Connecting At The Plate – Part 2

In Monday’s devotional, I talked about our connection to God starting with accepting His love. In today’s devotional, I will continue on the topic of our connection with God.

“You can’t hit a home run unless you step up to the plate.” – Modern Proverb.

Another area where we can improve our connection or relationship with God is listening when God speaks. The Bible teaches that God speaks through Jesus. “But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” (Hebrews 1:2) and the way that we hear Jesus is through the Bible. The Scriptures are described as breathed out by God: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16) and as the Word of God: “Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” (Mark 7:13). This is very important for us. It means that while God can speak to us however He likes, He has promised to speak to all of us through the Bible. So if you want to hear God, read, study and discuss the Bible.

We can also speak to God through prayer. The Bible records Jesus communing with His Father in prayer. Prayer is much more than simply a way to ask God for things we need or want.

We can also worship regularly. “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!” – Psalm 95:1-2. God invites us to come into His presence for worship. Not only does regular church attendance give us an opportunity to come before the Lord’s presence in worship, but it also gives us an opportunity to fellowship with the Lord’s people. We can’t help but grow a closer connection to the Lord as a result.

Finally, a closer relationship with God is built upon obedience. Jesus told His disciples in the upper room, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word…” (John 14:23). “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you….” (James 4:7-8). Paul tells us in Romans 12:1: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers,by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” We must keep in mind that we don’t earn salvation through our obedience; rather, it is the way we show our love and gratitude toward God.

Connecting with God is not easy, but the promises the Bible gives us makes trying to incorporate these disciplines into our daily life worth it. These eternal truths help us to connect with God no matter how busy or demanding life is.

Discussion Question:

  1. How do I know when God is speaking to me?
  2. Have you ever tried to live the Christian life without asking God to be involved in the details of your life?
  3. How does God connect to you through prayer?
  4. Do you prepare your mind and heart for worship each Sunday?
  5. What does obedience to God mean to you?

Connecting At The Plate

“and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it.” – Colossians 2:19 (NLT)

One of the most famous home runs in major-league history was hit by Mickey Mantle off Chuck Stobbs at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C.  Mantle’s home run in 1953 landed in a housing development beyond the left-field wall at an estimated distance of 565 feet. Imagine watching that ball soar into the sky standing at home plate knowing that you connected better than anybody ever did before or since.

Standing at home plate in our lives, I wonder how much we connect with God.  One of the areas that needs constant attention is staying connected to God. It is the first important step before we run the bases. Distractions, busyness, bad moods, demands of life all have the potential to pull us away from God. Our intention may be to remain focused on Him, but in the midst of those things we often allow our attention to get diverted elsewhere. It is like Mickey Mantle taking his eye off the ball and still expecting to hit it into the next county.

How do we find that deeper connection with God in our day to day lives? How do we connect with God in the midst of everyday life that will enable us to get to first base and then second, third and then score? Why is it so hard to connect with God everyday anyway? Here’s what I think I know. If every day was Sunday, I think we would be connecting with God at a higher level. But Monday through Saturday, our ability to connect decreases because of the distractions and busyness of our daily life.

Likewise, during our morning quiet time, we pray about the day ahead and ask God to guide us through whatever the day brings. However, usually by the middle of the day we haven’t re-connected with God since.

The apostle John describes it as abiding in God. John 15:4 says, “Abide in me, and I in you….” and John 15:9 says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”

How can we abide in God in our daily lives and connect with God throughout the day? First, remember that God loves us. “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” – 1 John 4:14-16

God loves each of us, And Jesus died because of this amazing love. However, knowing things in our heads is not the same as knowing things in our hearts. Accepting God’s love is the first step to connecting with Him. It is sometimes hard to get our heads around the fact that we are not the person we know that God wants us to be. As a consequence, we are not sure we can move around the bases without disappointing Him. Yes we know the theology, but in our heart we struggle to accept it freely which creates distance between God and us. This can stop us from being able to connect with God freely.

