Place of renewal

Isaiah 2:1-4

When will the wars cease, and how long until the fighting among nations and people end? It seems that the prevalent focus of the thoughts of men today are on lust, greed, and violence. Love does exist amongst the thick darkness that overshadows the earth, but it seems as thought evil is making a greater impact in the hearts of men, than the voice of those who believe the truth. “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:1-7). We are living out this prophecy today, as we see the state of the world mirroring every word written in the second book of Timothy. Although it has been prophesied that sin will run its course in the earth, the prophet Isaiah tells us of a more assuring prophecy when the Kingdom of Heaven will be established on the earth.

Isaiah wrote in verse two, “in the last days, the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. He continued to stress how God would teach the people His ways, and they will respond in obedience. During this time, violence will be no more, because in the last rebellion of satan and man against God and Christ, at the end of the Millennium, there will be no manufacturer of weapons, or any learning of the art of war. God will soon rain down fire from Heaven that will end all rebellion on the earth. Mankind will be renewed back to the state in which God intended. Where there was sin, now there is forgiveness. Where hate took residence, love served hate its eviction notice, and moved in permanently. When sadness, sorrow, and shame once turned the hearts of many, peace will pour into all those broken hearts, and fill them to the brim. Look forward to the day when this evil world will perish, and God will takes us to a place where love flows freely, violence is nonexistent, and we can bask in the glory of our God, and sing eternal praises to His name.

Walk in love,

Ell

Called to proclaim the resurrection

Matthew 28:1-15

In this lesson, I’d like to focus on Christ’s resurrection from a different perspective; a more heavenly one. The Bible tells us clearly how Jesus lived on the earth, how he died, was buried, and resurrected with all power, but what the Bible doesn’t mention is how Heaven continued to operate while Jesus was absent. We learn in the book of John, that in the beginning was Christ, Christ was with God, and Christ was God. Jesus was there from the beginning of time, and was responsible for all things that were created. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. So, when God created a body to house the Savior, Heaven temporary lost one of its most valuable residents.

While fulfilling His mission on the earth, Jesus left a void in Heaven that could never be filled. I’m certain the angels and other heavenly beings continued to operate according to their godly functions and duties, but I can guarantee that things were a lot different up there while Christ was on the earth, correcting all of man’s mistakes. Imagine how parents feel in the moments their children go off to college. They spent countless hours per day, raising, nurturing, and caring for the needs of their child since birth. Now that the child has grown up and matured, the mere thought of being separated from them brings tears to the parent’s eyes. Although Christ left Heaven to come to earth, He was always in close contact with His Father, but He had a very important assignment to carry out, that required Him to lose all, so that we could gain all.

When Jesus was resurrected, I can imagine how excited Heaven was, as they prepared to welcome home the Son of God. Not only did Christ ascend to the Father, but He brought back a great number of Saints who had died years before He came to the earth. I mentioned a few lessons ago that we celebrate Easter, not for the candy, the bunnies, and the colored eggs, but to remember the glorious day, when Christ conquered death, hell, and the grave, and removed the stain of sin that had once bound all men to eternal damnation.

We are to spread the word of Christ’s resurrection, because many today attempt to destroy the faith of believers in the resurrection, while teaching the lie that the disciples of Jesus came by night and stole Him away while the watchers and elders slept. Many men back then were paid handsomely to protect this lie, but the truth of Jesus’ resurrection can never be hid; there’s too much evidence. Our lives are a direct representation of the love that Christ once shared in the earth. When we obey God’s commands, and commit to serving Him, the world will see a difference in how we carry ourselves, and possibly have a change of heart. Rather than boast in your money, accomplishments, social status, YouTube likes, Twitter or Instagram followers, boast in the Lord, and in His power that raised Christ from the grave.

