights on the realities of heaven.” How much of a reality is heaven in your life? Do you focus on the things of the world so much that you miss out on the reality of what Jesus Christ has done for you? The resurrection is not the end of the story. He defeated death but he did much much more. And we neglect to honor that when we focus on things of this world.
Author Stephen Seamans said of Colossians 3:1-3, “Paul was not merely making a suggestion. In the original Greek, the verbs are in the imperative mood. That means he was giving a command. They are also in the present tense, which implies continuous ongoing action. Paul, then, was insisting that the Colossians do this, keep on doing this, and do it always. His concern was not that these young Christians would be too heavenly minded, but not heavenly minded enough.”
Why should we be so focused on heaven when we live here on earth? Because that is where Jesus is. And that is where our hearts should be. If we continue to only think of Jesus as the earthly being, we will fail to live into the new creations that we are.
We can’t see all things through the risen Christ if we only see him as the earthly Jesus. We cannot stay stuck here in this world, in all of the dismay that surrounds us. We must glue our eyes to heaven, not as a “when is He coming back” but rather as a “that’s where my heart is.”
So, if you haven’t already, take a moment to acknowledge the Ascension. Take a moment to give thanks for the fact that Jesus Christ continues to reign and that we are right there with him. Take a moment to worship the Lord our God.
I was sent a message today with the question, “Did Paul really not ever preach on hell?” Apparently, my friend’s preacher told the church that Paul didn’t talk about hell when sharing the Gospel. Instead, the preacher insinuated that if Paul didn’t preach about it, hell either doesn’t exist or isn’t important. *sigh*
“Yes, my dear friend, Paul warned of hell because he taught exactly what Jesus Christ taught.”
First things first … Paul never says the word “hell.” This is true. The word was not found in the Greek language. But to simply say he did not tell his listeners about hell is distorting the truth because Paul absolutely spoke of eternal consequences.
Paul spoke of the fate of ponērós. It is the Greek word for wicked. He taught that ponērós are condemned and will suffer God’s wrath. 2 Thessalonians 2:12 says, “All will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” Truth in Paul’s teachings is believing in Jesus Christ. Therefore, anyone who does not believe in the truth equates to wickedness.
Romans 2:5, 8 says, “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed…But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” Paul describes God’s action against unbelievers and deniers of the truth with the word “wrath.” Wrath is never used when talking about salvation and sanctification. Why? Because the believer is not wicked, requiring eternal judgment.
Paul is clear that those who are unrepentant of their sins and reject the Lord will face God’s wrath on the Day of Judgment. “It is because of these things (lust, idolatry, greed, sexual immorality, and other sinful deeds) that the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.” Colossians 3:6
However, Paul doesn’t just give us the fate of the ponērós. He tells us the good news that those who believe in Jesus Christ will have eternal salvation, showing his listeners that there is a choice to be made: eternal salvation or eternal judgment.
• “Therefore, since we have now been justified [declared free of the guilt of sin] by His blood, [how much more certain is it that] we will be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” — Romans 5:9
• “For they themselves report about us, tellingwhat kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to [look forward and confidently] wait for [the coming of] His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead—Jesus, who [personally] rescues us from the coming wrath [and draws us to Himself, granting us all the privileges and rewards of a new life with Him].” — 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10
• “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died [willingly] for us, so that whether we are awake (alive) or asleep (dead) [at Christ’s appearing], we will live together with Him [sharing eternal life].” — 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10
Paul wrote the letter to the Galatian church to combat false teaching. He opposed the false teaching so strongly that he said, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” — Galatians 1:8-9 Eternally condemned certainly does not equate to anything good.
Paul wants everyone to fully understand that they have a choice to make. And they must make it quickly. “He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers. But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and instead live lives of wickedness.” — Romans 2:7-8
Paul continues his teaching of hell. Romans 2:9, “There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil.” This is a picture of the afterlife because we know that those who do evil don’t always experience trouble and distress. It is most often the righteous who are persecuted and go through tribulation (trouble). Paul is teaching that those who reject God and do evil will experience trouble and distress in the next life rather than this one. It’s satan’s way of seducing us into turning our backs on Jesus Christ.