No matter how many mistakes you’ve made, no matter how unworthy you think you are, He still loves you and wants to connect in a meaningful relationship with you. God assures you of that fact in Psalm 100:5, “For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

We will continue this discussion in Tuesday’s devotional.

Discussion Questions:

  1. So, what does abiding in God mean? What is the relationship between God’s love and abiding in Him?
  2. Why is God’s love so reliable? How does he demonstrate it? What is the implication for our relationship/connection to God?
  3. Do you struggle with insecurity? I am not good enough. I am not spiritual enough. I am not talented enough. I am not whole enough. I am not enough.
  4. What keeps you from having a more intimate relationship/connection with God? How can you improve your relationship/connection with God?
  5. Pray and ask God to help you draw closer and abide in Him.

New Series – Home Run Life

“Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.” – Yogi Berra

The baseball season is here. All around the country, people are gearing up for a long season of rooting for their home team. Will this be the year the Cubs do something special? Are the Yankees no longer a dynasty? Will the Dodgers 270 million dollar payroll buy them a world series ring? After all is there anything better than spending some time watching a ballgame and munching on a few hot dogs. The start of the baseball season coincides with the start of our new teaching series called Home Run Life. There is quite a connection between baseball and ministry. For example:

The Northstar baseball team belongs to the owner. The coach’s job is to manage and develop the team. The individual players responsibility is to become the best player they can be. Both the coaches and the players primary job is to please the owner. Our daily opponent is a very tough out. In our game, there are no roster limits—you can’t have too many players on your team.

The owner expects the coaches and the players to have a bad game occasionally, make an error now and then, even experience a slump and need to rest and sit out a game or two to refocus. The owner is not afraid to bring up the guy from the minor leagues and give him a shot at the big-time. He just might become the rookie-of-the-year.

Even though the positions on the field are different, every position matters. And we can’t lose touch with the players on the disabled list; they’re still part of the team.

As coaches and players we need to remember to thank the bat boys, the grounds crew, the people who sell hot dogs, and the folks who clean the locker room because they are an important part of the team.

So let the season begin. And no matter what happens with the team, remember this: the owner always has your back.

Come this Sunday and learn how to live a Home Run Life.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Prepare to meet God this Sunday.
  2. Prayerfully ask God to show you ways to apply the rules of the game in your life.
  3. Identify a specific area of your life that needs to change.
  4. Praise and worship God. Read Psalms 65: 5-8 in preparation for Sunday.

Purpose In Your Life

“So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. ” – Isaiah 55:11.

God has an intention and a purpose and a plan for you. He loves you, and He empowers you. The key is to figure out what that purpose is. Do you spend much time wondering (or worrying) about what career or purpose is right for your life?  It makes sense. Most of us are deeply concerned with living meaningful, purposeful lives, and we spend a lot of energy trying to figure out if we are doing it. We want to know what God wants for our lives, and we want to know what we need to do to align ourselves with His plan.

Unfortunately, our overarching purpose in life seems to have little to do with our circumstances. God’s “mission statement,” of sorts, for our life doesn’t include a job title, college degree—well, not directly. When we commit our lives to Jesus, we commit to an enduring, lifelong mission. We commit to a life of speaking, acting, thinking and relating out the transforming and joyful experience of being in a relationship with Christ. That’s it. Wherever you are, whatever you do, whether you think it’s the best fit or worst job ever—God wants you to live out His mission.

The purpose for your life—the deepest place where you find meaning and satisfaction—transcends any role, job or circumstance you are facing. Yet we all worry that our jobs aren’t meaningful enough and our work doesn’t fulfill us—and we want God to change that.

It’s easy for us to fall into a version of Christianity that believes that God is supposed to make our lives go well, that His will is for us to get what we want. We have a picture of what we want our lives to be, and it is easy to fall into the rut of believing that God’s job is to make our pictures become reality.

Living with this “make me happy” god is destructive to our joy and freedom in Christ. If we are constantly bound to the circumstances we believe we need in order to be joyful, we have become the Lord of our own life—believing our destiny is in our own hands.

