Preach The Gospel To Yourself

I can’t tell you who I heard the phrase, “Preach the gospel to yourself” first. But as a pastor, it has become a mantra I often repeat. 

The gospel encapsulates the profound message of Jesus Christ — his identity and purpose. It serves as a constant reminder of our essence apart from Christ, exposing the gravity of our sins and the magnitude of His grace. This transformative message is not just about what Christ came to do but also about who we are becoming through Him.”

Greg Gilbert in his book The Gospel defines it this way, “First the bad news: God is your Judge and you have sinned against him. And then the gospel: but Jesus has died so that sinners may be forgiven of their sins if they will repent and believe in him.”

What do we benefit from preaching the gospel to ourselves:

We see how God is not holding out on you.

God isn’t withholding anything from you. In Christ, we possess an abundance beyond our wildest imaginations. Every spiritual blessing is bestowed upon us (Eph 1:3). The gospel serves as a poignant reminder that Christ sacrificed everything to lavish His blessings upon us.

You reflect on the goodness of God.

In Romans 2:4, we encounter the profound question, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”

The gospel serves as a lens that sharpens our focus on God’s goodness. Despite our deserving of condemnation and death, God extends kindness and goodness to us. Through Jesus’ sacrificial death, he stood in our place. Every gift, care, and watchful eye on us are expressions of God’s inherent goodness.

When you preach the gospel to yourself you remind yourself that this life may be hard, but nothing can take away the love of God

Romans 8:38-39 assures us that nothing, not even death, can sever us from the love of God. In John 16:33, the Bible acknowledges that tribulations are inevitable in this life—it’s not a question of if but when. The gospel becomes our beacon, reminding us that this earthly life is not our ultimate destination. With the endurance of Jesus as our inspiration, we find the strength to endure whatever challenges come our way.

Bad circumstances fail in comparison to eternal life in/with Jesus. 

In 2 Corinthians 4:7-11, the Apostle Paul vividly articulates the trials and tribulations he faced, emphasizing that these challenges pale in comparison to the richness found in Christ.

He eloquently states, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”

The gospel acts as a poignant reminder of the selfless gift bestowed upon us by Jesus and the unparalleled richness we find in Him. This perspective helps us recognize that our challenging circumstances are overshadowed by the abundance we possess in Jesus.

Consider the inspiring perspective of Joni Eareckson Tada, who, despite enduring the challenges of paralysis since a diving accident at age seventeen, envisions expressing gratitude to Jesus for her wheelchair in heaven:

“I hope I can take my wheelchair to heaven with me—knowing well that it’s not biblically correct. But if I could, I would have my wheelchair right next to me when God gifts me with my new, glorified body. Turning to Jesus, I would say, ‘Lord, do you see that wheelchair? You were right when you said we would face trouble in this world, and that wheelchair brought a lot of trouble! Yet, the weaker I was in it, the harder I leaned on you. The harder I leaned on you, the stronger I discovered you to be. So, thank you for what you did in my life through that wheelchair. And now,’ I always say jokingly, ‘you can send that wheelchair to hell, if you want.'”

When you preach the gospel to yourself no gift can be better than the gift of Jesus.

In 2 Corinthians 9:15, the Apostle Paul exclaims, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”

Within this passage, Paul conveys to the Corinthian church the importance of generosity. His plea is not coercive but rather a proclamation that as generous people, we reflect the character of our generous God.

The measure of God’s generosity prompts us to ponder: What do we truly deserve, and what does God freely give? The gospel serves as the profound response to these questions. Therefore, let the resounding truth of the gospel be a constant refrain in your life—preach it to yourself!

Family Time Management- What Does that Look Like ?

Time Management

We find ourselves amidst the busy season of school and sports, and if you were to glance at our calendar, it would resemble a hodgepodge of colors, each representing different commitments and locations. Balancing family needs, church, work, school, and sports can feel all-encompassing. Alyssa and I are aware that there are periods of heightened activity in our lives, but we are also committed to improving our time management skills to navigate these busy seasons more effectively.

