Life After Death

John 11 tells the story of a friend of Jesus named Lazarus. The story begins by telling us that Lazarus is sick and his family calls Jesus to come, but Jesus doesn’t come right away and Lazarus dies. A few days later Jesus arrives, goes to the tomb where Lazarus is laid, and calls out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” – and he does. Fully alive. Resurrected. Given New Life.

Several weeks ago I was invited to participate in an online group called The Lazarus Experiment which posed the question, “Do you think Lazarus lived the same way after his resurrection experience as he did before? How do you think his life changed?” Then we were challenged to live our own lives as Lazarus would have when given his New Life – because, after all, we, too, are a resurrected people given New Life. The daily devotions and stories that generated out of that group were amazing, wonderful, inspiring, and challenging.

So I ask you – how would you be changed if you were given a new lease on life? A new opportunity to tell people you love them, to apologize for things you should have apologized for but pride got in your way, to hug those around you and not let go, to do all the things you keep saying you are going to get around to one day but never do, to stop worrying about what other people think and follow your heart, to tell people about Jesus and the New Life He offers? What do you think Lazarus would have done when he came out of that tomb? I bet he told everyone he knew and anyone else that would listen about what Jesus Christ had done for him. Will you do the same? I hope so. That’s my new challenge, to think like Laz and ask myself regularly, “What would Laz do?”

To learn more, read:

  • John 11
  • Ephesians 2
  • 1 Corinthians 15

“I Am the resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26

 

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Saved By Grace

I grew up in the Bible Belt, the nickname for the deep south given because of the church’s influence and the high number of Christians. Most of us born in the south back in the olden days, the nineteen hundreds, grew up in church. People were identified by what church they went to, “They go to the big Baptist church downtown,” etc. I didn’t know too many people that weren’t identified with some sort of church. Now, I have been involved with the Methodist church, the Baptist church, the Presbyterian church, and several non-denominational churches over the years. One thing I’ve noticed about the different denominations – they aren’t so different when it comes down to what we believe. We all believe we are Saved by Grace. What does that mean?

“Saved by grace” means that we are saved from eternal punishment for our sins because of God’s love for us and not because of anything we do to earn it. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” God loves us because He loves us, the end. We don’t have to earn God’s love, it is a free gift. That’s called grace. We don’t deserve it, but He gives it anyway. We can have faith in His grace and not have to depend on our good works. Good thing, huh? We’d all be in trouble if that weren’t the case.

This is an important concept to understand because there are many people who feel they should DO certain things, boxes they should check off, actions that are required of them before they can be ‘saved.’ That is not what the Bible teaches. Paul says it this way in Ephesians 2:8-9, “You were saved by faith in God, who treats us much better than we deserve. This is God’s gift to you, and not anything you have done on your own. It isn’t something you have earned, so there is nothing you can brag about.” (CEV)

So, does this mean that we can accept Christ as our Savior and keep on sinning? What if we become a Christian and then keep on acting the same as we did before? Didn’t we already learn that we become new creatures when we accept Jesus? Well, to me this is where grace comes in. Yes, when we accept Christ we are saved. Period. But it is my personal belief that it is at that point that we start becoming new creatures because the Holy Spirit comes to live and work inside us. The more we know about God and His love for us, the more we desire to live in such a way that we bring glory and honor to Him. Is it an overnight change? Sometimes. Sometimes it takes a while. It can be a gradual thing for some of us. The more we invest ourselves in knowing Christ, the more like Him we become. From the time we accept Christ, we are saved and we begin to grow more and more like Christ. In John 3, we read that Jesus said we must be born again. I think He understands that just like babies, we need time to grow, develop, mature. Thankfully, we have the Holy Spirit working in us to bring about the new creation. That’s what sets Christians apart. We believe that we are saved not because of what we do, but because of what God does. That’s called Grace. Isn’t it amazing?