Paul was profoundly intent on sharing the Gospel everywhere he went. He did not leave out the parts that made people uncomfortable or offended them. He understood that their eternal souls were at stake with each word he spoke. Unfortunately, there are many preachers today who fail to live by this same conviction. They twist the words of scripture so that it’s more appealing to sinful ears. And the result is more sin, more wickedness, and more lost.
But Paul wasn’t finished. 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10 is one of the most important passages about hell that Paul preaches. “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among those who have believed.”
Everlastingdestruction. This means that the punishment for those unbelievers and twisters of truth is to be “shut out from the presence of the Lord” eternally. If this isn’t hell, what is?
Paul talks of eternal destruction several times.
• The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. — Galatians 6:8
• And in no way be alarmed or intimidated [in anything] by your opponents, for such [constancy and fearlessness on your part] is a [clear] sign [a proof and a seal] for them of [their impending] destruction, but [a clear sign] for you of deliverance and salvation, and that too, from God —Philippians 1:28
• For there are many, of whom I have often told you, and now tell you even with tears, who live as enemies of the cross of Christ [rejecting and opposing His way of salvation], whose fate is destruction, whose god is theirbelly [their worldly appetite, their sensuality, their vanity], and whose glory is in their shame—who focus their mind on earthly and temporal things. — Philippians 3:19
• “They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” — 2 Thessalonians 2:10
Quite simply, the ungodly will be destroyed, but believers will be given eternal life. Therefore, ‘eternal destruction’ is the severity of the punishment awaiting the enemies of God for eternity. Considering that Jesus spoke of heaven as a place of joy, the place where those not of God’s kingdom would be hell. Although Paul does not use the Greek words translated “hell,” he speaks about extensively.
Finally, Paul was an extraordinary apostle and his example is one to follow. But Paul was a sinful human being. Our ultimate teacher is Jesus Christ. Paul did not contradict Jesus so we can look to Jesus’s teachings for a final authority.
Jesus talked about hell more than any other person in scripture. In Luke 16, he describes a great chasm over which “none may cross from there to us.” In Matthew 25, Jesus tells of a time when people will be separated into two groups, one entering into his presence, the other banished to “eternal fire.”
Jesus says hell is a place of eternal torment (Luke 16:23), of unquenchable fire (Mark 9:43), where the worm does not die (Mark 9:48), where people will gnash their teeth in anguish and regret (Matt. 13:42), and from which there is no return, even to warn loved ones (Luke 16:19–31). He calls hell a place of “outer darkness” (Matt. 25:30), comparing it to “Gehenna” (Matt. 10:28), which was a trash dump outside the walls of Jerusalem where rubbish was burned and maggots abounded. Jesus talks about hell more than he talks about heaven, and describes it more vividly.
The fact is, without hell, there is no eternal punishment. Without eternal punishment, there is no need for salvation. Without salvation, there is no need for Jesus Christ. Be warned, my friends, of the false teachers. They tickle your ears with the teachings of satan, luring you closer to eternal destruction.
“On April 26, Dr. Ray surrendered his credentials as an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. Our pastor’s actions were done with a heavy heart, but also with a clear conscience.”
Most of you have likely not heard of Mt Bethel UMC in Marietta, Georgia even though it’s the largest Methodist church in north Georgia. This church has been a beacon in that area for over 175 years. They believe quite simply, “At the center of our mission is a great desire to evolve and stay relevant in our community–to find new ways to share an unchanging Gospel in a changing world.”
Sounds good, right? Well… this church has been in the religion news outlets the past few weeks. Why? Because the pastor of this very large, growing church believes in the truth of the Holy Bible. Rev. Dr. Jody Ray has been the senior pastor of Mt. Bethel for five years and has made it quite clear of his unwavering orthodoxy belief. The North Georgia Conference… well … it’s led by a very progressive bishop. Without so much as a consultation, the pastor received word he was being reappointed effective in less than a month. He and the church were caught off guard and requested the bishop reconsider. The answer was a strong, “no.”
“As an elder in the church I certainly understand the appointive process,” said Ray. “Unfortunately, my options were to accept the move, take a leave of absence, or surrender my credentials. That’s not exactly the way colleagues in the Order of Elders expect to be treated.”