What Does the Bible Say About Time

The Bible mentions how we are to think about time:

  1. Do not be a sluggardProverbs 6:6-11.
  2. God is in charge of timePsalm 31:15. It is a gift from God.
  3. Be mindful of your timePsalm 37:18; 90:12; James 4:13-17. We do not know what tomorrow has or how many days left we have to live. I recently wrote an article about how many months do we have based on a conversation I had with my kids.
  4. Be urgent with your timeEphesians 5:16.
  5. Be aware of the presentMark 13:32-33.

Time is a precious gift bestowed upon us, and we have the power to choose whether we reflect on it with remorse over its use or with wisdom, as highlighted in Ephesians 5:15-17. It’s essential to recognize that we act as stewards of the time at our disposal, with the capacity to craft it, maximize it, or squander it. Grateful for its presence, we also bear the responsibility of ensuring we don’t allow it to slip away needlessly.

Make the Most of Your Time

Many of us find ourselves engaged in numerous worthwhile endeavors. However, I’ve come to realize that my children’s involvement in sports isn’t just their activity alone; it’s an opportunity for me to actively participate alongside them.

Learning to discern what holds eternal significance has been pivotal. We don’t want to engage in activities without purpose. Take sports, for instance—it can offer more than just enjoyment (though it’s often quite fun); it can also serve as a platform for us to be witnesses.

In his letter to the Ephesian church, Paul underscores the importance of mindful Christian living, which includes a keen awareness of how we utilize our time (Ephesians 5:16). He isn’t advocating a YOLO mentality; instead, he’s reminding them of their divine calling—to make disciples. This mission lies at the core of every Christian, this one thing and the beauty is that we have the freedom to fulfill it in nearly any setting.

Learn to Say No- Better Commitments

Mastering the art of saying “no” is an ongoing lesson I continue to embrace. Often, we find ourselves compelled to say “yes” for various reasons, sometimes due to a sense of obligation or simply because we struggle with the word “no.” Regardless of the cause, it’s an essential skill in effective time management.

For instance, we’ve implemented a strategy in our family to restrict the number of sports our kids participate in each year, borrowing the wise “two-sport rule” from some friends.

In our lives, there are activities we must undertake, those we desire to engage in, and those that are optional. A key question to ponder is: what consumes the majority of your time? Moreover, how do you determine what holds enduring value and what does not? Additionally, are there areas in which you adamantly safeguard your time and refuse to compromise?

Are there commitments in your life that are monopolizing your time and diverting your attention from serving the Lord? Remember, the things we choose to decline today often pave the way for opportunities to say “yes” in the future.

How Many More Months Do You?

My boys were curious about my age in the time of months, and after throwing out some random numbers over 1000, I had to do some quick math to figure it out. I recently turned 40, which means I’m 480 months old. This realization struck me deeply; if I can live to 80, I’m at my half-life. It made me reflect on the passage of time and the brevity of life. It’s not a morbid thought but a reminder to make the most of the time we have.

Just like we think about financing a car over a specific number of months, life can be broken down into months too. I now find myself pondering how I’ve used my 480 months so far and how many more I have left. This realization gives me a sense of urgency to make each remaining month count. It’s a reminder to be intentional about how I spend my time, focusing on what truly matters to me.

The Bible verse you mentioned, Psalm 90:12, advises us to “number our days” so that we may gain a heart of wisdom. In other words, it encourages us to be mindful of the finite nature of our lives and to use our time wisely. By understanding that life is short, we are prompted to prioritize the things that truly matter, live with purpose, and cultivate wisdom in our choices and actions.

Take Inventory

I’ve come to realize the importance of having a list whenever I go to the store because without one, I tend to buy unnecessary items and forget the essentials. This simple analogy has led me to think about life in a broader sense. It’s like taking inventory of our lives, reflecting on our choices, and understanding that death is a reality that awaits all of us.