To learn more, read:

  • Romans 3, 6, 8, and 15
  • Ephesians 2:1-10
  • 2 Timothy 2

“But these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have LIFE in His Name.” John 20:31

Posted in Becoming a Christian, Grace | 8 Comments

His Mercies Are New Every Morning

If you were to read the first part of Lamentations you would hear the writer crying out about how hard his life has been, about how everything that could go wrong did, and then it got worse. Poor guy. Talk about being raked over the coals. We might think we’ve got it bad, but this guy probably had it worse. In fact the whole book tells about a terrible time in the history of the nation of Israel. A lament is a sad song or poem and the whole book tells the sad story. But right at the end of chapter 3, he says – “Yet hope returns when I remember this one thing: The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise. The Lord is all I have, and so in him I put my hope.” (Lamentations 3:21-24 NRSV)

There’s a hymn based on this passage:

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Wow. Every morning. Can you imagine? Yes, we endure hard things and sometimes it feels like the sun will never shine again. But this tells us that every morning brings new mercy because of His steadfast love. And this gives us hope. Don’t lose hope. It might seem dark right now, but the sun will come up in the morning, and with it – new mercies. I don’t know about you, but that brings me great comfort. I have been through hard times, and you have, too. But just like the writer of Lamentations 3, we must choose to find hope in the knowledge that His love, His mercy, and His faithfulness will outlast our troubles. Keep reading Lamentations 3 and you find, “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him.” (vs 25) Are you seeking Him and His mercy? I hope so. That’s where hope is found.

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The Game Changer

There have been many events that changed history, some for the better, some for the worse. But none have changed history the way that Resurrection Day did. For three years, Jesus taught His followers, performed many miracles, and He challenged the beliefs of His people and their understanding of their God. He was already one of those people who was changing history. And then He was put through a trial for doing these things and His people turned against Him and had Him killed. He lived during the time of the Roman Empire and the form of capital punishment of the time was crucifixion – hanging from a cross until you died. He was first beaten and then forced to carry the heavy cross up a mountain to the place of death. As He hung from the cross it seemed this great man’s story was over. It had been a great story and people would never forget Him. Many believed He was a prophet, they knew He was a healer, and His teachings would go down in history with other great philosophers.

But there was a point in the story where everything changed. Everything. History changed. The future changed. Religion changed. The whole world was changed. Today, we call the event that changed everything Easter. Resurrection Day. The Day of the Empty Tomb. After Jesus died, His body should have been prepared for burial by His loved ones. But it was the day before the Sabbath, their Holy Day, and His family couldn’t touch a dead body. So, they lay Him in a tomb which was cut out of a hillside like a cave, and planned to come back after the Sabbath to complete the burial process. They knew this great Man from history had a lot of people who followed Him and they were concerned someone might try to take His body, so they sealed His tomb/cave by rolling a large stone in front of the opening to keep out anyone who might try to get IN. It probably didn’t occur to them that Someone might need to get OUT, but that is exactly what happened.

Jesus had been trying to tell His followers that after His death, He would see them again. He even told them He’d meet them in Galilee three days after His death. They didn’t get it, but He was serious. On the third day of His ‘death,’ He left the tomb. Alive. Some of the women who were His followers, friends, and caretakers, went to the tomb to begin the burial process. Only they found an empty tomb. An Angel even asked the question, “Why do you look for the living among dead? He is not here. He is risen.” Game Changer. He is not dead. He is risen. And just like He said He would, He met His disciples in Galilee where He spent another 40 days with them. Alive. Not dead. He had conquered death itself. Game changer.

So what does this mean to you and me? It means He proved that death wasn’t the end. It means that we are followers of a Risen Savior. He killed death so that we might have life. It means that we don’t die a ‘forever’ death, but we, too, have a life after death – a life in His Kingdom. He calls us to join Him there to spend eternity with Him. He told His disciples once, “In my Father’s house are many rooms, and I am going there to prepare a place for you.” So, where do you want to spend your eternity? Jesus has asked you to come and live with Him in His Father’s House, Heaven. Will you make the choice to follow Him? Will you choose to have NEW LIFE IN CHRIST?

To learn more, read:

  • Matthew 27:57-28:20
  • Mark 15:42-16:18
  • Luke 24:1-49
  • John 20:1-31

“But these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have LIFE in His Name.” John 20:31

Posted in Becoming a Christian, Grace | 2 Comments

What is the Bible?

suz bible

For Christians, the Bible is a very important book! It is our handbook, our instruction manual, our guide to understanding our Creator, our Savior, and even ourselves. It is a family scrapbook with stories of our ancestors. In it we learn the history of the nation of Israel and how we are connected to it even if we aren’t Jewish. We read about Jesus Christ, His life and teachings, His sacrifice, and His gift of eternal salvation from an everlasting death. The Bible is our source of information, comfort, example, guidance, and faith.