Walk in love,

Ell

Reigning triumphant with Christ

Revelation 20:1-6

Most stories presented in books, movies, or television shows, typically follow a basic pattern of events, where the good contends with the bad, the bad overwhelms the good for a season, but in the end, the good prevails. I’m a huge fan of Marvel and DC comics, partly because I’ve stored a collection of cards and books since the early 90’s, and also because the more modern movies have been really good. Heroes usually struggle against their rivals and foes in the comics, but they get the last laugh in the end.

In real life, similar stories can be found in the lives of all those who are heroes for the Gospel of Christ. All who are baptized in God’s Spirit, have been blessed with immense power and authority to do things that can never be accomplished by normal human strength. In The eyes of God, we are heroes, but have to contend against our arch nemesis, satan, and his band of evil spirits. There will be days when we will struggle, and maybe even fall a few times, because satan’s schemes can be very enticing, but our temporary downfalls don’t compare to our eternal victory.

In John’s vision, in our text, the Spirit of God showed him very unique, and powerful things to come. It appears that the church today, is on the losing end of the great spiritual battle, as we see good men and women fall to the wickedness of satan, but his works will soon come to an end, when the angel comes down from Heaven, binds him in a great chain, then casts that old serpent into the bottomless pit for a thousand years. This is only the beginning of his eternal beatdown. Believers need not worry concerning our adversary, because his defeat is inevitable. We are guaranteed victory in this life, and the next, so we shouldn’t fear nor faint when our lives are attacked. Knowing that our living won’t be in vain, should motivate us to push harder in our witnessing and ministering efforts. Because of Christ, and His unbelievable example He left for us to follow, we can overcome evil with good. We don’t have to submit, nor give in to the pressure of this new world order. Times are changing, and many are falling, but the power of God that created everything, still exists to be used by His children to root out the seed of wickedness that tries to settle in the lives of God’s people, to pull down every stronghold that is set to fight against the believer’s purpose and mission, to destroy every plan that satan sets in motion to ensnare the Saints, to build and edify the body of believers, and to plant seeds of love in every person we meet.

Many of the Saints have, and still will suffer in this life for spreading the testimony of Jesus, not worshipping the beast nor his image, and for not taking his mark upon their foreheads nor their hands, but all those who are slain for Christ sake, will reign with the Savior a thousand years. “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (vs. 6).

Walk in love,

Ell

Mary meets Jesus outside the tomb

John 20:11-18

Have you ever heard of a grave or tomb being used twice? Well, neither have I. When a person dies, where their body is laid, is usually where it will be forever, but the tomb where the body of Jesus was placed would only occupy the space for three days, then it could be reused by whomever desired it.

Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus had to rush and bury Jesus’ body before the special Sabbath began at sunset Wednesday to sunset Thursday. They were unable to complete the anointing process of His body due to the coming of the sabbath, so they wrapped the body in linen clothes with spices, as the Jews typically prepared bodies for burial. Days later, Mary, and the other Mary (as the text reads), came early in the morning while it was still dark, to the tomb. Matthew’s account goes in-depth, and reveals that as the women approached the tomb, there was a great earthquake, as the angel of the Lord descended from Heaven, and rolled back the stone from the door and sat upon it. The appearance of the angel was so fascinating, until it scared the keepers of the tomb nearly to death. The women were reassured that Jesus had risen, as He said, and showed them where His body was laid. In John’s book, we read where Jesus told Mary not to touch Him, because He had not yet ascended to His Father, but the book of Matthew shows us where He had returned from His post resurrection ministry, and allowed the women to worship at His feet. Jesus told the women to not be afraid, and instructed them to go tell His brethren to meet Him in Galilee. Jesus no doubt used this endearing term to let His disciples know that He would not hold a grudge against them for their past behaviors and unbelief, because all their past was forgiven and forgotten forever.

This same redemption is readily available to all who accept Christ into their hearts today. Jesus’ death and resurrection was a plan set by God that satan didn’t see coming. While Satan was certainly more brilliant than any human on Earth, he isn’t omniscient or omnipresent, and totally missed what Jesus was planning to do. Salvation is what redeems men back to God, and the enemy hates it. Let’s try celebrating this Easter season different, by excluding all the bunnies and baskets of sweet treats, and focus on the true meaning of the day. Just as Mary and the others were overjoyed at the sight of the resurrected Savior, we too should give glory, honor, and praise to the One who died, was buried, and arose so that we could be relevant again in the eyes of the Creator.