When I contemplate the months I’ve lived so far, it becomes a moment of self-reflection. Have I truly lived for myself, pursuing my passions, and staying true to my values? Or have I allowed life to pass by without much thought, just going through the motions?

Regret can be part of life, and I have certainly experienced it at times. There have been moments when I wish I had made different choices or taken more risks. However, I also understand that regrets are valuable lessons that shape us and help us grow. They remind me to be more mindful of my decisions moving forward, hopefully it turns one to Jesus.

Making the Most

The wisdom of the old Chinese proverb, “When is the best time to plant a tree? Yesterday. When is the next best time? Today,” resonates deeply in our lives. It reminds us that taking action promptly is crucial for positive changes and outcomes.

Today holds the power to transform our direction and future. It’s the day to seek solace and guidance in Jesus. Through Him, we find redemption and grace, as mentioned in Ephesians 5:15-16. Embracing obedience to Jesus leads to divine rewards, as expressed in Matthew 25:23.

As we look ahead to tomorrow, our hearts are filled with prayerful aspirations to remain steadfast in our faith, constantly turning to Jesus, as emphasized in Hebrews 12:1-2. Our desire is to live wholeheartedly for Him, as we find reassurance in Jude 24-25. We strive to embrace a life of holiness, seeking to become more like Jesus, as described in Ephesians 5:1-2.

In summary, this reminds us to take action today and to continuously seek Him for redemption and guidance. Prayerfully, our tomorrows will reflect our commitment to living for Jesus, growing in holiness, and walking in His grace. Each day becomes an opportunity to deepen our relationship with Him and to align our lives with His divine purpose.

The Influence of the Church

Throughout history, the church has wielded significant influence on the world, and it is essential to recognize both its positive and negative impacts. While acknowledging the negative aspects of the church is crucial for a comprehensive understanding, it is equally important to highlight the numerous positive contributions it has made to society. These positive impacts include humanitarian work, charitable initiatives, aid and emergency response efforts, promotion of education, and the embodiment of unconditional love towards marginalized individuals, just to name a few.

In his enlightening book, Bullies and Saints: An Honest Look At the Good and Evil of Christian History, John Dickson fearlessly delves into the challenging periods of the church’s past, such as the Crusades and the Inquisitions. However, he also emphasizes the church’s embodiment of Christlikeness and its profound influence on humanity.

One fascinating aspect discussed in the book is the church’s transformation during the 4th century, following the Great Persecution in the Roman Empire (303-312/313). During this time, the church embraced a unique perspective centered around the principle of love. Inspired by the life of Jesus, the church sought to model love in all aspects of its existence.

Here is an excerpt from the book:

Wealthy “benefaction” was, of course, an important feature of ancient Roman life. Emperors and other elites would bestow gifts on the citizenry-and only citizens-including buildings, monuments, and public games, as well as food supplies in times of shortage. The word for this was euergetism. “do-gooding,” and it was closely linked to the virtue of philotimia, “love of honor.” Public benefaction in ancient times was not charity on the basis of human need, but a social contract. The benefactor shared resources with less well-off citizen in return for public honor. This civic euergetism, writes Peter Brown of Princeton, ‘contained no element of compassion for the poor.’

John Dickson, Bullies and Saints, pg. 79-80.

The Radical Teaching in the New Testament

The church’s service to humanity, especially to the poor and their neighbors, was characterized by true compassion without any expectation of reciprocation. Their actions stood in stark contrast to other humanitarian aids of that time, as they cared for the sick not for payment but out of a genuine compulsion to show love. Aid was freely distributed to those in need, not seeking honor in return, but driven by the belief that every person bears the Imago Dei, the Image of God. This foundational principle made the church distinctly different in its approach to humanitarian work.

