Sunday, February 04, 2018

Season of Love


February is known as a season of love! Because Valentines Day falls right in the middle of the month, the whole month gets wrapped up with the theme of love and relationships. Just check out the Hallmark Channel – just as the last month of the year is dedicated to every kind of Christmas movie you can image, February is dedicated to every sappy love story you could ever dream up! And some you never would have thought of!
The origins of Valentine’s Day are not completely known. The most common origin story traces its roots back to a priest named Valentine who lived in Rome in the third century AD. The Roman emperor of the day, Claudius II, had completely banned marriage for soldiers, thinking it was a distraction. Valentine violated Roman law by arranging secret marriages and when he was found out he was thrown in prison and sentenced to death. Supposedly he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and wrote her a note delivered to her on the day he was to be killed. That note was signed “From your Valentine.” And it was delivered on February 14.
Others trace the origins of Valentine’s Day to a Roman festival called Lupercalia that took place in the middle of February, which corresponded roughly to the beginning of their springtime. This festival included exchanges of gifts between those whose names were drawn from an urn, and sometimes that resulted in marriage among the young folk! It’s thought that some elements of this celebration may have been carried into the Christian celebration honoring St. Valentine.
Regardless of how it started, once the merchants got ahold of the idea it took off like wildfire! With the invention of the printing press it became easier to purchase read-made cards for people to express their emotions. And of course the postal service loved promoting anything that caused people to buy stamps!
But maybe, just maybe, the idea of celebrating love actually originated in the heart of God! The most famous verse in the Bible proclaims God’s love as the motivation for the greatest gift of eternity. ”For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”(John 3:16 NASB) God’s love motivated Him to do something for those who couldn’t do for themselves.
Love is a powerful motivator and it quickens amazing expressions. One of those expressions of love was demonstrated on the streets of Central Louisiana yesterday as thousands of people from hundreds of churches gathered together to declare their love for unborn babies and their mothers. But they don’t just march!
Over the past couple of years those same people have also put their money where their mouth is and privately funded the Cenla Pregnancy Center, which offers real help to mothers facing a crisis pregnancy. It’s love that motivates them to provide free pregnancy tests, free limited ultrasounds, free consultation by a pro-life nurse or doctor, free counseling by a trained pro-life advocate, and free resources to help moms and dads from the moment of their child’s conception until his or her second birthday.
Ask anyone involved in yesterday’s march or anyone involved with the Cenla Pregnancy Center and they’ll tell you it’s love for God and love for God’s creation, the unborn child, and that child’s mother, that motivates them to stand up and speak out. 
Love is indeed a strong motivator! God loved the world enough to sacrifice something precious in order to save us from ourselves. He demonstrated love by not waiting until we were good enough or until we deserved to be saved. The great apostle Paul said it this way, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”(Rom 5:8 NASB)
We didn’t deserve His love but He still freely gave it. And because He loved us we are able to love others. I pray that every reader of these words will come to know how truly loved they are in Christ. And that we will also learn to share that love with others. 

This article was written for the February 4, 2018 edition of the Alexandria Town Talk newspaper, and originally appeared online at http://www.thetowntalk.com/story/life/2018/02/04/season-love/302739002/

Sunday, January 07, 2018

New Year, Fresh Start



I love the New Year!!! There’s just something about a fresh start, a new beginning, a clean slate, that fills me with hope for the endless possibilities that lie before me.

God is all about fresh starts! That’s one of the running themes throughout the Scriptures, that He gives new beginnings to what we thought were tired, worn-out endings! Let me give you an example.

Towards the middle of the Bible we find a book of sadness. It’s filled with so much sorrow that its actual name is “Lamentations,” written by a man who weeps over the condition of the nation of Israel.

Jeremiah knew that the fall of Jerusalem and the subsequent exile of its people were consequences of sinful behavior. The people had no one to blame but themselves for having turned their backs on God and having gone after false idols. And now they were reaping the whirlwind. So Jeremiah wept.

And yet, in the midst of this book of sorrow and tears Jeremiah remembers something! And as he reflects on a memory of the character and nature of God, his heart is overjoyed and sustained with hope. Listen to his own words:

“This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.” (Lam 3:21-23 KJV)

Did you see it? God’s mercies and compassions are new every morning! Every morning! That means that no matter how much we’ve messed up the day, tomorrow morning He gives us another chance, a fresh start, a new beginning!

Unfortunately, we don’t always see it that way. We often go to bed so tired and bogged down, and when we wake up we just pick up yesterday’s burdens, struggles, guilt and sorrow. The morning feels like just another day.