So Rev. Ray announced today he was surrendering his credentials rather than stay embedded in the nightmare that the United Methodist Church has become because of the battle between good and evil.
For those not familiar with the ordination process in the UMC, it’s a long, exhausting process reaped in unobtainable expectations. In other words, it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s easily 10 years from start to finish, and more intensive then many residencies. Beyond the incredible hard work, time, and tears, the road to ordination is deeply personal because God calls us to the ministry and God ordains us. Unfortunately, many people have forgotten that very powerful fact. God is the ONLY one who can ordain us.
So why am I talking about all of this? Because I’ve been in a similar situation as Rev. Ray. Being placed in that position — new appointment, leave of absence, or surrender credentials — it’s incredibly painful. When you surrender your credentials, your life does not simply gone on. Your life is changed. You are changed. You ache deeply. You question yourself. You even question God. It’s not a simple choice. But it’s a necessary step when you can no longer represent a denomination because of their departure from God. And just like Ray, it all came down to being pro-sin or pro-Truth.
There are more and more of us who are being pushed out of the UMC simply for our unshakable faith in the inerrancy of scripture. It’s hard to even process that a church is no longer a place to hear Truth. It’s no longer a place to learn accountability to what’s right and wrong. It’s a place where the world has been embraced while God has been replaced. But so many churches from many different denominations are taking this approach. I focus on the UMC because of my personal experience.
There are several private forums online for those of us who are traditional believers. These forums provide a place for us to listen, lift each other up, discuss scripture, and pray together. Unfortunately, we are forced to be in hiding for our beliefs. Recently, we were warned to be very careful because we were being targeted. One person wrote, “Some one invited a friend of mine who could lose his/her job if affiliation here [the forum] was known. I recommended NOT participating here. Some clergy and lay conference staff are very vulnerable.”
It’s difficult for most people to understand the gravity of the pain clergy and laity are in because of the progressive leadership of the UMC. Threats, verbal assaults, loss of jobs, loss of friends… and this is only the beginning. With the split of the UMC looming , many more innocents will become victims of this fight.
For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths. — 2 Timothy 4:3-5
Scripture tells us over and over to be aware of false teachers. God knew that this day would come. And He clearly knew we would fall prey without constantly abiding in Him.
Friend, if you find yourself in the midst of this battle, the time has come for you to rise up. Remaining lukewarm is no longer an option. Eternity is on the line. So I leave you with these words from the Apostle Simon Peter:
But there were also lying prophets among the people then, just as there will be lying religious teachers among you. They’ll smuggle in destructive divisions, pitting you against each other—biting the hand of the One who gave them a chance to have their lives back! They’ve put themselves on a fast downhill slide to destruction, but not before they recruit a crowd of mixed-up followers who can’t tell right from wrong.
They give the way of truth a bad name. They’re only out for themselves. They’ll say anything, anything, that sounds good to exploit you. They won’t, of course, get by with it. They’ll come to a bad end, for God has never just stood by and let that kind of thing go on.
God didn’t let the rebel angels off the hook, but jailed them in hell till Judgment Day. Neither did he let the ancient ungodly world off. He wiped it out with a flood, rescuing only eight people—Noah, the sole voice of righteousness, was one of them.
God decreed destruction for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. A mound of ashes was all that was left—grim warning to anyone bent on an ungodly life. But that good man Lot, driven nearly out of his mind by the sexual filth and perversity, was rescued. Surrounded by moral rot day after day after day, that righteous man was in constant torment.
So God knows how to rescue the godly from evil trials. And he knows how to hold the feet of the wicked to the fire until Judgment Day.
God is especially incensed against these “teachers” who live by lust, addicted to a filthy existence. They despise interference from true authority, preferring to indulge in self-rule. Insolent egotists, they don’t hesitate to speak evil against the most splendid of creatures. Even angels, their superiors in every way, wouldn’t think of throwing their weight around like that, trying to slander others before God.