When we turn from our own ideas and commit our daily lives to His mission, we begin to walk more in step with Him. We take the humble posture of believing that God has us where we are for a reason. Even as we take steps or work toward the next thing, we can keep our hearts present in today. We can ask God to let us be more concerned for His mission and less concerned with our mission.

And in doing so, we start to see the many ways God will be present, active and engaged with our lives—in all our circumstances.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is my purpose? What am I chasing after? Why am I chasing it?
  2. If I had a magic eraser, what is one thing I’d take off my schedule tomorrow? (We don’t have the time to live our purpose if our time is filled with unimportant things.)
  3. Given your talents, passions and values, how could you use these resources to better serve God? How is God glorified when you’re following His purpose for your life?
  4. How will following our purpose force us to trust God more? What is God asking you to do today?

The Power of God

“One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: “Power belongs to you, God,” – Psalms 62:11

With all the movies out these days such as Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings, you have to wonder what it was like to live in those times and experience in real life what is now CGI computerized special effects. For example, in the story of Moses, God did amazing miracles over and over again right before their eyes, and yet the Israelites still struggled to believe. God turned the Nile to blood, sent all kinds of plagues, boils, darkness all over the land and the death of all the firstborn of Egypt. Yet, the Israelites are slow to learn and quick to grumble. It would seem virtually impossible for them to miss God’s power, goodness and guidance. But it didn’t end there.

When the Israelites reached the Red Sea, they were stuck with the Egyptian army closing fast.  God miraculously parted the Red Sea. Can you imagine what that must have been like? Could you ever forget such a moment? After crossing the sea and finding themselves hungry, God provided manna every day for forty years. When they were thirsty, water flowed from a rock. Yes, a rock. And, yet, still their hearts struggled with unbelief. At various points they thought it prudent to return to slavery in Egypt. Apparently, they thought the security of slavery was better than being out in the wilderness with God. The hope of the Promised Land was eclipsed by a fear of giants and battle odds stacked against them. More discontentment and grumbling.

How could they miss the power and miracle when it was staring them right in the face? But before we judge the Israelites too harshly, we need to evaluate our own trust and faith in God. I would hope that if I saw what the Israelites saw, I would both trust God and be in awe of His power.

Then I am reminded of my occasional wandering in the desert. Or my own deeper need and hunger for more of God. Like the Israelites, we are in need of the power and direction of God in our lives. When we try to do everything under our own power, and in the messiness and mundane moments of life, we need the power of God. Easter should remind is anew of God’s power and the impact it can have on our lives.

What I do know is that God called us to live out our faith. He called us to walk by faith, to take a risk on His power and His  promises to always be faithful. He called us to step out of our comfort zone and live the life we are supposed to live.

The promises given by Jesus about receiving power from God in Luke 24:49 says: ” And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Then there is Acts 1:8:  “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

No matter what we’re facing, God promises to show up in our difficult situations in a way that declares and reveals His power, glory and grace.

Discussion Question:

  1. Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ so important?
  2. How do you tap into the power of God? How does the power of God show up in our daily lives?
  3. Do you have seasons of life where you feel you are going it alone?
  4. How might knowing that God is present with you in the here and now impact your life? What are some of the implications of God being very present in your life?
  5. Pray and ask God to help you tap into His power.

The Fullness of God

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” – 1 Peter 1:3-9

Ask God to speak to you as you meditate on the above verses by answering these questions:

  1. What do these verses mean to you?
  2. Note the blessings God has given His people in 1:3-5. To the best of your understanding, what do each of these four blessings mean?
  3. What is the connection between knowing the blessings of 1:3-5 and having joy in trials in 1: 6-9?
  4. What would you change in your life/attitude as a result of these verses?

We would all like to experience more of God in our lives. God wants more for us than we could ever imagine or hope for. But how does one become full of God?

Ephesians 3:16-19 tells us: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

There it is—that we might be filled to all the fullness of God! That’s what we yearn for, what we are chasing, what we so desperately need. Wouldn’t it be incredible to be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God?