That’s why the New Year seems like such a big deal! January 1 is not just the first day of a new month, it’s the first day of a new year! We have to learn to write the date differently, laughing at ourselves the first few times we forget and put 17 at the end. Everything about 1/1 reminds us of newness and freshness!

The New Year also brings up a fresh sense of resolution as we pledge to lose weight, get in shape, stop unhealthy habits and start new healthy ones in their place. We feel empowered to start again, even if we really blew it in the weeks of holiday parties, rich food and overindulgence leading up to the first day of January! The New Year means a fresh start!

So how do we apply that to our lives spiritually? How do we live in that fresh start every day? Thankfully the Scriptures give us that step as well.

In Acts 3 Peter speaks to a group of people who only a few weeks earlier were shouting “Crucify Him” concerning Jesus. As he shares the story of the resurrection of Jesus, and the miracles being done in His name, the crowd is grief-stricken. They are hearing how they had participated in the death of this innocent man, the Lamb of God. And like Jeremiah, there may have been some weeping among them as their eyes were opened to their spiritual lostness.

But rather than blame them for what they had done, Peter declares that a fresh start, a new beginning, is available to them! He declares, “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” (Acts 3:19 NASB)

“Times of refreshing.” Does that sound like a new start to you? Does it sound like something you need today?

As we enter 2018, don’t bring with you the brokenness, failures and heartaches from last year. Do what Peter said, “Repent and return” and allow the Lord to wipe your sins away! Then you can experience the fresh start God promises!

I hope you have a very happy new year! And I pray you will encounter the God of compassion who gives new mercies and fresh starts every day! Here’s to your Fresh Start in 2018!



This article was written for the Alexandria Town Talk newspaper, and originally appeared at http://www.thetowntalk.com/story/life/2018/01/07/new-year-fresh-start/1007409001/

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Kindness, the Overlooked Spiritual Fruit


(Each month I write a column for the Town Talk's "Guest Pastor" column. Here is my November, 2017 contribution. I pray it blesses and encourages you to intentional acts of kindness!)

I'm a huge fan of kindness! I think it's the overlooked fruit of the Spirit, maybe because it gets lost in the middle of the list that Paul gives us in his letter to the Galatian believers:

"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, KINDNESS, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! " (Gal 5:22-23 NLT emphasis mine)

Paul lists nine different evidences of the Holy Spirit’s work in our life, and right in the middle of the list, with four before and four after, appears the word “kindness.” Unfortunately, it sometimes seems to get lost in the crowd!

Maybe kindness is overlooked because people view it as a sign of weakness. Or perhaps people think that if you're kind then you're a pushover, or a doormat. For some reason kindness is seen as being soft. But the reality is that God is kind! He's so kind that the Bible speaks of His kindness as lovingkindness! And while God is kind He's certainly nobody's doormat!

It was God’s kindness that motivated Him to rescue Israel from Egypt, according to Ex 15:13. That same teaching is carried forward into the New Testament. In Tit 3:4-5 Paul explains that God’s kindness and love were the reasons He did not turn His back on fallen man, but instead acted to save him by sending a Redeemer, namely Jesus.

In his letter to the Roman Christians Paul shared that it is actually God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Rom 2:4). We should never mistake God’s patient kindness as a sign of weakness because we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10). There is a judgment coming. But God’s kindness calls us to repentance, that we might be rescued from the judgment to come!

God is kind, but He is not soft! He’s not a doormat or a pushover. He knows that the result of our ongoing rebellion against Him, and our selfish choices to sin, will result in our own suffering. So in His kindness He acts to save us from ourselves.

Kindness in action goes by another name – it’s called “compassion.” Often in Scripture we see that Jesus was moved with compassion and acted with kindness to heal and deliver people who were oppressed like sheep without a shepherd. Kindness is not an empty feeling, it is an expression of love.

Perhaps that’s why Paul described love as both patient and kind in the 13th chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians (also known as the “love chapter”). Love that is unkind is no love at all!

But kindness is also a choice! In Paul’s letter to the Colossians he said that kindness is something we “put on,” not unlike our morning routine when we go through our closet trying to decide what to wear (Col 3:12). Just as you chose the shirt you’re wearing today, reacting with or without kindness is a choice we make in every situation. 