These people are nothing but brute beasts, born in the wild, predators on the prowl. In the very act of bringing down others with their ignorant blasphemies, they themselves will be brought down, losers in the end. Their evil will boomerang on them. They’re so despicable and addicted to pleasure that they indulge in wild parties, carousing in broad daylight. They’re obsessed with adultery, compulsive in sin, seducing every vulnerable soul they come upon. Their specialty is greed, and they’re experts at it. Dead souls!
They’ve left the main road and are directionless, having taken the way of Balaam, son of Beor, the prophet who turned profiteer, a connoisseur of evil. But Balaam was stopped in his wayward tracks: A dumb animal spoke in a human voice and prevented the prophet’s craziness.
There’s nothing to these people—they’re dried-up fountains, storm-scattered clouds, headed for a black hole in hell. They are loudmouths, full of hot air, but still they’re dangerous. Men and women who have recently escaped from a deviant life are most susceptible to their brand of seduction. They promise these newcomers freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption, for if they’re addicted to corruption—and they are—they’re enslaved.
If they’ve escaped from the slum of sin by experiencing our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ, and then slid back into that same old life again, they’re worse than if they had never left. Better not to have started out on the straight road to God than to start out and then turn back, repudiating the experience and the holy command. They prove the point of the proverbs, “A dog goes back to its own vomit” and “A scrubbed-up pig heads for the mud.” — 2 Peter 2
You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you. — Song of Solomon 4:7
Last September I wrote a blog about my struggle with my weight. I really thought I was ready to make a change when I wrote that piece. But I wasn’t. The depression I was in was simply too strong and I felt helpless. To make it worse, I had made my struggle public so now everyone knew I was … fat. Everyone knew I chose food over God as my comfort. Everyone knew I was weak. …And the pounds kept coming.
But sometimes change comes when we least expect it. February 6 was nothing extraordinary. I was on social media in a … shoe group page (don’t judge me). I had posted a pair of shoes for sale and a lady quickly nabbed them up. We started chatting about the final details and I noticed her email address said, “health coach.” So, I asked her about it and she shared her weight loss journey.
Two days later, I contacted her to get started … and I haven’t looked back. It was hard at first but then something changed. I started seeing food as a gift from God rather than His replacement. I found Jesus Christ IN the weight loss.
So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. — Galatians 5:1
Scripture tells us to embrace the freedom that comes from faith in Jesus Christ. But for some reason I struggled living into that freedom. And food gave me an excuse to be even more enslaved. I had tried so many diets but the strictness of them created an unrealistic set of laws I was unable to follow. So Christ has truly set usfree. How could I have forgotten?!!
I was so busy trying to eat the “right” thing, and look the “right” way and yet all I did was fail. When we receive the freedom in Christ from diets and sizes and self-imposed judgment, we can finally hear His voice about how to eat.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. — John 10:27
Because of the debt Jesus paid on our behalf, we are free from staying in our sins. Instead, once we say yes to Jesus, we are adopted into the kingdom of Heaven. That means we can hear His voice. Christ refers to Himself as our Shepherd. And do you know what shepherds do? They take care of their sheep! That includes providing food. Making sure we are well-fed is on the top of our Shepherd’s priority list! Listen for His voice, and trust that he is leading us where our needs will be met!
So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. — 1 Corinthians 10:31
When I was using food to medicate my depression, I was not glorifying God. I failed to glorify Him in body and in spirit. But praise be to God, I am no longer bound by those ways. I have lost 20 pounds. I see food as fuel given by God. And in return, I praise Him for the health I have been given. We go to God for many things in our lives. But we often neglect to go to God for our daily needs.
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. — Philippians 4:19
My journey is not over but today food is no longer my enemy.
“That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. He asked them, ‘What were you discussing as you walk along?’ One of them, Cleopas, said to Him in reply, ‘Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?’ They said to Him, ‘The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. But we were hoping that He would be the one to redeem Israel. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that He was alive.’ And He said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!’ “ — Luke 24: 13-55
Did you know that Easter is not just one day? It’s actually a 50-day period that ends on Pentecost. It marks the time of Jesus’s ministry from his resurrection to his ascension. It’s an important time for Christians to reflect upon their baptism and how their lives are meant to change as a member of God’s Kingdom. It’s a time for us to examine how Jesus is included in our daily lives.