The teachings in the New Testament further exemplify the radical nature of love and compassion promoted by the church:

  1. Love Your Neighbor: Jesus emphasized the importance of loving one’s neighbor as oneself, encompassing anyone the Lord placed before them (Mark 12:31).
  2. Love Your Enemy- Taking it a step further, the teachings urged believers to love their enemies and pray for those who persecuted them, thereby reflecting the character of God (Matthew 5:43-45).
  3. Non-retaliation “Believers were encouraged not to seek vengeance but to leave it to God, and instead, to respond to evil with acts of kindness and love (Romans 12:19-21).
  4. The Sign of Love- Jesus emphasized that love for one another would be the defining characteristic of His disciples (John 13:35).

What About Today?

However, reflecting on the present state of Western Christian churches, there is a concern about whether they have retained their influence and adherence to these principles.

As we examine Western Christian churches, it becomes evident that we must confront the question: Have we lost our influence? In a world that desperately needs love, compassion, and a message of hope, it is essential to reflect on whether we are faithfully embodying the radical teachings of Jesus. Are we consistently showing genuine love to our neighbors and even our enemies? Are we responding to evil with goodness and kindness? Our impact on the world hinges on our commitment to living out these principles. As the church, let us reevaluate our priorities (Jesus), rekindle our passion for selfless service, and embrace the transformative power of love. By doing so, we can once again be a powerful force for good and exemplify the true essence of Christianity to a world in need.”

You can pick up a copy of Bullies and Saints from Amazon or other retailers.

Obedience Met With Disappointment

It was a profoundly heavy and disheartening day, one of those days when everything seemed to go wrong. Right from the moment of waking up, there was an underlying feeling that it would be an uphill battle, filled with challenging conversations and adversities at every turn. It’s as if this difficult phase had become a recurring theme, leaving you drained and yearning for an end to this relentless new normal. The future appeared bleak, devoid of joy and excitement, making you wonder when it would all come to an end. The weight of it all led to questions and introspection: was it your own actions that led to this, or perhaps a lesson you were meant to learn?

Seeking solace and strength, you turned to passages from the Bible that spoke of God’s unwavering presence and support:

“He will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

“He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion” (Philippians 1:6).

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

God’s Promises But Still The Struggle

Despite reminding yourself of God’s promises, it felt as though He remained silent in that very moment, leaving you grappling with disappointment. In this state of deep sadness, you found resonance with Psalm 44, attributed to the Sons of Korah, a group of Levites responsible for music in worship (2 Chronicles 20:19). This Psalm describes God’s past victories and deliverance for Israel against their enemies, and their obedience in response.

However, as the Psalm progresses, the tone shifts, revealing the stark reality of defeat and feeling forsaken: “But you have rejected us and disgraced us and have not gone out with our armies” (verse 9). It seems that despite their faithfulness, disappointment befalls them. The Psalmist goes on to express their loyalty to God and wonders why they face abandonment and defeat despite their commitment:

“If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart. Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered (Psalm 44:20-22).”

I Know My Redeemer Lives

This heartfelt lament strikes a chord with you, as you can relate to this profound sense of disappointment despite your obedience. In the midst of this turmoil, the Psalm concludes with a cry for God’s intervention and redemption:

“Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love (Psalm 44:26)!”

In times of distress and confusion, this final plea for God’s redeeming love serves as a reminder that even amidst adversity, hope can be found in His unwavering and steadfast presence.

Job in the Bible went through a season of hurt and pain. He lost his children, his wealth, and his health. He was broken and a point of despair. In a conversation with one his friends he gives some great insight that is just as important today.

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
    and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
    yet in my flesh I shall see God,
27 whom I shall see for myself,
    and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
    My heart faints within me (Job 19:25-27)!

Can you relate?

The Most Asked Question: Why did we move from Southern California to Washington State- Part 3

The Church

Hello, the third part of this series has been prolonged as I have tried to process and communicate that background in thinking and prompting us to move. The most asked question we have been asked is, “Why did we move from California to Washington?”