The Bible tells us the story of God and how He has related to mankind throughout history. When we read God’s Word, we allow Him to speak His truth to us, filling us with a gradual understanding of who He is and the knowledge of His Heavenly Kingdom. It has been said that when we pray, we talk to God; but when we read His Word, we listen to God speaking to us.

The first thing we need in order to read and understand the Bible is a relationship with Jesus Christ, otherwise we are just reading an interesting book. Reading the Bible can be confusing at times, but we can receive guidance through the Holy Spirit when we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Have you done this? If not, read the post called “Accepting Christ” located on the left-hand side bar.

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Why Should I Read the Bible?

The Bible has been called the “least-read best-seller.” We live in a world that is blessed to have the Bible in writing in a language we can understand. There have been thousands of generations before us that did not have this opportunity. And yet, people in our day and age know less about the Bible than any other Christians in history.

But let’s face it, reading the Bible may not seem like a project you want to take on. It’s a big book. Most of us are busy from the time we wake up until we finally hit the sack at the end of the day. We have to-do lists that aren’t getting done. Our lives are so over-scheduled that we don’t have time for doing anything “extra.” So reading a book that can be over a thousand pages long just seems out of the question, right? How can we possibly make that kind of commitment?

I’d like to challenge you to start reading the Bible today. You can do it any way that works for you, just start reading. I believe that God will lead you, guide you, help you, and bless you.

Still asking, “But WHY?” Well, here’s what the Bible says about reading the Bible:

  • “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name.” John 20:31
  • “Every Word of the Lord is flawless, He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” Proverbs 30:5
  • “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a Light to my path.” Psalm 119:105

You can find a Bible at a bookstore, in libraries, in used book stores or thrift shops, online, etc. Or you can read an online version of the Bible for free. Check out www.Biblegateway.com or www.bible.com or any number of places. Not sure how to find the Bible you want to read? See the post titled “Which Bible Should I Read?”

 

 

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Which Bible Should I Read?

There are many different translations of the Bible available today. Just go in the bookstore and look at the shelves in the Religion section. It can seem overwhelming. Here are some general guidelines to the differences between some of the most popular ones.

The King James Version is filled with what I call “fancy language.” It was written during the same time as Mr. Shakespeare’s famous – and hard to read – works. Newer versions of the Bible have since been written to make it a little easier to understand. The New American Standard is one step closer to our own way of talking, but it still has a bit of the beautiful English flavor. The NIV, or the New International Version, uses a more current style and vocabulary for today and is very popular. The Good News Bible, or the Message Bible, uses an even easier vocabulary. These newer versions all tell the same thing in the same order. The chapter and verse divisions are the same from one Bible to the next. They just use different vocabulary words.

The important thing to remember is that you need to find one that works for you. There are times I use all of them for different reasons. I know people who really love the Shakespearean English of the King James Version and others who say the Message Bible is the only one they can understand. I like a middle-of-the-road approach. I like the NIV for daily reading. I do have other versions, though, that I often turn to for different reasons. If we go back to the original languages the Bible was written in, we’d have a much better understanding. But, I don’t speak Hebrew, Latin, or Greek, so I have to decide which translation makes the most sense to me.  Here are a few of the more common English Bibles available today:

  • The Authorized, or King James Version (AV or KJV)
  • New American Standard Bible (NASB)
  • New International Version (NIV)
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • New King James Version (NKJV)
  • New Century Version (NCV)
  • New Living Translation (NLT)
  • Today’s English Version (TEV)
  • The Good News Bible (GNB)
  • The Living Bible (TLB)
  • The Message Bible (TMB)

There are several websites where you can read the Bible in different English translations or even in other languages. One that I use all the time is www.biblegateway.com. It’s neat to look up a familiar verse or story and read it in several different translations. Even though they all say the same thing, the way they say it can be VERY different!

Some other features you might see when you look for a Bible:

*Study Bibles – The top of every page is Scripture, the bottom of the page has notes meant to give you a little more information

*Red Letter Version – The words of Jesus are printed in red

*Concordance – There is a topical index in the back to help you find certain words or topics

*Paraphrased – Not a word-for-word translation, but an idea-by-idea translation

*Chronological Bible – Follows the events of the Bible chronologically, the Books are not it traditional order.

 

 

 

 

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