Being filled with all the fullness of God is not about what you do. To me, knowing how much God loves me and focused on His love for me, I would be full of Him. When God made you, He designed you to run at optimal level when you are filled with His love, like a NASCAR race car needs a certain type of fuel to run at an optimal level. When you realize how much God loves you and you feed on His love for you, you will experience the fullness of God. And fulness means to be full of everything God is to you and has for you.

Ephesians 3:30 tells you what happens when you experience the fullness of God: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,”

My prayer as a church and as individuals, is that we will experience the fulness of God in our lives in a real and tangible way.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does it mean to be be filled with the spirit? (Ephesians 3:16) Is this a one-time experience or a continual reality?
  2. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.” – Colosians. 2: 9–10. What does that verse mean to you?
  3. What might Paul be referring to by praying “that you may be filled with all the fullness of God?”  How do you think “breadth and length and height and depth” (verse 18) relate to this?
  4. Pray and seek God’s guidance on how to live a God filled life.

The Love of God

“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” – 1 Corinthians 2:4-5.

Easter demonstrates the power of God’s love. The power of God shows us that God is not a fairytale for grown-ups but a wonderful reality. Without the power of God, Christianity is empty. If all we have is theory, philosophy, theology and other intellectual arguments, we will never have a faith that changes the world. God is not a theory, He is real, He is love and power. The love of God must be the foundation for our faith.

The cross is the love of God. The resurrection is the power of God. But what if someone was to ask you what is the greatest demonstration of God’s love for you? According to the Apostle Paul, the greatest demonstration of God’s love for you and I is found at the Cross of Christ. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

There are people who believe that if God really loves us, He will give us that dream job. Or give us money. Or good health. Or a perfect spouse. Or possessions like a new car or a new home. But what happens when we lose that job, or spouse, or bonus, or our possessions or we get sick? Will we become cynical? Worse yet, will we doubt God’s love?

Even though everything else may be falling down around you; the Cross of Christ will always stand tall. The Bible says, “He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me— God sends forth his love and his faithfulness” (Psalm 57:3 LB). That’s what Jesus did on Easter. He sent Himself down from heaven to save us because of His love.

God’s power was demonstrated in His great love for us through Christ. Though we were helpless in our sin, Jesus willingly came and took our sins on Himself on the cross. He died, but He rose again. That same power that would willingly redeem the entire world through love, that would conquer death, went through the grave and out the other side to dwell inside each of us who are saved.

God’s love is a powerful force, wider than any chasm between enemies, waiting longer than you would ever run from it, going deeper than you would ever fall from it, lifting you higher than you could ever go without it. When you receive the spirit of Christ by faith, His power changes you from the inside out, allowing you to know a love that is unknowable.

During this Easter season my prayer is that you will understand that while we are flawed, God loves us perfectly and completely. And that the power of His love is always available to us.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are the unique characteristics of God’s love shown in Scripture?
  2. How is Jesus’ death an act of love?
  3. What is the best way to respond to God’s love?
  4. Why do you think that some people have such a hard time accepting God’s love? How can we ask God to help us in our ability to love?
  5. Why do you think the world is much more comfortable in thinking about love as a noun, rather than a verb?

Will You Stand?

“A small change can make a big difference. You are the only one who can make our world a better place to inhabit. So, don’t be afraid to take a stand.” -Ankita Singhai

Many people seek to better their lives by leaving, changing, swapping, or modifying their commitments. But, God’s Word holds up a beautiful value that, while difficult, leads to deep satisfaction and great reward: endurance. It requires that we take a stand in our faith journey and remain firm to the end.

“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” – 1 Timothy 6:11

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” – 1 Corinthians 16:13

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” – Ephesians 6:13

Ask God to speak to you as you meditate on the above verses by answering these questions:
1. What are these verses telling us?
2. What application do these verses have on my life?
3. What commands are there in these verses?