The first post regarding this was regarded as a calling. I do believe God calls Christians to their vocations, cities, and neighborhoods. The Lord calls people into ministry and the Lord called me and the family to move to Washington. You can read the post HERE.

Second, answering the why did we move involved processing and defining what a pastor is. Through seeing what a pastor is and is not I was able to discern more and more the call to be a senior pastor. You can read the post HERE.

There were times I felt like round pegs trying to fit in square holes or square pegs in round holes (however the statement goes). There are many things that had me question is this where God has me?

This led to the third question. It was what is the church? This by no means will be a theological discourse on ecclesiology. God had been growing me and working through the years on my understanding of what is the church and how the church functions.

To be clear, I don’t have any issues with large churches. I came from a very large church. I am thankful for the experience and time. I am thankful to see all that God has done. There are many benefits that come from a large church but there are also many hindrances that come with it too. In fact, 70% of churches in America are 100 people or less. 

I always had pressed upon me that God has called me to a smaller church. I am thankful for the people I had been able to meet, shepherd, and love at Harvest. Now, at a smaller church, have been blessed to be part of a smaller community. I have been able to experience the different struggles and benefits that come with it.

Here are a few areas that I have seen this coming through:

  • Smaller budget yet higher volunteer and ownership. A smaller church will have a smaller budget and is limited on resources to do certain things. What I came to see and appreciate was a church where saints take on the burdens to work on the church, support the church, and do the work of ministry (Eph. 4:12 ). 

Yes, there are things that a higher budget allows a church and ministry to do, but I have learned you don’t need much to do church. In fact, many Christians around the world have a church service with a lot less than even churches with smaller budgets in America. 

  • Wearing multiple hats and learning to embrace weaknesses. A larger church usually will have people in multiple departments such as IT, A/V, HR, Accounting, and so on. This was something for me to learn to adapt. I struggled with this at first because I felt like I needed to do everything. I have learned that I am unable to do everything. I stink at some things and at the end of the day, probably are glad that I did not do them. 

This is humbling but also a reminder that the church is made up of individual Christians coming together to serve and do the work of ministry. The Bible uses the term members of one body (1 Cor 12). This means we are connected and depend on one another. I am thankful for those who are knowledgeable in those areas and give of their time/talents to serve.

  • The church is the bride of Christ. Small church or big church or any church size in between is the bride of Christ. This has helped me to be thoughtful in what I say and how I think about the church. Though not perfect, the church is still the bride. The small church may not have much in terms of resources, but it offers something that large churches struggle to do, the deep impact of the local community of believers knowing one another.  
  • The church is a new community that God is building. The Christian’s identity is in Christ. Their citizenship is in heaven and they are part of a new group of people (Eph 2: ). We strive to know what it means to be in Christ. This unites the Christian with other believers which goes into eternity.

The Church is the trophy case of God’s wisdom of salvation (Eph 3:10). The mystery of the gospel has been revealed through the church which is diverse yet unified in Christ.

How Do you Look at the Church?

Maybe you have been hurt by the church. The rise of church failures and reporting about issues within the church has gained national attention. I grieve knowing that people have been hurt and may not want to go back to a church because of past experiences. I pray and hope that you can see the beauty that comes with the bride of Christ, though not perfect points to Jesus.

Pastor and commentator Richard Coekin writes,

“You are welcomed into the precious family of God, so love those people deeply. You are being built upon the foundation of the Scriptures, so listen to the teaching carefully. You are being constructed as a dwelling of the Spirit of God, so be holy in the way you behave…Your local church is a gathering of a new humanity, the temple of the living God, the only ‘local building’ that will last forever, and a wonder in the heavenly realms. Enjoy it!”

The New Man

We get some snow here in Bellingham, WA. Sometimes it sticks around for a couple of days. These past few winters we have been blessed with snow that has stuck around for a week or so. Those who are born and raised in the area reassured us that this is not normal 🙂

The kids go sledding down our street which is a wonderful hill to pursue being a tobogganist.  The kids will always want to build a snowman. They roll his body (maybe a little too big). They do the rest of his body and head. They add some sticks for his arms and something for the nose and eyes. And, if they are really into it, some other items for a hat. 