For me, it’s impossible to think of Eastertide without thinking of the Emmaus story. This story of two disciples encountering Jesus, on the road to Emmaus, is one my favorite scriptures. Two men were walking toward Emmaus on that first Easter. They were grief-stricken over Jesus’ death. Along the road they encountered a stranger, the unrecognized Jesus.
Cleopas and his companion were surprised that the man had not heard of the recent events that had Jerusalem in turmoil. They proceeded to tell the stranger of Jesus’ crucifixion and the report of His empty tomb by the women that morning. Jesus responded, “‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
Even as he said these words, the two men failed to see Jesus in front of them. They failed to see the truth that they faced. They chose to ignore the presence of God in their moment of grief and fear.
The word “Emmaus” means “an urgent longing”. Is it really surprising that of all the places for Jesus to have this encounter, it would be Emmaus — an urgent longing? Of course not!
I believe that the road to Emmaus is a road that must be walked, in one sense, by every Christian. If you are a Christian, then your urgent longing for Jesus Christ is the driving force of your life. We should long for him in the joyful moments as well as the despair. But woe to us. How often do we fail to see Jesus Christ in our daily moments? How often do we choose to ignore the truth of all the scriptures because our eyes are not open? We aren’t so unlike the two men on the Emmaus Road. And we even know the ending!!
In this account, we know that one of the men was Cleopas. But the other is not named. What if that companion is you? What if the story of the walk to Emmaus is about you and your failure to see the risen Christ … to really see him by your side?
This story ends with an awakening by these disciples as their eyes were opened upon the breaking of the bread.
They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?”
And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, who said, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
The crucified and risen Christ comes to meet us on our daily walk, to restore joy to our heart when we need it. The road to Emmaus becomes a symbol of our own faith journey: the Scriptures and Holy Communion are the incredible ways we have be given to encounter the Lord. We too carry worries, difficulties and disappointments into our worship time, preventing us from seeing Christ before us. So we go away feeling sad, towards our ‘Emmaus,’ turning our backs on God’s plan. We distance ourselves from God. But the scriptures invite us into God’s heart while Communion gives us strength. This is what happened to the disciples of Emmaus: they received the Word; they shared the breaking of bread and from feeling hopeless and defeated they became joyful.
Are you on the Emmaus Road right now? If so, is your heart burning? Perhaps you are urgently longing for the only One you will ever need.
Mean girls don’t remember what they said Well, it’s funny ’cause I can’t seem to forget
Do you ever have those moments when a word or phrase just stabs you right in the heart? That happened to me today. I learned of a conversation that somehow included a very personal experience of mine. I am not going to go into details because the details do not matter. What matters is the gossip that was directed at me and others I care about.
Let’s just be honest, words hurt. There is no way around that fact. We can say all day long, “I don’t care what others think about me,” or “It doesn’t matter what someone is saying, I know the truth.” But deep inside, where we carry the hidden parts of our soul, it hurts.
There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers and sisters. — Proverbs 6:16-19
I can remember growing up and being really upset by the way some children would speak about and to me. But I was always told that as I grew older, I would not care about such things. Unfortunately, this is not reality. As I grow older, I have come to realize the depth of the hurt words cause people.
There is a song by Leanna Crawford called Mean Girls. It’s a a powerful song about the burden of words upon our souls.
Stick and stones may break my bones But no one ever warned me about words
That’s the crux of it. No one really warns us about words. No one tells us how to let words truly bounce off our backs, particularly when they come from those whom you have poured yourself into for the sake of love and friendship.
Mean girls don’t remember what they said Well, it’s funny ’cause I can’t seem to forget Their whispers opened up the door To a world called insecure No, mean girls don’t remember what they said
Scripture consistently reminds us that life as a disciple is very difficult. It is a truly a very narrow path that we must walk to be faithful to God’s commands. Unfortunately, there are many today who call themselves Christians but neglect to live into the fullness of our called lives. They will say “love” while spewing division.
Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. — 1 John 3:15
Words slowly “murder” another person when used to gossip. They take us to a place filled with shame and self-doubt. They cause walls to go up and relationships to fall apart. They steal trust and instill isolation. And all the while this is happening, we smile through the pain so no one will know.
