Hope Is Rising

Text: Malachi 4:1-5, Luke 24:1-35

But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.” —Malachi 4:2

Imagine trying to help out the sun by lighting a candle on a sunny day. What a futile intent that would be! It would be as effective as trying to “improve” the work of salvation Jesus wrought for us by adding to it with our own works of righteousness. There is absolutely nothing we can do to “better” God’s grace, improve His redemptive plan, or enhance His divine timing for deliverance.

Perhaps in the age of Coronavirus we need to consider that it’s not more candles we need; OUR ONLY HOPE IS THE RISING OF THE SON. We are not in control. We are being forced to accept this, and learn—or relearn—to trust the heart of the One Who is in control.

In the fourth chapter of Malachi, we find the last few prophetic words of the Old Testament before God’s oracular voice becomes silent for some 400 years. Malachi warned Israel to hold fast to God’s law, to know that a day of reckoning was looming for evildoers, and a new hope would be rising for those who fear God’s name. They were exhorted to look with expectancy toward a covenant renewal in which “the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.” From the time of early Christians like Justin Martyr to today, Christians have regarded the Sun of Righteousness as a Messianic reference to Jesus.

We never need to despair when God seems silent, because what He has already pronounced is invigorating enough—if we will only remember… if we only pull back the curtain.

Malachi’s generation needed to remember that it wasn’t a matter of “if” the Sun of Righteousness would come, but “when” He appeared, all things would be made new. It’s what God does! He brings healing in His wings. Restoration. Deliverance. Renewal.

On this particularly unique Easter Sunday, when churches across our land are empty due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s vital that we remember that the tomb is also empty. That image should stimulate your worship. The Sun of Righteousness is alive indeed! That empty tomb still proclaims that hell has been defeated, sins have been forgiven, shame has lost its grip on you, condemnation has been evicted, and redemption is your new song.

Maybe instead of trying to figure out how to light more candles in this pandemic in which we find ourselves, we just need to pull back the curtain on what has already dawned and let hope arise. Many of the disciples didn’t recognize Jesus when He appeared to them after the resurrection (Luke 24:16, 37; John 20:14; 21:4). I find that intriguing being that these were those closest and most intimate with Him during His tenure on earth. Whether it was due to doubt and unbelief, or simply Jesus appearing to them in a new way, they initially struggled to accept that HOPE was alive. It is encouraging to me that even the most faithful of Christ’s followers wrestled with apprehension. But the curtain was inevitably pulled back and the Sun of Righteousness brought healing in their lives.

Where might you need to simply put down the candle of control and just open up the drapes to what God has already dawned? Pulling back those blinds will radiate light on our most gripping fears, our darkest sin, and our stubborn pride. Hope is rising? Will you go out to meet it?

If you are unsure about your relationship with God, go here to find peace.

PRAYER

Father, You are good, and You are perfect. There is nothing errant about your agenda, your ways, or your timing. The errors are within us. We struggle to understand. We struggle to believe. We struggle to do right. We struggle to remain faithful. We struggle to surrender. Holy Spirit, our Counselor, help us to come to the end of ourselves and all of our striving for control, to pull back those drapes and let the Sun of Righteousness illuminate our lives with hope, peace, and renewal. Bring us into holy and humble submission, we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Questions for Reflection, Small Group or Family Discussion:

  1. In your opinion, what is the most significant event in history?
  2. Read Luke 24:13-35. How had the events of the last few days crushed the expectations of the two men talking with Jesus (v.21)? Why did Jesus explain the Scriptures to the men (vv.25-27)? What did the men recall after they reflected on their conversation with Jesus (v.32)?
  3. How do life’s trials tend to change our expectations of the Christian life?
  4. When have you been guilty of unbelief? What great truths has God taught you that you failed to understand at first?
  5. What might it look like for you to pull back the curtain today and let the “Sun of Righteousness” shed light on our doubts, fears, and apprehensions?

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When God Goes Before Us

Text: Deuteronomy 9:1-29

“Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the Lord your God.” —Deuteronomy 9:3

For those of us living in the U.S., authorities say that the next couple of weeks will be the most critical regarding the Covid-19 pandemic. This will be our “peak” moments of confrontation with this invisible Coronavirus giant, when it’s expected to hit closest to home for many of us. As we deliberate this grim forecast, may I reassure you of ONE UNCHANGEABLE TRUTH…

The Lord has already gone before us. He abides in the future. He is not just aware of the days ahead; these coming days are in the palm of His hand. He’s already there. God exists in that place of our deepest dread—that place causing us the greatest fear. That place called tomorrow.