The kids have fun making a new creature. The snowman is unable to move and most likely will melt away by the end of the week and they still name him!

Those who are called “in Christ” (the term that Paul uses in the NT to describe the Christian) are a new creation. He writes to the Corinthian church about the work of reconciliation that happens because of Jesus and that if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17).

This new creation is not just about making the person new in Christ such as their sin being washed away (Isaiah 44:22; Heb 10:10). This is true but wait there is more!

Wait there is more!

I have always looked at how the Christian is brought into the promises of God which existed in the Old Testament. As I have been studying and teaching through the book of Ephesians, I have noticed that Paul’s language of the Christian involves something more.

There is a greater work where the Christian is now a new person, part of new people, and and a new group. This group has eternal life. This group is founded upon grace and not on works. This group is connected to one another because of Jesus.  

He is speaking to the Gentiles (people who were not Jewish) and how they have come into the promise of God (Eph 3:1-6). These Gentiles did not have to become Jewish to receive this promise. This sign was circumcision and this is what got a lot of the Jewish leaders upset. This was not needed. It is by the grace of God that one is saved (Eph 2:8-9). 

Look what Jesus does

He takes people from different groups (Jews and Gentiles), those who are in Christ are called a new people. 

Paul describes this by writing, “He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and o that in Himself He might make the two one new person, in this way establishing peace;  and that He might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross (Eph 2:14, 16).

This new person is a new creation not just with their legal standing before God, they are full on a new person and part of a new family. This new person is one who is different because of Jesus. This was God’s redemptive plan from the beginning.  

This new people group as Peter writes, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

This language seems to be spoken to Israel, even specifically about Levites. But, Peter is writing about the new people that are found in Christ, the Christians both Jew and Gentile.

What Do We Get?

This new man, in Christ, receives the promises of God.

Those promises include the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:16; Heb 6:4). The same Holy Spirit who came at Pentecost explosively upon the Christians of the early church is the same Holy Spirit the Christians receive today.

Those in Christ receive enteral life and heaven (John 3:16; 14:1-3; Phil 3:20; Web 3:1). Those in Christ not only receive the promises today but also the future promises. We are awaiting our rest with the Lord forever in heaven (Heb 4:1).

Those in Christ receive favor from God because of Christ (Eph 1:3, 11). We have received from God the greatest gift, he is not holding out on us. We look to Jesus and see what his gift of immeasurable grace has been given to us. The Christian is called an heir with Christ (Rom 8:17; Eph 3:6). We share in all the benefits, blessings, and sufferings with our Savior.

Those in Christ live in a way that reflects this change and truth. Not perfectly, dependent upon God’s grace each moment and step of the Christian life.

The Distraction Of The Shiny Penny

I remember hearing the phrase, just give them a shiny penny, to easily distract someone. It was not given as a compliment or in a positive way. It was to say they get distracted with what they think is the latest and greatest. It takes their eyes off of what matters in the moment. 

Easy Distractions

Before you point the finger at someone else, remember how many you have pointing back at you? I can get distracted with the little shiny, less valuable thing, than the more valuable important task. 

The problem with life and the many things in life can be that they are the shiny penny that so easily distracts us.

As a pastor there are many distractions that one can use to “get” people in the church. I know not all things are wrong nor promoting church (I hope one is excited about their church and would want to talk about it!). The danger becomes when one leads with other things as a means to the end instead of leading with the greatest announcement that one can hear- Jesus is risen- the tomb is empty- the Savior is alive!