I smile and I pretend it doesn’t hurt But the older that I get it just gets worse Lord, find me and remind me that my worth Is worth so much more than their words
So, what do we do? We can’t control other people, even though it would be nice sometimes. We can’t force someone to say nice things.
I need to you find me and remind me that my worth Is worth so much more than their words
For starters, we pray. Psalm 64:2-4 is a good place to start. Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the throng of evildoers, who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows, shooting from ambush at the blameless, shooting at him suddenly and without fear.
We are incapable of battling these evil spiritual forces without calling upon the name of Jesus Christ. In this world of hatred and division, there is a sense of pride in tearing down another human being. Even more so, there is glee in listening to another tear someone down. But as people of the cross, we cannot be a part of such sin. We must stand up against those who seek to divide the Kingdom by spreading lies, watering down the scriptures, and neglecting the spiritual care of our brothers and sisters.
Today, I was caught by surprise by the pain of another’s words but only for a moment.
Mean girls don’t remember what they said Well, it’s funny ’cause I can’t seem to forget
It’s true. I can’t seem to forget. But I will glorify God within the pain of the words.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. — Matthew 5:11-12
I am richly blessed because of the many words that have been thrown at and about me for being strong in my faith. I am richly blessed because I have lost friends for listening to the conviction by God within my heart. I am richly blessed because the words of the evil continue to come which tells me that I did exactly what God designed for me to do. Do the words still hurt? In the moment, yes, But in the eternal, not even a little do I feel pain.
Lord, find me and remind me that my worth Is worth so much more than their words
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so they could go and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they went to the tomb at sunrise. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance to the tomb for us?” Looking up, they observed that the stone—which was very large—had been rolled away. When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; they were amazed and alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he told them. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has been resurrected! He is not here! See the place where they put Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see Him there just as He told you.’” So they went out and started running from the tomb, because trembling and astonishment overwhelmed them. — Mark 16:1-8
Jesus Christ is risen!
We are so accustomed to hearing of Jesus risen from the dead that we could say, “Oh yea…i know” and miss the power of this holy season. But y’all, Jesus rose from the dead! Death is not the end! We cannot force the resurrection of Jesus Christ to have to fight for room in our lives; Jesus’s resurrection should be the center of our lives.
Humanity has been waiting for this moment for thousands of years. In the Old Testament prophets gave us the message from God that outlined God’s plan for the resurrection. It wasn’t just a guess. It was a profound promise from God to us thus making Easter the greatest celebration of the Church. Jesus’s resurrection tells us that there is life beyond the grave. It is a reminder that each of us has an immortal soul. Although our body will return to dust, our soul will live forever with God.
Each of the resurrection accounts are slightly different but each one ends at the same place — the tomb with stone rolled away. It’s a powerful image. The stone, which required many men to move, just rolled away. It makes me wonder about the tombs in our lives and how we stay locked inside. Our tombs prevent us from having authentic relationships with others as well as Jesus Christ.
Have you allowed a stone to prevent you from meeting the risen Jesus? Have you allowed the stone of the world to block your way to Jesus? You were adopted as God’s son or daughter on the day you were baptized. If you are not living like a son or daughter of God then roll away the stone. If you are not at peace, the stone needs to be rolled away in your life.
Today is the day. Stones are rolled away. Tombs are empty. Christ is alive!
But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation. — Micah 7:7
Today, we wait. Today, the silence is deafening. Today, we stand stranded between dark and Light. And so we wait. But it is within such dark moments, when fear and hiding are our temptations, that we must recall relentless hope and enduring life.
Holy Saturday is a solemn day for mourning. We are asked to consider what it would have been like if we were close friends of Jesus when his life was taken. How would we have spent this day? Would we, like the disciples, have given up hope? Would we have found ourselves hiding in an upper room?
Our world today is not so different. It kind of feels like we have been in a period of spiritual silence for over a year, locked in our homes for fear of the world. Holy Saturday offers a remedy. “The entire Christian message stands as a countercultural emblem that shouts out to a suffering world that hope truly does reign. Hope is not blind trust nor a mental exercise in spiritual roulette that an outcome will turn out exactly as we desire. Hope is a condition in friendship when you know your friend is with you, even when he is not physically next to you. Hope is the capacity to see that we are never truly alone and that God can overcome any obstacle, even death.” 
