|We celebrated Martin Luther King Day Monday on his actual birthday. His life, although flawed like the rest of ours, showed that He loved God and wanted to exhibit the fruit of His spirit noted in Galatians 5 https://biblehub.com/galatians/5-22.htm. For those of you who didn’t read my last blog post, https://thankfulinallthings.com/my-thoughts-on-how-i-will-grow-in-2024/ I share that this verse will be a focus for me as I try to live out my One Word for 2024 prayer. Here is what I wrote a couple of years ago on how we can be motivated to live better lives with a heart of service.
On this day do you remember? There is a reason that Dion’s song, “Does anyone here” https://youtu.be/a5hFMy4pTrs remains one of my favorites. When we fret about where our world is today, look back. I was 11 when JFK was killed and 16 when Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were also assassinated. It was a very divisive and scary time. My question on this MLK Day is not do we remember these men, but in our remembrance, how does it motivate us to be better men and women?In preparation for the MLK King Day in 2022, I had the privilege of helping our local newspaper find people to share their thoughts on what Martin Luther King’s life meant to them. Here is the link should be interested in what was written https://dailyprogress.com/specialty_publications/page-s01/page_ae2d0e53-5094-53ca-9d82-7d42579185d9.html Dr. King lived a life that left a legacy for all to follow. It causes us as Jeff Burton writes, to “ask ourselves, how is it today that I can act; what can I do to leave this place better than I found it; to do our small part to inspire others for good” Nathan Walton, in the publication noted above, asks, “What story are we telling?…..This day gives us an opportunity to tell a new story for our own moment” As we look back this MLK quote should help to move us forward. “We have come a long, long way but we still have a long, long way to go.”Former City of Promise ED, Mary Coleman writes that our story needs to be one where we have learned from the past so we can be exhorted to help make a brighter future. She asks, “Where do we go from here? Will we choose chaos or community in a unified manner that King describes as persevering togetherness.” Yes! There is my 2022 Word. Unity. Uncompromised Never-ending Intensity Toward YES! We can be motivated by others to make our story one that sets an example for those around us. It can be a story line that causes Breakthrough by lifting up others and like MLK, motivating them to pursue peace while making a positive difference in the world versus creating divisiveness and selfishly ignoring those who need our help. Dr King was in no way a perfect man. But he was a man who believed he was redeemed by His Creator and called into a work that would ultimately cost him his life. This gives me hope as I hope it will you. It teaches nothing is impossible for those who love God. Luke 1:37 promises us “that we have the privilege of serving a God who can literally do anything, and there is nothing that is impossible for him.Therefore let us strive to live out the beatitudes noted in Matthew 5:1-12Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“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..Like Dr King, When we live our life this way, we will leave our personal legacy that others will continue because of the way you motivated them.Please subscribe to this blog so you can receive an email notification when new content is posted. I can be reached by email at [email protected]
My last blog entry was about how Barabbas’ life was literally saved by Jesus. https://thankfulinallthings.com/barabbas-crucify-him-crucify-him/ You have to wonder how Jesus dying on the cross impacted Barabbas once he found out he was freed. The other character in the story is Pontius Pilate. One has to wonder how Jesus dying and the reports he had been resurrected would have changed his life. One thing is for sure. He should have listened to his wife. Matthew 27:19 states, “While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.”
We are not sure how Jesus life, death and resurrection impacted Barabbas and Pilate but John 12:9 that Jesus raising Lazarus from the death impacted those who were there when it happened or heard about it. “Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.” I would hope that both Barabbas and the Pontius Pilate would, having seen the error of their ways, have sought out those who were Christ’s followers so they too, could begin a life changing faith journey.
