Why Not Jesus?

As I’m writing today it is the beginning of Holy Week, the week when the events of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the Prayer and arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, the trial, the crucifixion, burial, the Resurrection, and the discovery of the empty tomb are celebrated by Christians worldwide. The celebrations look different, depending on the church and country, but for all it is a time to reflect on the enormity of what Jesus did.

For some people, it is just another holiday to celebrate. In the US, most people attend church on Easter with their families, enjoy a large dinner and fill Easter baskets for the children with chocolate bunnies and toys. Candy filled plastic eggs are hidden for a search by the eager youngsters. Often these Easter egg hunts are hosted by community organizations with no ties to any religion. We’ve gotten so used to celebrated holidays that the real religious significance is overlooked, much like Christmas.

Last week, I was sorting out some books in my office and came across one entitled “Why Jesus?” It is a great book written by the apologist Ravi Zaccharias, but it made me ponder for a moment the question; “Why NOT Jesus?” I mean, why not believe in Jesus?

As some of you know I am a Christian apologist, as well as a writer. So, giving answers like why NOT Jesus is right up my alley. That is, after studying for my Masters in apologetics, I really can not understand anyone who does not believe that Jesus is the Savior, who died and rose again. The history, not just from the Bible, but other historical sources, is just too true not to believe. Yet, many still continue to resist the idea. Its like believing the earth is still flat, despite the evidence to the contrary.

I suspect, the reason why so many resist Jesus is because of their encounters with His followers, not with the evidence for the historic Jesus. Or it might also be that they like it when they agree with one of Jesus’ teachings, but not all of them. They like to pick and choose which ones to follow and which ones to ignore. It’s like they enjoy the chocolate Easter candy, I mean who doesn’t?, but they do not like the Easter story. It’s too complicated. They fear that they are not good enough, like God won’t love them or approve of their life choices. Or they fear they might have to give up one of their bad habits, you know the stuff God calls sin.

So , they enjoy celebrating for the chocolate, the food and the party, but do not commit to Jesus. Sadly, they miss that Jesus died for those sins, the ones they think God doesn’t see or is mad at them. They miss the big picture of what Jesus did. Jesus didn’t die for perfect church going people, He died and rose for those who fall short- way short- like me. His death demonstrates just how much God, Yahweh, loves us and the lengths He will go to redeeming us, coming down from Heaven and taking on the physical body, dying a real physical death, but defeating death by resurrecting. Jesus is not in the tomb, He is living. Christians do not follow a dead guru, like other religions, but a living God.

Or maybe they let the fear of change keep them from trusting Him completely. Instead they want to continue in this tension between trying to live this life on their own, without the secure knowledge of what happens after we die, and with the letting go of their trying and uncertainty and trust Jesus’ death and resurrection for themselves.

This world has enough tension already, so why live in this tense state? Why not trust Jesus this Easter and experience your own death to life spiritual transformation, instead of coming to the party just for the chocolate?

The writer of Hebrews offers this hope; “So also Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await Him.” (Hebrews 9:28, Berean Study Bible)

And the apostle Paul adds; “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10, NIV)

So, let me ask again what are you waiting for? Why not Jesus?- God Bless – Nancy

Bankrupt

Modern conveniences are great until they aren’t. Let me explain what I mean. I was discussing the issue of bank postings with my husband the other day after we had realized that our bank had made an error in which it posted a balance different from the one we had written down in our check book register- yes, I’m old school but I still write my expenses- debits- from my checking account down on paper. I realize there are many apps that will do the same, but trust me- sometimes apps can mess up.

It seems that banks can debit then remove debits from your checking account at random for what ever reason. If you are a bank person, I’m sure you understand all of this better than I do. But, if you just check your balance from your bank’s app, you’re likely to get an inaccurate balance at times. I know because I have had this happen. You check the balance and it gives you a false sense of financial security of the amount you have available so you might make a purchase. But, the amount is only a snap shot for that minute, for an hour later the amount changes and you might find yourself overdrawn. Please tell me that I am not alone in this. I know it happens to others as well. See, this is why I like the old school ways. I have had this happen with auto debits as well, They do not always post from your account on the specific day- even when you set them up that way- So, you find yourself at a loss to pay a bill. Bankrupt, so to speak.

As I write this post, it is the first day of Lent. A season in which we are to give up something so we can focus on Easter coming. A time to give up from our plenty, something simple like, candy or sweets, or meat or social media. We might feel good about our pursuit of giving up for a time, but sometimes it tends to look more like our New Year’s resolutions, if we are honest.

The first week we’re good, but in a little while, we might sneak in a candy bar, or a steak on a Friday. But, what is it we are seeking to do? Are we practicing some religious obligation? Or, are we really spending more time in prayer and reading of the Bible? Maybe we are trying to grow our faith, or feel closer to God, or just maybe we think it will make Him like us more if we concentrate on Him more and less on ourselves. But, does God need this from us? There simply isn’t enough of what we can give up that will make Him love us any more than He does now. Being closer to God means surrendering our lives to Him, not just our candy.

