More Than an Easter Message

Today is Easter, Resurrection Sunday. For many people across the country, it is one of the two days people gather at church, I suspect “to pay our respects to God.” This is done often with no real consideration for what God has done for us. Just believe the right stuff, come to church a couple of times a year, but God can’t expect me to get all fanatical about this stuff. Jesus said it best, this generation “honors Me with their lips but their hearts are far from Me” (Matthew 15:8, Isaiah 29:13). Don’t let Jesus say that about you.

According to The Message version, Jesus also said, “I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 MSG)

Easter is a celebration of Jesus conquering even death in order to give us freedom. After walking this life with you, Jesus wants you to join him in heaven.

Are You In?

How do you do that? You accept the gift that he’s given you, the gift of forgiveness and life. You can do that right now. You can talk to him and tell him, “I accept your gift of forgiveness and I accept your gift of life. I want to live the life that you made me to live. Thank you, Jesus, for loving me.”

This is a very simple prayer, but it changes everything. When you say I accept the fact that Jesus’ blood was given so I could be forgiven, it changes everything about your life, everything about who you are and everything about your eternity. It becomes more than a twice a year ritual.

Do You Think You’re In?

For those who are already believers, Jesus also said that we need to receive him (or accept him – John 1:12). Have you done that? Have you gone beyond simple belief to actually receiving him? This is a life-changing action, worthy of full consideration. It makes all the difference.

Jesus also said that on that day (judgment day, the end of time), many will find themselves face to face with Jesus and he tells them I never knew you.

Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws (Matthew 7:21-23).

The scary part? He said MANY people who felt they were “in” will discover that they are actually on the outside. Let’s get serious about God and involvement in what God is doing through his church. He loved the church (the followers of Christ) enough to die for it. Should it not be an important part of our lives? A tree is known by it’s fruit (Matthew 7:19-20). Don’t forsake the gathering of yourselves together (like going to church – Hebrews 10:25).

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People’s Hearts are Calloused

Believe it or not, this is the last post on the life of Paul (at lease for this series in the book of Acts). Paul entered Rome and was allowed to stay by himself (Acts 28:16). It’s been a wild ride, from his family upbringing, to the Damascus Road experience, to a dungeon at midnight experiencing authentic worship, to the shipwreck and the miracles at Malta. I’m impressed with Paul, and how God used Paul’s passion and determination. This chapter in Acts provides a fitting conclusion for the book (Acts 28:16, 23, 30-31), but there are about six more years in his life, recorded in writing preserved by the Holy Spirit.

Paul is like that inflatable clown punching bag; like when you were a kid, you punch it and the weighted sand base brings it right back up. Paul came back for more. Nothing could defeat him. His passion for Christ kept him going.

The Jews came together once they knew Paul had arrived (Acts 28:17). He again tried to convince them in the Scripture that Jesus was the unmistakable Promised One. Once Paul realized that they were intentionally closing their hearts and minds to the truth, he responded with a word from Isaiah.

And he said, “Yes, go, and say to this people,
When you hear what I say, you will not understand.
When you see what I do, you will not comprehend.
For the hearts of these people are hardened,
and their ears cannot hear,
and they have closed their eyes—so their eyes cannot see,
and their ears cannot hear,
and their hearts cannot understand,
and they cannot turn to me
and let me heal them.” (Acts 28:27-27, Isaiah 6:9-10)

Don’t miss one of the most tragic elements of the Jew’s rejection: Paul was not trying to take anything away from them, God had something more to give them. Paul was not asking them not to be Jews, he just wanted them to receive their promised Messiah. In their religious system, Jesus did not fit their expectation.

How often do we cheat ourselves when we have as much as we want from God? We may have our salvation, but don’t expect me to become a fanatic about this Jesus stuff, or get involved in the church. Remember the words of Felix, “That’s enough” (Acts 24:25). God’s gift of salvation is complete and we can receive it on a daily basis:

  1. A greater filling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:31).
  2. A deeper wisdom (1 Corinthians 12:8).
  3. A more obvious experience of God’s activity (John 14:21).
  4. More effectiveness in service (Psalm 127:1).
  5. Character conforming to Christ (Romans 8:29).
  6. A more intimate relationship with Christ (Philippians 3:10).

Whatever the reason for our resistance, we may be just like these Jews in Paul’s day. We must be aware of the outcome when our spiritual ears don’t hear, our spiritual eyes don’t see, and our spiritual hearts become calloused.  How often are we like this:

  1. Ever hearing but never understanding (Acts 28:26): he used the word never hearing which indicates a crippling activity that will not change. The word for understanding is suneimi, meaning assembling facts into a whole, a puzzle coming together. It’s like the mind grasping ideas and see the proper relationship between them. When we continue to resist what God has for us, we may cripple our ability to understand how it all fits together. Life is so much more difficult when we do not understand. Ignorance is not really bliss.
  2. Ever seeing but never perceiving (Acts 28:26): the word for perceiving is eido, which is not actually the ability to see, but the ability to know. People who don’t see with spiritual eyes cannot comprehend how others claim to see God at work (1 Corinthians 2:14). How often to people hear a testimony of God working in their lives and unbelievers are quick to write it off as a coincidence.
  3. Developing calloused hearts (Acts 28:27): the word calloused is translated from pachuno, which really means, “to make fat.” People who continually resist God will develop fat around the heart. The heart needs exercise to be healthy. The Jews ceased to exercise their hearts, and they became calloused.