After Kind David was established in his kingdom he reflected back on his earlier friendship with his wonderful friend Jonathan and asked if there was anyone left from his family that he could show kindness to, in honor of that friendship. When told of Jonathan’s son who had been crippled in both feet during an accident, David reached out to Mephibosheth and brought him into his family, fed him at his table, and provided for him for the rest of his life. That was a choice David made, a choice to be kind, to show compassion and to put love in action.

Perhaps that’s a question we need to ask ourselves today. Is there anyone in my life that I can show kindness to today? What a wonderful way to start our day, asking God, “Who can I be kind to today?” 

If we want the fruit of the Holy Spirit to be abundant in our lives, perhaps we shouldn’t overlook the opportunities to demonstrate simple acts of kindness each day.

(This article appeared in the November 5, 2017 edition of the Alexandria Town Talk.)

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Being Offended is a Choice

For over a year now I've been writing a monthly article for the Town Talk's Guest Pastor column. Typically it runs on the first Sunday of the month, but this month the first Sunday was also the first day of the month and I didn't get it to them in time to run so it ran on the 2nd Sunday, today, October 8. Also, typically I share the article on Facebook, but a friend told me since he's not a subscriber, he can't read the article. So, in the interest of sharing with everyone, below is my October edition of the Guest Pastor column. Enjoy!




The longest chapter of the longest book of the Bible contains a gold mine of truth. And nestled among the wonders of God’s Law is this little gem: “Great peace have they which love Thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” (Psalm 119:165 KJV)

Modern translations more accurately translate the last part of that verse as “nothing can make them stumble.” That’s a great promise to those who love God’s Word, that by loving it they will be kept from stumbling into sin, error, heresy or damnation.

However, there’s something quaint about the old King James Version translation when it says that “nothing shall offend them.” And it seems like it’s a message that is sorely needed in this 21st century!

We live in a time when it seems it is almost a hobby to be offended! Every news commentary show seems to have blowhards on opposite sides of the issue just waiting to be “personally offended” at what the other person says! Our politicians are at loggerheads because everyone on one side of the aisle has either offended or been offended by someone on the other side of the aisle.

Even our churches are not immune the disease of “easily offenditis.” Someone sits in our pew, nobody called us when we missed a Sunday, the church talks about money too much, the pastor’s wife won’t help in the nursery, the sermons are too long, too boring, too convicting, too personal, too irreverent, too “fill in the blank.” You name it, someone’s gotten offended by it – and probably started another church down the street because of it!

While Psalm 119:165 may not exactly be talking about these kinds of offenses, the Bible does have a lot to say about the subject. Solomon wrote that “it is to one's glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11b ESV) He also said, “The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult.” (Proverbs 12:16 ESV) Jesus Himself said, “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Luke 7:23 ESV)

Opportunities to be offended abound, especially in our hyper-connected culture. Arguments break out online faster than the speed of light, it seems! But what if we, as Christians, were to slow down and actually listen to each other? What if rather than only listening so we can make a rebuttal we listen so we can hear the hurt, the anguish, the lament bound up in the heart of the other? What if rather than being offended, we actually heard what was in their heart?

I’m convinced that people are longing to be heard. Many marriage conflicts could be avoided if just one of the partners would stop trying to be right and listen to their spouse! But no, because we want to be heard, we charge ahead like a bull in a china shop, making our point, getting the last word, winning the argument … and losing respect, love, affection, intimacy, and maybe even our marriage. It is possible to win the battle and still lose the war.

Truthfully, being offended is a choice we make. We can’t stop the inconsiderate, rude, offensive acts of others. But we don’t have to hang them on our refrigerators either and rehearse them every day! If we are offended by something, we’ve chosen to build a monument to it and we tie ourselves to that moment in time. And we are stuck!

I believe we can choose to not be offended. I believe we can choose to overlook an offense. I believe we can choose to ignore an insult. Otherwise the Scriptures wouldn’t have told us to do those things!
Being offended takes two – one to cause the offense and one to be offended. But what if we choose to not be offended? What if we choose to follow the words of Paul when he said, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (Romans 12:18 NASB) I choose peace over being offended. How about you?

Nathan Martin is the Lead Pastor at Christian Challenge Worship Center in Pineville and blogs at www.OverSquozen.com

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Saluting the Benito Juarez Children's Home in Reynosa, Mexico


Last Saturday a team of 34 people from 5 different churches returned from a very successful trip to the Benito Juarez Children's Home in Reynosa, Mexico. We've been making regular visits to the children's home for many years and this is the largest group of people I've led to date. They were an exceptional team and I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to get to know many new people, and to experience the children's home through their eyes.