But what about us? Has God impacted our lives in such a way that people want to hear your story like they wanted to hear from Lazarus? The scriptures are clear. We are to be ambassadors for Christ. https://www.biblehub.com/2_corinthians/5-20.htm People are to know we are people of faith by our love. https://biblehub.com/john/13-35.htm Those around you will be attracted to God because of the fruit of the spirit found in Galatians 5:22,23 you produce. https://www.bibleinfo.com/en/questions/fruit-of-the-spirit
I think Lazarus learned from the blind man who when asked about Jesus said, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” John 9:25 It may not have been as dramatic but, “Has God made Himself real in your life?” If so, are crowds or even individuals coming to you because they want to hear your story? If not, what needs to change about how you are living your life. If so, are you prepared in the way Peter challenges us in Peter 3:15 “ But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” We may not have been made to see or hear but when we encounter God through Christ, we can say as in proclaimed in the song Amazing Grace,
My chains are gone, I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace https://genius.com/Chris-tomlin-amazing-grace-my-chains-are-gone-lyrics
I wish this for each and everyone of you who has read this blog. My hope is that Barabbas, Pilate and his wife also realized this truth and found themselves saved by the One who came to save us all. That would be wonderful if true. Please subscribe to this blog if you haven’t already and share it with others who you think might be encouraged by it. I can be reached by email at [email protected]
One of my favorite Easter sermons of all time was by our former pastor and still dear friend, Skip Ryan. He took us to Matthew 27:15-26 https://www.bible.com/bible/111/MAT.27.15-26.niv when the arrested Jesus is being questioned by Pontius Pilate. He make it clear the charges made against Jesus were bogus and wanted nothing to do with sentencing him to death. As the Governor, he had the authority to release a prisoner during the festival. He chose the most heinous criminal Barabbas to offer to the crowd versus Jesus. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Barabbas-biblical-figure He was convinced that the large crowd that had gathered would certainly want Jesus saved over this insurgent rebel. He was wrong!
Skip had us imagine Barabbas in the jail waiting to be sentenced to death. He shared that in those open window cells he could probably hear the chants of the stirred up crowds. He wouldn’t have been able to hear Pilate questioning or Jesus answering but he could definitely hear the shouts from those who had gathered; some who had been paid to https://www.gotquestions.org/Crucify-Him.html work the people into a frenzy. All he could do was hear what the throngs in the street were shouting. First he heard his name called out. Barabbas! Barabbas! and then…..Crucify him! Crucify him! When the jailers came to his cell door, he was stunned to hear, “you are free to go”. But wait, “I heard my name being called out to be crucified. What happened?” The answer. “The crowds chose Jesus to be crucified in your place”. You have to imagine that Barabbas immediately went out to find out who was this man Jesus.
Barabbas personifies each and every one of us. We may not have done the things deserving of death that he did but as it says in Romans, “We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” https://biblehub.com/romans/3-23.htm Like Barabbas, Jesus came to this world to live a human life and die on our behalf. Today, we celebrate that He rose from that death so that we might enter in to a relationship with His Father.
How do we know it actually happened? John 20:19 says, “the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders” https://biblehub.com/john/20-19.htm Let’s be honest. Most of us would have done the same thing. Their leader was dead and they were thinking they were next. Instead, as history shows, most of them died martyr deaths preaching the teachings of Jesus and testifying to His resurrection. https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2008/august/how-do-we-know-10-of-disciples-were-martyred.html This fact was critical to me becoming a person of faith. If you aren’t on a faith journey, I hope it will cause you to ponder as well.
Easter is about God making it possible for you to be in a relationship with Him. Revelation 3:20 says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” It’s up to you to open the door of your heart to him. He died for Barabbas and He died for you and me. Why not open the door and find out your life will be changed when you allow Him to be present in your life?
Happy Easter. Hallelujah! He is Risen! Thanks for reading this blog. If you haven’t already, please subscribe so that you can receive email notifications when new content is posted. I can be reached by email at [email protected]
At the beginning of Lent, I challenged you to think about the 6 weeks before Easter differently than you had before. In that blog post,https://thankfulinallthings.com/how-do-your-return-gods-love-and-favor/ I shared Joel 2:12 reminder on the purpose of fasting. ““Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. So what are you going to do differently during Lent to show God you are grateful that you are His child? How did you do? I hope you were more successful than me.