Passion Week is not an easy week to sail through. If you really stop to ponder each day, it can feel like roller coaster, full of ups and downs. And then you have to face Holy Saturday and the silence that darkness brings. But silence offers a chance to ponder. Would we have left Christ all alone in his suffering? How are we being asked to journey with others in their suffering today?
The day in between Jesus’ death and resurrection stands at a pivotal juncture between despair and hope, fear and courage, death and new life. Holy Saturday was a real point in time, but it also symbolizes the current state of our world.
We are in time and place between darkness and light, destruction and renewal. We are in desperate need of looking toward brighter days for our country, politics, church, and world.
When intense, widespread suffering strikes again — and it will — we should not turn to the fear that evil wins. Instead, when the Holy Saturdays enter our lives, we must remember there is hope in the waiting. Trials and darkness never last forever. The tomb always turns up empty and our lives always recover if we hold fast to the Hope only found in Jesus Christ.
After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. — John 19:28-30
Good Friday. It’s a strange name for a day when an innocent man was condemned and crucified. But the “good” in Good Friday actually comes from has a different origin. The word “good” used to have a sense of “pious” or “holy”. The day was called Good Friday in the sense of it being a holy day.
It’s important to remember that on that Holy Friday, it was not good. It was a day when evil rejoiced and those who opposed Jesus’ ministry thought they’d gotten rid of the Nazarene once and for all. They did not realize it was a day God had planned from time eternal, from before the foundation of the world when God would begin to undo what Satan had done in the Garden of Eden.
It was a day when the earth trembled. Darkness reigned. Hope was lost. A ransom was paid. Chains were broken. Death’s defeat begun. Judgment finished. A glimmer of hope found in the midst of a darkness.
What Jesus endured on our behalf is nothing short of incredible. Unlike you and me, Jesus did nothing wrong, but He paid the price of sin. His feet never went where they were not to go, His hands never did what they should not have done. He never spoke an inappropriate word and never entertained an inappropriate thought. Yet, from the foundation of the world, God the Father allowed His only begotten Son to be put on trial for you and me. He gave His only Son as a sacrifice, that you and I might have freedom. The wonderful, free gift of God’s grace!
Perhaps a better name for that Friday so long ago would be “Grace Friday” because on that day, God did for you and I what we could not do for ourselves. Jesus took upon himself the pain of our sins and the punishment we deserved.
“Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt…by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities…he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.” — Isaiah 53:10-12
When we were lost in sin and unable to save ourselves, Jesus died in our place by boldly placing our sin on his shoulders. Falsely accused, beaten, and mocked, they crucified the King of glory. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved. —Ephesians 2:4-5
Good Friday is a time of somber reflection, but it is also a time of joyful anticipation. The struggle between good and evil is finished. The debt is paid. The disciples didn’t understand it. And perhaps you struggle with it too. Friday is indeed a dark day. But, my friend, Sunday is coming! A day will dawn when our tears will become joy; the tomb will stand empty; and hope will be restored!
If you don’t know Jesus Christ, you simply must not allow this glorious weekend to pass without confessing Him as Lord and allowing Him to come into your life. He carried your sin….and mine. He died for me…and He died for you. But glory of glory…the grave could not hold Him and He rose again, forever defeating death, so that we might have life. Eternal life. Forever with Him!
Isn’t it time to accept the beautiful gift Jesus is offering you? To invite Jesus to come into your life, sincerely pray this prayer (or something similar) with all your heart:
Heavenly Father, I have done wrong in my life. I have sinned against you and I am sorry. I want to turn from my sinful ways but cannot do it on my own. I acknowledge that I cannot save myself, but that You can save me. Please come to dwell within me and change me from the inside out. I confess that You are Lord and I want to follow You all the days of my life. Thank You for Your amazing grace that is saving me this very moment! Now send Your Holy Spirit to empower me to live the way I should. I give myself to You as best I know how. Amen