In this week’s message, we talked about the stand that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego took when asked to bow down to idols. But for this blog, I would like to outline another biblical story of someone taking a stand. That person is Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph was the man who buried Jesus. John 19:38 tells us: “Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.”  The facts were that he was a secret disciple of Jesus, but his fear of the Jews prevented him from taking a stand, even though he knew that he should have.

But now, Jesus is dead and His followers are hiding. Joseph gathered up his courage (Mark 15:43), and “went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body” so that he could give Him a proper burial. Joseph had nothing to gain and everything to lose by identifying himself with Jesus at this point in time. Jesus was dead and no one was expecting His resurrection. It would have been easier for Joseph to think this through and come to the conclusion that “Jesus was a good man and a prophet of God. It’s sad that this happened in such a grim manner, but life goes on. It will be better if I don’t cause waves or bring unnecessary attention on myself.” But in spite of the risks, Joseph came out of hiding and took a strong stand for Jesus by providing Him a proper burial. He gives us an example of taking a stand for Jesus in this hostile world.

No one knows why Joseph took this stand. Luke tells us that Joseph was “a good and righteous man, who was waiting for the kingdom of God” (23:50). Maybe the deciding factor was standing at the cross and watching Jesus die. Today on Good Friday, we celebrate the cross as the center of our faith. Paul summed up the core of the gospel, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). While we cannot stand and take in the events first hand, as Joseph and the others did that day, we should come often to the foot of the cross and think about its implications. If you go there often, you will not be the same. It will strengthen you to take a stand for Christ.

So take a stand. It my not be on a grand scale, but it doesn’t matter. Take a stand by your behavior, your attitude, and your quiet resolve not to compromise. Just “show up” in the sense of siding with Jesus, even if you aren’t clear about how to defend the faith. Show your commitment and love for the Savior, and He will use you as He used Joseph, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do we know when to take a bold stand and when to be more diplomatic and polite?
  2. How can a people-pleaser learn to become a God-pleaser?
  3. God is bigger than anything we will ever face in our lives. What challenge or obstacle are you currently facing that you need God’s strength to help you endure through it? Does it involve taking a stand?
  4. In what ways do you experience God’s presence on a daily basis?
  5. Pray and ask God for the wisdom and the courage for when and how to take a stand for Him.

Do The Right Thing

“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” – C.S. Lewis

Sailboating looks like a whole lot of fun to me. A day on the open water sailing out to Shell island or other places around Panama City accompanied by mild winds and calm seas seems like a wonderful experience. On the other hand, because battling with nature is not high on my list of sailing preferences, taking the right steps at the right time to pilot the boat to your destination is critical in good and bad weather. The ability to predetermine what is right, doing it consistently and with grace was the core of the message on Sunday.

As Christians, we also need to do the right things at the right time. James 4:17 says, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” Doing the right things will change your steps in life and how you choose to walk in them. So the questions are: “Am I doing the right things? How can I be sure I am doing the right things? And how do I do them with grace?”

In the story of the Fiery furnace and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the three men predetermined what was the right response ahead of time. They didn’t wait until the moment of truth to decide what their course of action was. And even more importantly, they chose to trust and follow God no matter what the circumstances were, which in this case was being burned alive. We too need to predetermine our response. This is done by remembering the attributes of God: perfect holiness, righteousness, justice, goodness, love, mercy, grace, faithfulness and truthfulness. If we base our actions on these attributes we will make better decisions. Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

The goal is to do right all of the time. Doing what is right even when everybody else is doing something different and even when nobody is looking. You can do the right thing when you focus on the greatness of God and remind yourself for who you are living for. We need to learn to sort through and decide what input we will allow to influence our decisions and reject or disallow those sources that cause us to choose to do wrong. Think and reflect upon any tendency to make bad choices over and over again. Find that reason, source, or input and use that as a lesson for the future. Begin to review your decisions before you make them and then make the right decisions.