Walk in love,

Ell

Guards secure the tomb

Matthew 27:62-66

There are many who downplay the death of Jesus on the cross, because as God in the flesh, they believe that His suffering wasn’t as bad as it would have been for a normal person. On the contrary, Jesus felt the excruciating pain of every whip, slap, beating, stabbing, crown of thorns, and nails in His hands and feet. Yes He was the Son of God, but His flesh was as real as a 100 dollar bill.

As Jesus hung on the cross, His strength began to quickly fade as the hours went by. The soldiers sat and watched Jesus as He suffered, and continued to mock Him. Darkness covered the land for three hours, then all of a sudden, Jesus cried with a loud voice saying, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me”? This was a rather interesting thing to say, because there had to be some form of disconnect between Jesus and His Father, to evoke Him to say such words. Could it have been that bearing the sins of all mankind carried such a stench, until God couldn’t stand to embrace His Son for a moment? I’m not certain, but only assuming. Something happened that left Jesus feeling alone, and whatever it was, it didn’t last very long, because after He gave up the ghost, the power that rested in Him began to manifest before the eyes of all those near Golgotha. In an instant, the veil that covered the place into which the high priest went to atone for the sins of the people was torn in two, from the top to the bottom. The whole earth began to quake, or shake and tremble, causing the rocks to break apart. These events troubled the men in the area, and caused them to finally see that Jesus was truly the Son of God.

It’s uncertain where Jesus’ disciples were during these moments, but there was a follower in particular, who made it his business to provide a proper place to lay His body. There was a rich man from Arimathaea named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus, who begged Pilate for Jesus’s body. His intentions were to lay the body of Christ in a new tomb, that he had hewn out in the rock. Others watched, including Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joses, as Joseph and others placed Jesus’ body in the tomb, then rolled a great stone over the entrance. So, it was done. Jesus died, and fulfilled His mission, but guess who remembered His words concerning rising in three days? No, not the disciples, but the Pharisees and chief priests! They were afraid that the disciples of Jesus would steal His body away after three days, proving that His word was true, so they initiated a watch to guard the tomb until the third day. They also reinforced the tomb entrance by stretching a cord across the stone and an official seal with clay was fastened at each end, so it could be detected if the grave was opened or tampered with. These guys were something else, and never failed to prove how lost they were. What the men were oblivious to, was the fact that Jesus could lay down His life, and had the power to take it again. No matter how secure the men made the sepulchre, it would never be enough to keep the resurrected Christ bound.

Walk in love,

Ell

Jesus crucified

Matthew 27:32-44

When evil people despise the good, there’s nothing that will stop their desires to exercise their wicked ploys, even without proof of wrong against the innocent. Although the death of Jesus was inevitable, the men who accused Him falsely were given more than ample opportunity to have a change of heart, and submit to the Savior’s message.

When Jesus was finally apprehended by the chief priests and elders, they brought Him before the governor to be judged. Pilate could find no wrong in Jesus, and was even warned by his wife that it was revealed in a dream that Jesus was innocent, so he washed his hands as to not be responsible for an innocent man’s blood. He extended mercy and offered to release Jesus, or a notable prisoner called Barabbas, but the people cried for Jesus to be crucified and Barabbas to be released. These loveless and stiffnecked men vowed to assume all responsibility for the death of Jesus, and accepted that His blood be on them, and their children. If only they could see the eventual consequences of their decision, they would have changed their minds, because they would receive the same kind of punishment, if not worse, when the Romans would crucify them in large numbers, until there would be no more crosses or places to put them.