Don & Opal Russell
The Benito Juarez Children's home was founded 50 years ago(!) by Don and Opal Russell. After serving as missionaries in the interior of the country of Mexico for a season they had moved to the border area for another season of ministry. One day as they were having a meal on a sidewalk cafe in Reynosa, a girl who lived on the street stole the food from Opal's plate while they were praying. Rather than get mad, Don and Opal found their heart being broken by the girl's plight, and that of all the other street children.

Don and Opal decided to do something about it. They realized that for just a few dollars more, they could invite some of the street children into their home and give them a future. In June 1967 they rented a large house in Reynosa and began opening their home to the street children. Soon their home was bursting at the seams and it wasn't long before they realized they needed a larger place.

Through a series of miracles in 1970 they located a 50-acre tract of land well outside of town that they were able to purchase for a wonderful price. They had to dig their own well for water, and had to pay an extra fee to get electricity run out to where their new land, but over the years they built a refuge, a safe haven for many, many children.

Mark Russell
I first learned of the children's home in the mid 1980's when I was a student at King's Way Missionary Institute (of which Don and Opal Russell were also co-founders). I visited several times, and even donated my moped to them after moving up to 4 wheels. I went on to serve as a missionary in southern Mexico from December 1986 to November 1990 and then I moved home to Pineville to serve as an assistant to my dad at Christian Challenge. But I never forgot them.

In the mid-1990's I was looking for a way to take some of our youth on a missions trip to experience another culture and I reached out to Don Russell to inquire about visiting the Rio Grande Valley area, and hopefully the orphanage. He informed me that his son, Mark Russell, had become the director of the children's home and would welcome us as a group. We made a few sporadic trips in the 90's, but in 2003 we began making trips in earnest. (You can view some photos from that trip here.)

Google Maps view of the children's home.
(click to enlarge)
Since 2003 we have made so many trips that I've lost count. Some of the trips were just a few people and others were large groups. We've helped build the "new" 2-story dormitory (a pre-fab metal building that my brother, Andre, did most of the framing of the two floors inside), the new directors' home, the 2-story L-shaped structure that houses the current school upstairs and visitors' dorms downstairs, and now the new, NEW schoolhouse! We've painted just about every building on the campus, helped build the 10-foot tall block wall around the 10-acre compound, brought money to establish a fish-farm, brought Christmas presents every year .... and on every trip we have loved on the kids and staff, and made life-long friends!

I'm proud of our many teams over the years and the involvement we've had with the Benito Juarez Children's Home. And I'm honored that they consider us friends. As they complete half-a-century of service and look to the future, God is constantly refining their call and trusting them with more influence and ministry. Their new school is being built to the Mexican Department of Education's standards and will be a registered school, which will allow them to open it up to children in the surrounding neighborhoods as the city has grown out to where they are on the back side of the airport.

I don't know what the future holds for the Casa Hogar Benito Juarez but I know it's bright. I also know that many of our team members will unashamedly say that they thought they were going there to be a blessing, and got blessed instead! There is so much love at the children's home that you can't help but be healed by it.

I've got my trip dates set for the Christmas trip and invite you to consider joining me. Get your passport and start saving your money - and come join me December 26-January 1 as we serve Jesus together.

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Below are just a few pictures from our most recent trip to give you a flavor of the children's home.


The 34 team members from 5 different churches!
 
The children praying before the meal.
They quote a Bible verse and a proclamation
of faith before every meal.

Part of our team painting Biblical murals on the wall.
 
Putting up sheetrock in the new school.

Mixing cement the old fashioned way!
(Many hands make light work!)

Each night we had a group meeting and devotional.

Playing with the kids is always the highlight of the trip.

Praying for the new schoolhouse the morning we left.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Guest Post - Why I Love Spring


From time to time I have asked other folks to share a guest post here on the blog and this week I've asked Jenni Baier to share an update on something that's going on in her life. 

Jenni has been part of the Christian Challenge staff since 2008 and has served in many capacities, including creative director, worship team member, VBS director, special events coordinator, technology specialist, mission trip leader, and the list goes on and on and on! She's been a great blessing to our ministry and it's with a mixed heart that we announce she is moving soon to Baton Rouge to be a part of Resurrection Life, an inner-city church we support there.I know she's going to be a tremendous blessing to them as well!

Jenni shared a guest post back in January on "Overcoming Insecurity" and it touched a lot of people, especially those who know her story of God making her whole in areas of insecurity, anxiety and panic attacks. It's truly a miracle that we rejoice over! The impetus for the healing came the same week that I wrote a blog post entitled "Why I Love Fall" so she's entitled this guest post "Why I Love Spring." I know you'll enjoy!