Like Mark 4:19 “the message of Lent was crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so the fruit of my labor did not get produced.” John MacArthur says it this way. “The more you focus on yourself, the more distracted you will be from the proper path. The more you know Him and commune with Him, the more the Spirit will make you like Him. The more you are like Him, the better you will understand His utter sufficiency for all of life’s difficulties. And that is the only way to know real satisfaction.”
So if this is the case, why do I and maybe 🙂 we find it so difficult? It certainly helps me understand God’s chosen ones who the Pharoah released out of slavery. Before being set free and On their way to the Promised Land, they saw so many signs and miracles from God. Why did they keep on straying away and not trusting that God was in control of every outcome? I can ask my self the same question. The Lord has been with me through good and bad. Yet, even when I make a conscious decision for Lent, I get distracted by what the world throws at me which like the Israelites, causes me to lose my focus on the Lord.
Peter learned the same lesson when walking on the water toward Jesus. As long as His eyes were fixed on Him, he was fine. As soon as he stopped focusing on Christ, he saw the wind and the waves of the storm (like our daily challenges/distractions) had not ceased causing him to sink like anchor. https://biblehub.com/context/matthew/14-28.htm
Lent was not the deep spiritual experience I had hoped it to be but like Peter, I call out to Jesus saying, Help me! Each and every time, He forgives and is there to pull me out of whatever calamity I have caused. Why? Because He is always with me even when I take my focus off of Him because I have chosen to look the other way. As we move into Holy Week, I hope you will make the effort to look for Him. He is there, the Risen Christ who died so you might have a relationship with God for which you were created. A gift from God for the people of God. Ask and you will receive! He is Risen. Hallelujah. May the Lord’s purpose prevail in your life. Proverbs 19:11
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I wrote about the fact that God wants to be your Valentine in my last blog post. https://thankfulinallthings.com/god-wants-to-be-your-valentine-will-you-accept-his-gift/ He has offered us an incredible gift that we can only enjoy if we accept it. A week later, we went from the romance of Valentine’s Day to the somber reflection that came last week on Ash Wednesday. I had never put the two together until now. Interestingly enough, next year, they will fall on the same day. https://thedialog.org/featured/rare-meeting-valentines-day-and-ash-wednesday/ I was struck how close Valentine’s Day communicating God loves us and wants to be in a relationship with us. Ash Wednesday take us into the Season of Lent which gives us the opportunity to think about how we return that love. So many people look at Lent as a period of time where they give up something that will help them in some way. What if we took the 6 weeks to move into a deeper relationship with The One who created us? As an example, maybe we give up alcohol, chocolate, snacking after dinner, etc. Good for us but do, when we miss it, do we let it remind us how God misses us when we don’t show up and spend time with Him? Joel 2:12 reminds us the purpose of fasting. ““Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” You see, as my friend Tamra Andres reminded me, “just because something is good (giving up x…….) doesn’t mean it is from God. Only when it’s from God can it always be good.” (author unknown) So what are you going to do differently during Lent to show God you are grateful that you are His child?
I think this Season of Lent should be a time where we return the love that God has bestowed upon us. Nothing will bring the Lord more joy than if you make a decision to spend more time with Him as you prepared to celebrate His Son’s death and resurrection. Think about it. You can tell someone you are grateful for their love and that they are special to you but if you can’t find to spend time with them, will they think you mean it? Like the story of the Prodigal Son, the Father is waiting and when you choose to come be with Him, He will run out to meet and embrace you. “When the father saw the son, he did the unthinkable—he received the son back with ecstatic joy and celebration, and he ran to meet his son while he was still at a distance” (Luke 17:17-20).
Another way of returning God’s favor is by leaving behind what you think might be how you want to spend your time and resolve that over these next several weeks you will be intentional about serving others. By spending more time with God and committing to loving/serving others, we will give Him the honor and glory which He so richly deserves and for what he asks of us. Mark 12; 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[There is no commandment greater than these.” Our obedience to Him is our greatest gift to the One who wants to be our Valentine. May Lent be a season where you run to Him who wants nothing more than for you to be in His embrace.
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