Your Very Life

Living where Life is

Month: March 2016 (page 1 of 2)

Great News in Egypt!

e68ad4e3-889c-4f39-8566-5b78cd2c24cfWe have prayed and grieved much for Egypt over the last 3 years – with the Tahrir Square revolution, the Muslim Brotherhood mis-government, the decimation of their economy, and then the 21 martyrs last year. It has been a very difficult season for Egypt.

God is answering those prayers.  Read on:

More Christians than ever in history have been elected to Egypt’s House of Representatives (in late 2015). Ponder this! My friend, Ramez Atallah leads the Bible Society of Egypt. BSOE hosted a dinner recently for these new Christian Representatives and other Christian business leaders and clergy.

Click here to read about it. And, continue to rejoice and pray!

Easter Sunday Devotional

women-at-the-tomb-graham-braddockJohn’s account of the resurrection is my favorite. John 20 contains 4 scenes and a piece of instruction.

Scene 1 is the discovery of the empty tomb. Scene 2-3-4 are different appearances of Jesus. What is the response of Mary, the disciples and Thomas in these scenes? Which of them would you most approach?

Read John 20 in the 4 scenes:

  • The discovery (1-10)
  • In the garden with Mary (11-18), Jesus permits himself to be mistaken for a gardener. On the day of his Triumph. What humility.
  • In the Upper Room with the Disciples (19-23), Jesus gives to his disciples a down payment on the greatest gift imaginable. What is it? When is the gift fully given?
  • One week later, Jesus gently encourages Thomas (24-29). Ponder and join Thomas in his response! Rejoice at Jesus’ word of blessing for you and me, v.29

John then gives us the point of the whole gospel, in vv.30-31. What’s the point? Give thanks to God for the triumph of Jesus, and for the testimony of John.

Ask God to get you ready to worship him with his people this morning. This is the day of days to be a Christian! No matter where you are in the world, no matter what faces you, God’s power in raising Christ will be your power to live this life!

Holy Saturday Devotional

imagesThis is always a funny day… between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. A day for March Madness(!), yard work, fun and family. How do we enter into the events of 2,000 years ago?

Jesus is lying in the tomb. As Peter and John say in Acts 3:15, “you killed the Author of Life.” The Maker is dead. The Master is slain. The Creator is decaying. The Prince of Glory lies lifeless in the cold dark tomb.

Read the brief account of his burial as John tells it: John 19:38-42. How thankful we are for Joseph of Arimathea and for Nicodemus (of John 3:16 fame). Without them, Jesus’ body would likely have been in a pit with the 2 thieves and other paupers’ corpses.

Luke adds one insight at the end of the burial: “The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” (Luke 23:55-56)

This is the final Sabbath of the old creation, of the old Covenant. Tomorrow, Jesus will rise from the dead, and the New Creation will begin. Tomorrow, with Christ’s triumphant resurrection, the old Law is finished. These women are so devout, they are obeying and keeping the Law, even though Christ has already fully kept it on their behalf.

This is the final Sabbath of the law. Starting tomorrow, it’s the Sabbath of the New Creation – full and final and perfect REST in Christ!

The Greatest Three Words Ever!

imgresOn the cross, Jesus said the greatest three words ever uttered: “It Is Finished.”

What specifically is finished? I think the answer includes an amazing array of blessings.  You can read them below.  You can also watch this section of Grace’s Maundy Thursday service by clicking here, and scrolling to 1:00:13.

 

The work on the cross of securing our redemption is accomplished.

Our debt of sin is now paid.

The alienation with God is now over.

The Law of God has been fulfilled.

 

But what else?

 

The sufferings of Jesus walking this earth…

The wounds by friends… betrayed, denied, abandoned… finished

The torture by soldiers… finished

The blackness of having our sin poured on him, the total abandonment by God, His passion… it is finished.

 

It is finished includes all of this. And more:

 

The longing for God to act once and for all. Finished.

The prophecies of the Messiah—his coming, his saving, his renewing all things. These have been accomplished.

The obedience of Jesus to God’s perfect will: fully carried out… finished.

 

What else is included in this cry: “it is finished.”