Jesus’ journey to the cross was a sad and gruesome experience. After Barabbas was released, the governor then took Jesus and scourged Him. A scourge was a Roman implement for severe bodily punishment. It consisted of a handle with nearly a dozen leather cords with jagged pieces of metal or bone at each end to make the blow more painful and effective. If that wasn’t enough to make your skin crawl, and and your fists clinch, the soldiers of the governor took Jesus to the open courtyard and stripped Him, placed a crown of platted thorns on His head, mocked Him, spit on Him, beat him in the head with a scepter (a symbolic ornamental staff or wand held in the hand by a ruling monarch as an item of royal or imperial insignia), then led Him away to be crucified. I want to pause for a moment, and consider how those men could harm Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, and have no remorse for doing so. If someone was to spit on you, how would that make you feel? If that same person beat you in the head with a stick, and mocked you, would you feel inclined to befriend them? This is what Jesus experienced, if not worse, and He’s God’s only begotten Son. He could have easily called down a legion of angels to come to His rescue, but He took all that punishment, shame, and embarrassment, because our lives were at stake as well.

If Jesus had not died, our sins would never have been forgiven. If our sins were not forgiven, we would all be destined to spend eternity in doom. If our eternal purpose was to live in everlasting suffering, then our lives today would be meaningless. There would be no reason to live, if Christ had not died for our sins. But because He did I can walk with my head high, knowing that the love of God flows through me, and I can look forward to a place not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Jesus died, so that we could live. Don’t let His death be in vain. Live every day showing the world the love of God is real, and that they can find their purpose only in Jesus Christ.

Walk in love,

Ell

Judas returns money, hangs himself

Matthew 27:3-10

Why do the innocent suffer, at the expense of wicked men’s agendas? Throughout history, countless people have died prematurely, because evil men abused their power and authority for reasons to satisfy selfish motives and immoral desires. Even today, innocent men, women, and children are at the mercy of unjust governments, judges, and others in authority. Although vile men seem to reign in victory now, the time is soon approaching when they’ll be judged for their works.

The men who sought to kill Jesus tried over and over to devise a plan to take Him out, but their efforts proved unsuccessful. The chief priests and elders who took counsel to entrap Jesus needed a man on the inside, to help bring their plan into fruition. Judas stayed in the company of Jesus long enough to understand the value of love, and how it should be applied in the earth. He witnessed many miracles performed by Jesus, and had the power of God at his disposal, to cast out evil spirits as well. The question that comes to mind is, why didn’t he deal with the evil spirit that encouraged him to betray the very one who came to deliver him from sin? It’s kind of like standing in the pouring rain, but you remain as dry as a bone. At some point, he should have brought his evil thoughts under subjection, and asked Jesus to help him deal with his struggle. Instead, he allowed his lust for money to cloud his judgment, thus making him responsible for initiating the final moments of Jesus’ time on the earth.

After selling Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver, Judas saw how the men took his Master, and led him to be judged on false accusations. This scene struck a nerve in Judas’ mind, and caused him to have a change of heart. He felt bad for what he had done, and tried to return the money to the chief priests, in hopes that he could redeem himself for giving up an innocent man. His attempt was futile, as the men told Judas to keep the money, because they got what they desired. Verse five reads, “And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.” Were Judas’ actions pardoned by God, or was what he did the unforgivable sin? When we make mistakes, if we are sincere in our confession of repentance, God will forgive us. The problem is, after God has forgiven us and forgotten our sins no more, we have a tendency to continually remind ourselves of the wrongs we committed. We beat ourselves up so, until some of us actually cause physical harm to our bodies, as Judas did (suicide). God knows we will make mistakes, but He doesn’t want us to wallow in the sins we commit, especially after we repent of them. Judas probably could have bounced back from his error at some point, but killing himself didn’t put a halt to the actions he set in motion. Maybe the disciples could have helped build him up again, or even allow him time away to heal, but ending his life didn’t solve anything.

The key to overcoming your past is, giving it to God, and not beating yourself up about it (something I work on daily). God is sensitive to our weaknesses, and gives strength to all who need it. Try your best not to make the same mistakes, and be sensitive to others who do, because we can all slip up at anytime.

Walk in love,

Ell