God doesn’t need us to give up candy. He needs us to give Him our lives and our hearts. No amount of money or good works or good deeds, even those done in His name will ever accomplish restoring the broken relationship between man and God- We simply do not have enough to pay. We are bankrupt when compared with what God requires to restore that broken relationship. The only payment that counts is death, and that is precisely the payment made by Jesus. He redeemed us, made the payment and rose to life to sit at God’s right hand, having accomplished His task. He gave it all for us. Our response is to accept it.

So, maybe this Lenten season, instead of giving up anything, we should focus on receiving God’s gift of salvation through Jesus. But, if you feel that you must give up anything, give up your sin debt, your anxiety, your worry, your problems, your desperate situations, your selfishness, your unforgiveness, your pain, your hurt, your plans, and cry out to God- who loves us so much that He gave us His Son. -God Bless You- Nancy

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. Jn 3:16 ESV

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 5:1, NIV

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:9-13, NIV

Hosanna!

I grew up in a very small town in which high school sports played a big part. We were so small a town that we didn’t even have one stoplight. Oh we did have a few stop signs. However, one of out biggest claims to fame was the multiple state championships we had won for basketball and soccer. Our high school was small and we always felt a bit like David versus Goliath when we went to the state competitions, but for a small town it was a big deal. For those in town who hadn’t snagged a ticket for the big game some two hours away, the local radio station would carry the broadcast and we would all tune in. We all got to celebrate alongside those who would win, usually year after year. Phone calls would be made and a line of vehicles including our two fire trucks would be waiting on the edge of town when the bus carrying the players and fans would return to our small town. When we heard the sirens and horns we would all gather outside on our front lawns with homemade signs, waving and cheering as our state champs rolled into town. It didn’t matter if you knew a player or not. It didn’t matter if you even liked sports. Young and old alike would stand outside and cheer and clap as the parade of buses, trucks, and cars would circle through the entire town multiple times.

I can only imagine that this was what it was like on what we now call Palm Sunday. Crowds gathered on the road to Jerusalem, cheering Jesus on and waving palm branches.Jesus of course knew what would be coming later in the week, and we get insight into this in Luke’s gospel. Before entering Jerusalem He stops and cries over the city. He cried because He wished they would understand what would bring peace.(Luke 19:41-42). Despite the cheering crowds, Jesus knew the real heart of the city rejected Him and did not realize it was He who had come to bring peace. The disciples must have enjoyed hearing the praises of the people as Jesus rode into town on the donkey. They might have even felt good to be a part of the entourage of Jesus, just like the parade of fans I remember from my home town. There was celebrating in the streets as Jesus, their hero. who had performed so many miracles was riding triumphantly into Jerusalem. But their celebrating would soon turn into disbelief and even denial in a few short days.

We, of course, now know what it was all about and understand that Jesus was entering Jerusalem where He would be tried, convicted, tortured, crucified, dead and yet rose again three days later. But, if we had been there, what would we have done?  Would we have joined the celebration parade? Would we have abandoned following when Jesus got arrested?

Sometimes, even now our faith is tested by what we go through and what we see. One minute we are celebrating and the next we face an uncertain time. Remember the greatest celebration isn’t Palm Sunday, but after, it’s Easter Sunday. It is what gives us hope that Jesus has paid our debt in full, defeated death, and will one day return. At that time there will be no more death, no more viruses or diseases that take our loved ones. No more crying, or heartbreaks. This is what Easter is about. It’s a victory celebration with Palm Sunday as just a preview. -God Bless -Nancy

Brand Ambassador

So, looking for a job is tough. Sometimes it can be down right depressing and at other times it can be confusing. I have been casually looking for a job and check my inbox daily to see if anything has popped up. Sometimes I notice what sounds like an amazing job by its title, click on the link, and then find out its for something totally different than what I expected. Recently I saw a job posting for a brand ambassador. Wow, sounds impressive, right? I mean ambassador, that conjures up the idea of a dignitary from a foreign country or something. And branding, well when I hear that I think of advertising and the creative types who come up with all those catchy graphics and slogans. But, and I say a big but, what this job was involved handing out food samples at groceries stores. Yup, my big bubble of high expectations burst! Well, its a good job, don’t get me wrong, just not what I expected from the job title.

Have you ever been let down like that? When something sounded great in name, but in reality it was a big let down? A big disappointment? But, what about us? Have we ever been a disappointment to others? Were they expecting something else? I’m sure I can guess you answered yes to a few of those questions, but have you ever realized that as Christians we are brand ambassadors? We are the faces of Christ followers in the world. We are in the world as His ambassadors. Now,  have you ever thought about how you are representing the brand? When people think of the word Christian, do they think of you? And more importantly, is it in a good sense of the word?