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OK, so I don’t really love spring. A more accurate description would be to say that I have a love-hate relationship with spring.

I love seeing the trees turn green and show signs of new growth.
But I’m not a fan of the tree pollen and the allergies that it brings!
I love seeing flowers bloom.
But I don’t like the wasps and other stinging insects that come out!
I love how a spring rain can make everything smell fresh and clean.
Not so much a fan of the severe weather that often comes this time of year.
I love it when the temperature is perfect to have the windows & doors open.
But I hate knowing that extreme summer heat and humidity are just around the corner!

Spring is a time of new beginnings. It’s a time of change… and sometimes, those changes can be very sudden and dramatic. One day, you can barely make out the green buds on the ends of the tree branches… and the next time you look, it’s almost in full leaf. The grass is neatly cut one minute… then it rains and suddenly seems to grow half a foot overnight!

Right now, I’m kinda in the middle of one of those times of rapid change. It certainly feels very sudden to me. But through this experience, I’ve been learning a couple of things.

Things often aren’t as sudden as they seem

That burst of new life that appears in the spring that seems to come out of nowhere… it doesn’t. It seems to come out of nowhere because I can’t see what was happening below the surface for months ahead of time. The buds open suddenly in the spring, but often, the buds themselves began to form the previous summer!

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” (Hebrews 11:1-3 NIV)

Things feel sudden to me. But the more I learn to trust what I can’t see, the more He shows me how He’s been working everything behind the scenes to lead to exactly this place and this time. He’s been at work, even in the seemingly dormant seasons of my life.

I’m grateful for this spring-like season in my life, even if that means dealing with allergies and mosquitoes and storms and heat! Each season brings its own mix of blessings and difficulties, and each one contributes its own part to God’s purpose and plan for us.

Nothing is sudden to God

Just because I wasn’t planning on things turning out this way, that doesn’t mean that God wasn’t orchestrating it all along. So even when something comes out of nowhere (or seems to from our perspective), God isn’t surprised.

“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” (Proverbs 16:9, NLT)

“You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.” (Proverbs 19:21 NLT)

I’m learning that I’d rather have God’s purpose than my plans any day! I’ve always been a planner… I want clear goals and objectives, I like to know what I’m doing and when, and I like to have backup plans for when the originals don’t work out. Good planning can be a very good thing – but if I’m not willing to submit my plans to God, I’m not really a planner… I’m a control freak!

If nothing is sudden to God, then there’s absolutely no reason not to trust Him completely. And that’s been one of the biggest lessons I’m (still) learning in this season.

It’s so much better to surrender control to the only One Who has the master plan… for all seasons!

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I hope you've enjoyed this post. It's been an amazing journey to watch God work in Jenni's life over these past 9 years that she's been with us. Last Sunday our elders laid hands on her and commissioned her for the new calling and season of her life. A part of our heart goes with her and we wish her all God's best in this new chapter. God bless you, Jenni!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Power of the Resurrection


“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
(Philippians 3:10-11 NASB)

A youth pastor once asked a group of Christian teenagers to imagine that archaeologists had discovered positive proof that they had found bones of Jesus of Nazareth. What would that do to their faith?

The students hemmed and hawed. “He's still God, right? He still died for us. He still would have given the same teaching. I could still believe in Him, couldn't I?” They somehow felt they could hold onto their faith, even though Jesus did not rise from the dead.

THE RESURRECTION MATTERS

Paul gives a very different answer to that question in 1 Corinthians 15:16-17 when he says, “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” Why does Paul say that? What was wrong with that youth group's response to this question? Why is the fact of the resurrection central to true Christianity?

To paraphrase Phil 3:4-9, Paul says:

“I followed the Law as well as anyone, and better than any of these false teachers. No one could have looked at any part of my life and accused me of breaking the Law. I was, on those terms, perfect. But now I consider all that I did, all my accomplishments, all that striving to prove to God that I was good -- I say, I consider all of that garbage, as worthless as manure, compared to the greatest thing of all: knowing Jesus Christ. Indeed, I have given up everything else so I might know Him. Once I know Him, I will be in Him, I will be part of His body, and will be declared good by Him, not because of anything I have done, but because I am identified with Christ Jesus. I want to know Christ. I want to know the power of His resurrection.”