 

That final enemy – death… finished

Our fear of death… finished

The demons who taunt… disarmed, powerless

The devil who prowls… defanged at the cross

 

The guilt we have before God

The rebel hearts that stand against God… finished.

The power of sin in our lives

Dejection and failure and impotence in the face of temptation… finished.

The empty hearts without hope or Lord… finished – as the Holy Spirit indwells us.

 

We were dead in our trespasses and sins. But, now we have been made alive with Christ… forgiven, adopted, seated with Christ in the heavenly places, sealed with the Holy Spirit, grounded in hope of the life to come

Our doomed and depraved existence is finished because of the cross.

And, now, in Christ’s sacrifice is the doorway to a delight-filled, holy, invigorating and God-exalting life.

All because Jesus endured right to the end.

It is finished.

Good Friday Devotional

images-1Today is a hallowed day: the day of the cross.

The Apostle John was the only apostle who was present inside the High Priest’s house during the trial, and the only apostle hwo stayed near Jesus at the cross.

Truly, he was with Jesus through thick and thin!

Read John 18:1-19:37. It’s the whole story from the betrayal in the garden, to the overnight trials, to Pilate’s “search” for truth, to the mocking, scourging and crucifixion itself. Right at the end, John testifies (19:35) that he is reporting what happened.

As you read, remember that this is Jesus, showing us the full extent of his love (13:1). Enter into the sadness, the gratitude, the horror and the accomplishment.

Give thanks to Christ for dying for you!

Maundy Thursday Devotional

maundy_thursday_01This is the final full day of Jesus’ life. This night, Jesus gathered his disciples for the Passover feast and during supper, he shared his heart with them. (including this is the night he instituted the Lord’s Supper–“maundy” is Latin for “command” and refers to him instructing us – “do this in remembrance of me”).

The Apostle John was one of the 12 there, and he gives an extensive account of Jesus’ precious final words to the Disciples. It’s found in John 13-17.

Read John 13:1-14:6.

At the end of verse 1, John tells us what Jesus was doing as he washed feet: he was showing them the full extent of his love. Look back through the passage, and note the different ways Jesus shows his love to his disciples.

Will you give thanks to the Lord for his love?

John Ireland once wrote a poem:

My song is love unknown

My Savior’s love for me,

Love to the loveless shown

That they might lovely be.

But who am I

That for my sake

My Lord should take

Frail flesh and die?

Marvel at Christ’s humble and infinite love! Tell him now.

Four devotionals to prep for Easter

imagesStarting tomorrow morning, I’m going to publish 4 days worth of Holy Week devotionals to lead you through this most precious weekend.

We are going to journey with John, in his gospel, as he walked closest with Jesus.

In John 15:5 Jesus says to his followers on the final night of his life (ie., tomorrow night!): “I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man abides in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.”

Will you carve out special time each of the next 4 mornings or days to abide in Him, by dwelling in his Word? he will meet you and lift you up, I guarantee it! Don’t forget that “the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him”! (2 Chronicles 16:9)

Share this and invite others to prepare themselves too!

Study Guide for 3.13

Jesus engages hypocrites, legalists, and stubborn “blind guides” in Matthew 15:1-20.  Can you relate to any of them?  Take the sermon one step deeper with the attached study guide.

Study Guide 2016.03.13

10 Thoughts about the Election, so far

imgresWell, NC’s primary is this Tuesday. This has already been a long election “year”. A fascinating and harrowing ride. I’ve got a few reflections that won’t, perhaps, help you decide who you should be voting for. But, things I’ve noticed so far.

  1. Big money is not able to buy an election.

Pundits have been saying large donors get what they want for the last 5 years. We see in this election cycle that it’s not true. Jeb Bush with more money than any other candidate is …on the sidelines. Hillary Clinton is actually in a dog fight, by some “obscure” senator from a small state who receives more $50 donations than anyone. Big Money on the GOP side is scared of Trump. Anyone who says Big Money is buying things is simply wrong.

  1. The media myths about both parties is shattered!

According to the national media, the Republican party is supposed to be the party of “old, white men.” And yet in their huge and dynamic field there have been several in their 40s and 50s, an African-American brain surgeon, a female corporate executive, and two men of Cuban descent. Old white men indeed.