Application: God has so much to give us, and how often do we tell him, “thanks, but I have enough already?” The old saying is really true, we don’t know what we’re missing. People on the outside honestly believe that they have a good relationship with God, but they have settled for so much less than God has for them. God has a plan for keep our hearts tender toward him (2 Thessalonians 3:5, 1 Timothy 1:5). Soften your heart and allow God to make you into something fantastic.

The Bible Regarding the Hearts of the People:

  1. Callousness: Isaiah 6:10, Matthew 13:15, Acts 28:27
  2. Hardening: Exodus 7:13, 22, 8:15, 19, 32, 9:34, Deuteronomy 15:7, Psalm 95:8, Proverbs 28:14, Mark 6:51-52, John 12:40, Hebrews 3:8, 15, 4:7.
  3. Going Astray: Hebrews 3:10, 12, 15, 4:12, 10:16, 13:9, James 4:8, 5:8.
  4. Unbelief: Matthew 13:58, 17:17, Mark 6:6, 9:19, 9:24, Luke 9:41, John 20:27, 1 John 3:19-20.

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Surrendering Control

This is one of the critical evidences that one is an authentic follower of Jesus; do you just believe the right stuff about Jesus, like you have your ticket to heaven, or do you genuinely desire to conform to His image. Do you allow the Holy Spirit control over your life, including your decisions, your ambitions, your marriage, your family, your leisure time?


Do we have any inner resources at the moment when we are accosted by the Holy One…? Immediately our credentials of independence vanish, and we cease to carry ourselves with the swagger of the executive who knows what’s up and has all under control; we become aware of innate poverty, our next-breath dependence, and a numbness that invades the roots of our littleness and realness. — Brennan Manning

God plays a game with the soul called, “the loser wins;” a game in which the one who holds the poorest cards does best. The Pharisee’s consciousness that he had such an excellent hand really prevented him from taking a single trick. — Evelyn Underhill

Top 10 Ways to Relinquish Control:

  1. Make frequent use of Jesus’ prayer, “Not my will, but Yours.”.
  2. Meditate on Jesus’ attitude in Philippians 2:1-18, being a servant, humble and obedient.
  3. Read Roy Hession’s book, The Calvary Road for a new perspective on brokenness and surrender. (Get the Book)
  4. Make a habit of not making important decisions alone.
  5. Live by a schedule that allows for spontaneity and reflection.
  6. Experiment with fasting one day a week for a month.
  7. Make a list of potential addictions in your life.
  8. Ask your best friend if you have any controlling habits.
  9. Commit yourself to not motivate people through guilt.
  10. This month give away both some money and some time.

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Will You Lay Down Your Life?

I was reading Oswald Chambers this morning and was fascinated by this observation… “Jesus does not ask me to die for Him, but to lay down my life for Him.” During the instruction time after the Last Supper, Jesus brings up the topic of his departure which prompted Peter to declare, “I will lay down my life for You” (John 13:37). Peter usually had an affinity for the dramatic and speaking up for the group (Mark 9:5, 10:28, 29, 14:47, John 18:10, Mark 11:21, Matthew 14:28, 15:15, 18:21, Luke 12:41), but I sense there is more here than just a willingness to die for Jesus.

We should be able to make that very same statement, because Jesus is still asking, “Will you lay down your life for Me?” (John 13:38). The point is that it is much easier to say we will die for Christ or for the sake of the gospel than it is to lay down our lives each and every day. I see a picture of surrender and submission to His will and authority. We must walk in the light in our everyday activities. He calls us not necessarily to die for Him but to live for Him.

For 33 years Jesus was on this earth and laid down His life to do the will of His Father. I see an interesting parallel in Scripture between John 3:16 and 1 John 3:16. The first mentions the passion, purpose and provision of the Father (He loved, gave and offers life). In the latter we have our Christian mandate, model and mission, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us, we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (we love, give to others, and lay down our lives). It is not easy because it is contrary to our human nature to do this.

We are selfish and self-preserving, but if we are friends of Jesus, we must deliberately and carefully lay down our lives for Him; love Him, learn of Him and live for Him. Salvation is easy for us, only because it cost God so much, but exhibiting salvation in our lives is quite difficult. It’s good that we don’t go through this life alone; we need His strength and have the Spirit to guide us. Involvement in a solid Christian community is also a wonderful benefit to living a meaningful life in the world.

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