See, the word Christian was not first used by Christians as a title or job description, but by the unbelieving world. It was a slanderous term. It is said that the first use of the word Christian was used at the church at Antioch and was a nick name created by the people of Antioch, not the Christians themselves. In fact, it was a large commercial city where persecuted Christians fled after the death of Stephen. The estimated population of the city was half a million people at the time. So, with such a large population and with fear of persecution on their minds, you would think the Christians would try to blend in, not stand out. But, they must have, for it is there where the first time the term “Christian” was mentioned. The first branding if you will. And the name has stuck since the early first century.

Why would the first believers want to stand out and get a ribbing for their nick name “Christians”? Well, that is what their job was. Not to blend in, but to stand out, to shine, not hide. In Matthew 15:14-16 Jesus tells His followers that they are the light of the world and they are to let that light shine. His exact words are: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (NIV).

We have the Good news, the light of the world to share and the hope to offer a world that is looking for hope and answers. I have to admit, I feel like I don’t always do that well. Sometimes I am not a very good brand ambassador, handing out hope and the Good news to all I meet. Sometimes I’m sure I have let others down and shown them something less than Christ, something that deserves being labeled a hypocrite or given a slanderous nick name like “Christian” as the people of Antioch did to the early believers there. But, I hope with Easter coming soon, we can all be challenged to remember who we are as Christ’s ambassadors and share the great news He is risen.As Christians we are not perfect, but that is exactly why we need a savior. Being a Christian is not about being perfect, but realizing we can never measure up to God’s standards, and must rely completely on Christ’s substitutionary death for us.We can’t earn our way to Heaven by our behavior or religious rituals or traditions,but only by putting our faith in Jesus Christ. “But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved…..For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9, NIV).

This news is for everyone, not just a select group. And if you have received Christ as your savior, then you have been given a job. You are a brand ambassador for Christ. Unsure what this job entitles? Let me assure you its not always easy, but it is everything.For a complete job description consult God’s Word. Happy Easter and  God Bless You- Nancy

The Truth About Gratitude

The rain has been falling steadily this morning, so I have been taking my time to get ready for the day. Rainy days make me want to stay inside and enjoy a second cup of coffee in the morning. Growing up on a farm, I know the importance these Spring rains are for the crops. The rain loosens the soil and softens it, enabling the plow to carefully til the soil for the seeds to be planted. So, sometimes the rainy mornings are good for the soil of our own hearts as we can be willing to slow down and take our time before heading out for our day.

This morning was like that as I was watching a streaming program as I slowly enjoyed my second cup of coffee. The program I was watching provides a Bible teaching that has practical application for the everyday life. But, for this morning the programing was about the previous year’s(2018) outreaches that this ministry had been involved in. I have to admit that watching the recap of the natural disasters from last year, made me realize how soon I had forgotten about these. There seems to be so many of them so often, that I have become complacent about them.

But the real message I began to think about as I watched was how much outreach had been provided. Thousand of gallons of water, food and supplies were given. Hundreds of people were helping to load cars with these supplies after having unloaded large semi trucks of donated goods. Groups were carrying buckets full of supplies on foot to homes that could not be reached by car. Volunteers were sifting through the rubble of burned out homes to find valuables for the home owners who had lost everything to wildfires. Many of these teams spent time praying with the homeowners to encourage them and offer hope. So many people were helping in the video, it began to spring up a bit of guilt in me. I wished I had helped out too.

But, what also struck me as I watched was how this particular ministry is criticized because it is run by a woman. In the past I have heard many criticisms from fellow Christians such as she has had plastic surgery, owns a mansion and has a private jet. Or that she teaches prosperity. But the truth is there in what she does as a fellow Christian reaching out to those who are in need. No, this isn’t a plug for her either, but just a realization, that should we should all be challenged to do something for others. We might not have the financial means to give a thousand dollars to over seven hundred and fifty families who lost their homes to fire, but we can do something. It starts with a grateful heart.

But honestly, it’s not about being thankful for what we have, or that its not us that is being affected by a disaster. That’s really not the motivation that I am talking about. It’s the motivation that we should have towards what God has done in our lives. The gratitude that comes from realizing what Christ did on the cross for us, to save us from ourselves. To save us from being separated from Him forever, the thing we deserved, but He took instead in our place, defeating death, once for all. That’s the kind of gratitude we need to have. That is the motivation we need to help others.

Colossians 3:15-17 offers a look into what this attitude should be like; “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts toward God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (NIV).

It’s a long passage, but it offers us an idea of how we should be doing life. If we find ourselves faltering in being grateful and thankful, which according to the passage should be our attitude in what we say or do, it offers the direction to stay in the Word, letting it dwell in you. In other words, reading your Bible, keeps you grateful. Probably because you can be reminded just what you have to be grateful for. It has challenged me today to check my attitude. Have I been grateful lately? Not just thankful. Not just counting my blessings. Not just thankful for what I have. Gratitude isn’t about being thankful for the what in our lives, but the who, Christ, and what He did on the cross. Maybe this upcoming Easter season, we shouldn’t be celebrating new beginnings, but thanksgiving and gratitude, letting God’s Word soften the hardness of our complacent hearts, much like the Spring rains softens the soil, making it ready for planting. -God Bless -Nancy