On the Democratic side, the myth is that the Dems are the party of youth, progress, inclusion and the future. For their part, their field consists of two people receiving Social Security, who’ve been planted in Washington for 25 years!

  1. Lies really don’t seem to matter to people who answer polls.

This is more than the general “politicians are slippery” folks. The number of absolute falsehoods that come out of Donald Trump’s mouth is astounding. The whole aura around Hillary Clinton is one of a “constructed reality” to advance her campaign. Yet, both are their parties’ front-runners as far as surveys go.

  1. Polls may have some lies in them too.

Maybe people vote differently than they tell the pollsters. It seems that way. National polls and exit polls (and the projections that media editors make from them) don’t quite seem to follow reality.

  1. People are engaged.

There are more voters this year in the primaries. There are more donors this year to candidates. There are more candidates than I can ever remember (from a wide background). Democracy is alive and well.

  1. Primary season is long, and that’s a good thing.

This job at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave is really a tough and complex job. That it takes 20 months, millions of people donating, tens of millions voting over the course of 50 primaries and a national election day, cameras in your face, town halls, debates, policy papers… well, this really does vet candidates and whittle them down.

That’s a good thing. Even if it is tiresome for us.

  1. Debates are helpful and not helpful, but necessary.

This is how we see them as unscripted as we are going to see them. How we see them act and react, work with others, think on their feet. At the same time, to watch 10 people on the early GOP debates parry and thrust in 90 second sound-bites… isn’t there a better way? C’mon RNC, DNC, media outlets: give us a real insight into their thoughts and patterns.

  1. Listen to the candidates themselves, not the news stories about them.

If you’re listening to conservative radio or MSNBC, you pretty much know how they’ll spin whatever happened that day. I say spurn the editorial commentary, and listen to 5+minute clips of the candidates talking, conversing. You’ll get to understand them far better than a five minute story on the nightly news.

  1. Late Night TV visits are great

Watch clips of the folks as they visit on Stephen Colbert or the Jimmys (Fallon & Kimmel). I have found a get a great feel for them. How they communicate in a relaxed setting, how they work an audience, how they express their views/positions. And, frankly, Colbert loves the politics and asks real questions (from his political viewpoint).

  1. Every election is “the Crucial Election”

It’s true. So, don’t let the media or the fundraisers stir up fear in you. Rather, make sure you vote. In the primary, in the election. Every election is crucial, and our responsibility as members of a republic is to elect people who will govern us. Don’t dare ever leave that privilege to others.  And, never forget, that this is a crucial election, but God is always on the throne.

These are my observations at this point in the race! What are yours? Leave a comment and start a conversation.

Memorizing Jesus

wide-view_2024777iJesus is the center of all things. He holds them all together, he’s the goal of all history, he’s the one our hearts long for (even if we don’t know it). The picture is of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro is a great picture of this: almost anywhere in that city, you can look up and see Christ!

At Grace, we are memorizing “50 verses to change your life” in 2016.  We are in the second section of our memory journey, and this one centers on Jesus! The Psalmist cries out “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.” (119:37, this week’s verse).  If you want to avoid worthless things to look at, the greatest thing you could do is fill your vision with Jesus!

So for the next 8 weeks, we are going to memorize verses about Christ, and his work, and his love, and our future in him.  Here they are in a quick “look-ahead”.

[PS – it’s not too late to start memorizing this week.  Email admin@gracekinston.org, and say, “sign me up for memory” and we will! You can choose if you want to memorize in NIV or ESV.]

Week 9: Psalm 119:37

NIV: Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.

ESV: Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.

Week 10: Romans 5:1-2

NIV: Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

ESV: Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Week 11: Romans 5:3-4

NIV: Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

ESV: More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.

Week 12: Romans 5:5

NIV: And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

ESV: And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Week 13: Romans 1:16

NIV: I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

ESV: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Week 14: Mark 10:45

NIV: For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

ESV: For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Week 15: John 1:14

NIV: The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

ESV: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Week 16: John 20:31

NIV: But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

ESV: But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

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