And when you do the right thing, do it with grace and love. We spend a lot of time on what grace is, but not as much on what grace does. Grace changes us in so many ways. It is more than being forgiven and going to heaven. Grace is also the changes in our hearts and attitudes. Grace is the voice that calls us to change, and then gives us the power to pull it off. And that includes doing the right things the right way. We can show grace because God is with and in us. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” 

We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can always control how we choose to respond. In those moments, we need to do the right things with grace. And we need to choose to keep a positive attitude and thankful heart regardless of what we’re going through. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you define “Integrity?” Are there degrees of doing what is right? How does doing what is right affect the way you feel about yourself?
  2. How do you decide what is right and what is wrong? Is it hard to predetermine what is the right thing to do? Why or why not?
  3. In what area do you need to make better decisions? How does grace enter into the decision making process?
  4. In what ways does grace play a role in doing what is right? Does grace change the way we look at what is right?
  5. Random acts of kindness go a long way. You can make a difference in someone’s life today. Share kind random acts with others. Do it in love. Be a blessing to someone.

Easter Could Change Everything

“Our hearts were made for you, O God, and they are restless until they find their rest in You.” – St. Augustine.

Can you think of a day that changed your life? Most of us probably can. Maybe the day that changed your life was a great day, or maybe it was not so great. One of my favorite “life-changing” days was the day when I married my beautiful wife, Angela. We spent a lot of time preparing for that day. It was a great day, filled with happiness, joy, tears, laughter and celebration. But, it wasn’t that one day or that one event that changed my life. Rather, getting married changed everything from that day forward.

This weekend, we remember the most important life changing day in history. The day that Jesus died on the cross and the day He rose from the dead. We will reflect on the painful, horrific death He experienced on our behalf. And we will reflect on the resurrection because Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, is alive. The Resurrection is all about assurance, confidence, and boldness. It’s about where we are in life, where we are headed, and where we are going to end up—in the presence of the living God instead of eternally separated from Him.

Many of us will invite family and friends to join us. Easter is the day when people desire to go to church. It is also one of the best opportunities for people who are far from the heart of God to have a life changing experience by hearing and accepting the gospel message. In fact, Easter should only be the beginning. It could be the day that changes every part of their lives for the rest of their lives. James 5:20 says, “…that person who brings him back to God will have saved a wandering soul from death, bringing about the forgiveness of his many sins.” (TLB)

The day that Angela and I were married was incredible. Every year on our anniversary we take time to look back and remember that wonderful day, but our marriage is much more than a wedding day and a series of anniversaries. We spend the other three hundred and sixty-four days a year loving one another and fulfilling the promises that we made on that day. With each anniversary that passes I love her more. Not because of the anniversary, but because that day marks another year that I have spent learning about her and loving her. When we love each other well, anniversaries are celebrations of that love.

The same can be said of the unchurched people we invite to Northstar on Easter. An invitation could have a major impact on their lives. They may have a need right now for which only Jesus is exactly what they need. Maybe they have been searching for answers. It could be the start of a relationship with the risen Savior, one that grows day by day, year by year. We believe God is doing something powerful now in the days leading up to Easter.  And, this weekend could be one that changes everything for you and the people you invite.

As we approach Easter, let’s make a deliberate effort to lift our focus away from our own concerns and to allow the Holy Spirit to show us what moves the heart of God. Who is a person around you that is on your mind or that you are concerned for? Talk to God about them. Is God stirring your heart for the people around you? Let’s trust God for their salvation and for our church to make ‘God-connections’ as we share the Easter message this weekend. Because people can only experience real life change if we invite them. Easter changes everything and my prayer is that it changes everything for thousands of people at all our campuses.

Let’s pray and believe together that God will reveal Himself to us in a fresh way as we head into Easter. And, that He would allow us moments with others that would be like the spark that begins a fire of Salvation in the lives of people all over the Panama City and the Pensacola areas.

Discussion Question:

  1. Pick one or two people to invite to Easter services.
  2. Pray that the results of the Easter services will continue to be evident in the days, weeks, and months to come.
  3. Perform acts of kindness with several people.
  4. Pray that lives will be touched in a special way this Easter.