The Greatest Treasure

The first American missionary sent out was Adoniram Judson (1788-1850). He returned to America, to visit, for the first time after spending thirty years in Burma. In Burma, he was prisoned and tortured, he lost his first wife, a second wife, and multiple children due to the extreme climate and lack of medical care. He went through a season of depression and lived in the innermost parts of the jungle were tigers lived for a time. He translated the Bible into Burmese as well as an English to Burmese dictionary. He labored for years before seeing the first convert to Christianity. He had a story!

When he arrived in America many people wanted him to share at their church. There is one account that is given by his soon to be wife Emily.

She writes, “As he sat down it was evident, even to the most unobservant eye, that most of the listeners were disappointed. After the exercises were over, several persons inquired of me, frankly, why Dr. Judson had not talked of something else; why he had not told a story…On the way home, I mentioned the subject to him.” 

He responded, “Why, what did they want? I presented the most interesting subject in the world, to the best of my ability.” 

Emily responded, “But they wanted something different—a story.”

Judson again said, “Well, I am sure I gave them a story—the most thrilling one that can be conceived of.”

She then said, “But they heard it before. They wanted something new of a man who had just come from the antipodes.”

I love what Adoniram said next, “Then I am glad they have it to say, that a man coming from the antipodes had nothing better to tell than the wondrous story of Jesus’ dying love.”

I see why Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For I deliver to you as first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3-4). 

The greatest news or story is that Jesus lived, died, and rose again. The one who conquered sin and death—he is the victor! He so loves you! He died for you! Don’t be distracted with the shiny pennies in this life.   

“Well, I am sure I gave them a story—the most thrilling one that can be conceived of.”

Remember Then

You may be distracted with the lures of this world, but they fail in comparison to the surmounting worth of knowing Jesus (Phil 3:8-9). 

You may be distracted with the news of disease, sickness, or things like cancer, but Jesus conquered sin and death. He is our living hope not just in this life but the life to come (1 Peter 1:3).

Christian, you may get busy with the plethora tasks in life and forget your purpose which you are called to as a child of God. Go make disciples and be witnesses that Jesus is alive (Matt 28:19-20; Acts 1:8)!

You may be tempted to want to woo others with your accomplishments but the greatest news you have to share is that Jesus is alive!

To my pastor friends- lead with confidence that we have nothing better to tell than the wondrous story of Jesus’ dying love! There are distractions to do other things or to go forward with lesser things, be aware.

If you find yourself distracted with other things, preach the gospel to yourself. Be in awe of what Jesus has done for you. See the despair of being outside of Christ because of your sin. Delight in his grace that he has lavished upon you. The Savior who took your place on the cross. The innocent one who took your sin so that you can be forgiven. When you do this, you see that the gospel is the greatest thing you can talk about! Those shiny distractions aren’t so shiny in comparison to the greatest treasure that you have in Christ Jesus.

Happy Ending

Just like most dads with little girls, princess movies was a staple. Like many of the those movies it was pretty much expected within the plot there would be some kind of enemy or struggle with the princess overcoming to live happily ever after. We like happy endings.

At the end of The Little Mermaid (this was on a lot when Adah was younger), Ariel has her tail replaced with legs so she can live happily ever after with prince Eric. There is actually a song called “Happy ending” to capture everything works out in the end.

Most want that happy ending. Is this possible?

The Reality

Not everything feels like it is a happy ending. There is injustice in this world. Every day there seems to be bad news that we say, “That is not right!” Things don’t always work out in the end. There is evil and evil seems to get away with it. We constantly have the phrase, “Life is hard” coming out in between breaths.

The Psalmist understood this by writing that evil says, “The Lord does not see” (Psalm 94:7). They just keep going and going. Injustice, hurt, murder, selfishness, and hate ran rampant in this world. We echo the phrase, “How Long Lord” as we face a new day (Psalm 13:1).

We may have been the recipient of evil and things working out in the end seems so far away or impossible that there is no more hope. We are longing for that fairy tale ending but it just doesn’t seem to happen. Those princess movies seem just like the genre of move-fantasy.