Paul's primary desire, what he wants more than anything else in this life is to know the living, the resurrected Christ, and to know the power associated with that resurrection. If Christ is not raised from the dead, if His bones are buried somewhere in Palestine, then we cannot know Him. That man is dead. We might read about Him, we might revere Him, but we cannot know Him. Furthermore, if He is not raised from the dead, then He has no power today. He is dead. His words might have some influence – but He Himself has no power.

That’s why resurrection is so central to Christians: Christianity not a religion based on abstract principles. It is a relationship with a living Savior, a Savior we can not only know about but have a living relationship with, a Savior who infuses our life and empowers us, who transforms us into His likeness.

KNOWING CHRIST

What is “knowing Christ?” Our relationship with God is deeply personal. Throughout the Bible, God has always revealed Himself as Someone who could be known. In the OT the Israelites are always seen in relationship to a living God.

“Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the Lord.”
(Jer 9:23-24 NASB)(Emphasis mine)

Knowing God is more important than wisdom, or strength, or riches. The people in this world who are most admired are often admired for these three qualities, aren't they? But through Jeremiah, God tells us that what matters more than anything else is understanding and knowing the Lord. Jesus Himself echoes these thoughts as He prays for His followers the night before His death:

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3 NASB)(Emphasis mine)

Eternal life is what? Knowing God, knowing Jesus! Without knowing Him, there is no true life. The whole Bible agrees that knowing God, knowing Jesus, is central. But what does knowing God mean?

It is important to know about Him, but we must go beyond simply learning facts. We must cultivate our own relationship with Him. We do that by believing that He is the Son of God, believing the resurrection really did take place, and wanting Him to make us into a new creation. We grow that relationship by spending time in prayer: praying alone and with others. Talking to God builds our relationship with Him. We also need to be willing to follow, even when His commands don't make sense to us. When we do this - when we step out in faith - He will be there to support us, and we will see Jesus as a living, risen Savior.

THE POWER OF THE RESURRECTION

When Paul asks to know the power of Jesus’ resurrection, he’s not asking God for some kind of new spiritual or emotional experience. He’s asking to truly know, to fully comprehend, what has already been accomplished in the resurrection. Let’s consider four aspects of this power.
  1. The Power to Have Sins Forgiven - Sin has a hold on all of us. Without God, we are slaves to sin. But Christ, through His death and resurrection, frees us from the power of sin. When Jesus died, God laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Is 53:6), the punishment that all of us deserve for all our sins. Jesus’ sacrifice accomplished what no other could. “For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.” (Heb 10:10 NLT)
  2. The Power to Conquer Sin - Resurrection power doesn't end with our forgiveness. Christ's resurrection also empowers us to conquer sin in our lives. Ephesians 4:24 tells us that in Christ we are a new creation; His Spirit lives within us. We have been renewed, we have a new self. In our humanity, we will still have to deal with sin in our lives sometimes. God gives us the power to overcome it, but we must first know we have the power! That is why Paul has such a strong desire for this knowledge.
  3. The Power to Be God's Agent - Christianity is not just about forgiveness and overcoming sin. Christianity is not simply a solution to our problems. God has a positive purpose in our salvation. He has determined that we are to be His agents of change in the world. God empowers us not only to defeat sin but also to share and display His loving message to the world. Jesus Himself said of us, “You are the light of the world.” Paul put it this way: “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’” (2 Cor 5:19-20 NASB)
  4. The Power to Be Conformed to His Likeness - “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8:29 NASB) Resurrection power's greatest accomplishment is conforming us to the likeness of Christ. Can you imagine what that means? Think of everything about yourself that you don't like, all the habits, all the negative characteristics - the things you have wanted to change, have tried to change. God will deal with every one of those. You are being made into a perfect creation. You are becoming like Jesus! That is your destiny, becoming the perfect bride of Christ, spotless, blameless, loving, kind, strong -- transformed into His likeness.


TWO QUESTIONS

This past weekend, we celebrated Resurrection Sunday. And here in Central Louisiana, it’s probably safe to say that nearly everyone knows about Jesus and the Easter story. But not everyone knows Him. And not everyone knows the power of the resurrection. So let me close by asking you two questions:

Do you know Christ?

Do you know the power of His resurrection?

If You say no to either of them, I’d love to visit with you. If you would send me an email to Nathan at ChristianChallenge.org I would love to dialog with you and share what I’ve discovered about Jesus and the power of His resurrection. Faith doesn’t have to be an abstract thing! It can be real and personal and powerful and alive! Please email me today and let’s talk about it!