Sick people don’t always get better. There are still accidents and disasters where people suffer and die.

We also can be the perpetrators to the hurts in this world. The Bible says we all have sinned (Rom 3:23). We are guilty and most of all have offended God because of our sin. The justice that needs to be dealt falls on us. So, where is the happy ending! Where is our hope? Is it just fantasy or is there the reality of a true happy ending?

The Resurrection

Great news! There is hope in a true happy ending. It is found in the resurrection and that is why it is so important. Jesus has conquered sin and death, which death is the last enemy (1 Cor 15: 26, 54-58).

Rebecca McLaughlin writes, “The message of Easter is not that Jesus died so that we can one day float around on disembodied souls in some ethereal realm. Instead, it’s that the King of all the universe has died for us, and that if we trust him, he’ll one day bring us back to an embodied life—richer and fresher and more beautiful than anything we’ve felt on earth so far. “

Jesus changes everything. The evil and hurt, the sickness and accidents that exist will one day come to an end. The wrong that we have done and been the recipient of will stop. For those in Christ there is this promise that Peter said, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” ( 1 Peter 3:3-5).

This is the true happy ending! Without Christ and the resurrection we would still be stuck in our sins. Without Christ and the resurrection we would be not have this living hope. Without Christ and the resurrection we are the most pitied of all people (1 Cor 15:19). Jesus is able to say that he makes all things new (Revelation 21:5) because of the resurrection.

Some of the last words that Jesus said when he was on the cross were, “It is finished.” In pain as he endured the cross spoke of the finality of his sacrifice. He was giving of himself to pay for the penalties of our sin, where we have wronged God. As Jesus took his last breath, buried in that tomb, it was not the end. Jesus rose from the dead three days later, he is alive- he has the last word. The happy ending is found in him, the man of sorrows, endured the cross, despising the shame is coming again (Isa 53:1; Heb 12:2; Rev 22:20).

Outsiders Looking In

We had been in Washington for about 6 months and someone suggested that we take part of a big local hit, The Deming Logging Show. We were sitting watching loggers do some crazy and amazing things while striking up conversations with those around us.

Alyssa was talking with this older gentlemen who was telling us the history of the logging show while explaining what was taking place at each event. We smiled blissfully as if we understood everything. It was fun and we enjoyed the festivities. Alyssa then shared with him that we just moved to Washington from California and the gentlemen said, “I knew it, you don’t look like you are from here.” We knew were were the outsiders joining a new community had a good laugh at the exchange.

Have you even been an outsider and looking in? 

The Bible addresses this in a bigger way that those outside of Jesus, because of sin, were outsiders unable to come close to God. The Apostle Paul writes, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13). He is writing to Gentile Christians to show that before Christ there was this separation from the Jewish people. But now in Jesus that separation has been broken down (he calls it the wall of hostility- Eph 2:14). 

This is great news! As an outsider we could never come close to God. Sin had separated us. Our situation was hopeless and helpless. But, because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection we can be brought near. 

We go from rebellious insurrectionist to the kingdom of God (Eph 2:1-3), to his children (Gal 3:26). For those in Jesus are no longer outsiders looking in. They are brought near and included. They are not strangers nor aliens but citizens of his kingdom (Phil 3:20). No longer can one be an outcast because of sin but accepted and forgiven.

How Does This Happen?

Paul tells the church that we are brought near because of the blood of Christ (3:14).

This speaks that Jesus is sacrifice, he gave himself.

We know that there needed to be a sacrifice to pay for sins. This is to show that there was a cost and that was Jesus’ life. His blood which was the payment of sin made it possible for us to draw near to God. 

Because of this- Those who were outsiders were brought near as close as possible. We can’t do anything to be near. Our situation outside of Jesus is that it is impossible. But only because of Jesus and his great love in which was shown to us by him taking our punishment for our sin we can. Do you know him? Have you responded to what Jesus has done for you? Call on the name of Jesus to be saved (Romans 10:9-13).