In Deuteronomy 9, the destiny of God’s people was about to bring them face to face with enormous giants they had never seen before. Their future would consist of reputed adversaries, “great and tall,” of intimidating stature. They were the sons of Anakim, “whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’” They were paralyzing God’s people with gripping fear—a terror that made them feel so vulnerable that they thought of themselves as “grasshoppers” (Numbers 13:33) doomed for defeat. Moses challenged the people’s fears over and over again (Deuteronomy 2-3), reassuring them of God’s supremacy over the battle for their future. Then he gives them this charge:

“Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the Lord your God. He will destroy them [these giants] and subdue them before you. So you shall drive them out and make them perish quickly, as the Lord has promised you.” —Deuteronomy 9:3

Do you see the Lord as a “consuming fire” going over before you? Do you believe that the winds, the waves, and even viruses still know His name? The battle mentioned in Deuteronomy was much too big for God’s people, but not too big for the LORD. They were admonished by two mutually inclusive facts: That in themselves, the battle was impossible (without Me you can do nothing, John 15:5), but with God the battle could not be lost (I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, Philippians 4:13).

Rightly preparing ourselves for two weeks of “hell on earth” (as some have described it) isn’t about stockpiling and hoarding as much as we are able—trying to be in control of our own fate. We can have more goods than all of our neighbors combined and still be “plagued” with anxiety, worry, and fear, leading to heart disease. Being rightly prepared is about being poised to face our giants with audacious trust in the ONE SUPREME GOD Who has already gone before us. The problem with ancient Israel is that they feared not being in control. Instead of trusting God with what they couldn’t control, they built a Golden Calf to give them a sense of their own security—thus worshiping a god they had control over. True worship is about giving over our “illusion” of control to the One Who is truly in control. It’s about trusting the hand that holds tomorrow. Corrie ten Boom, who survived a Nazi prison camp during World War II, said:

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

Do you trust Him, beloved? That’s what He is after. Without faith, it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth (Luke 18:8)? God is looking for hearts that trust Him.

As we move into a closer engagement with this invisible giant that has gripped our world with torment, I pray that you would be sustained by the unrivaled peace of God’s presence in your heart, as well as the confidence that His presence is already there in your future. He is bigger than this invisible giant! May you abide in that assurance this week. May you abide IN HIM.

PRAYER

Lord, like a consuming fire you go before us. Our future is one of promise because You are already there. Help us to see our giants in proportion to WHO YOU are, not the other way around. Holy Spirit, rest our hearts in Thee. Your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven, especially in that place of our deepest dread and greatest fear. May you find us faithfully worshiping in our most fearful moments, because we trust in Thee. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Questions for Reflection, Small Group or Family Discussion:

  1. How strong were the nations Israel was going to fight against and how does the Bible describe these enemies? (Deuteronomy 9:1-2)
  2. In what way would the Lord go over before His people (9:3)? What is significant about this description or imagery?
  3. What was Israel told not to say to itself (9:4)? What does Moses say about Israel’s rebellion against God (9:7)? In what way did the Israelites try to control their own fate (9:16)?
  4. What might “golden calf” building look like in our modern world? What might it look like in our individual lives?
  5. What does this passage teach us about the grace of God? What areas of your life might you need to surrender an “illusion” of control over to the One Who holds the future?

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Ministry Update: April 2020

Dear Praying Friends,

Thank you for praying for our family, and the children/families our ministry serves.  During the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve been able to provide groceries and hygiene supplies for the AOS migrant/mobile home community we serve regularly through our neighborhood programs. We’re also monitoring and responding to needs of households our KidVenturez and camp programs serve (a good number of which are elderly grandparents with custodial guardianship over the grandkids, and shouldn’t be going out into public places right now). The support of our faithful partners is helping us to serve these households in a time of crisis.

Experts predict that our nation will get back to relative “normalcy” sometime around June, coincidentally the time our summer camp ministry kicks off. Your Easter gift to Breakaway Outreach will help give at-risk children a life-changing, hope-restoring summer camp experience this year, at a very critical time when kids will need to be processing all that has unfolded during this worldwide tragedy. They will be ripe with questions about God, faith, suffering, grief, and loss (read further to see our strategy for serving any kids who may not be able to participate in a residential summer camp due to this pandemic).

During times of pandemic, the body of Christ has historically shined the brightest. If you want to know how Christianity went from an obscure and marginal movement to representing around 6 million believers by AD 300, historians will tell you that the way Christians responded to plagues was a huge factor. I wrote about these historical accounts in the fourth chapter of my book “Shapers: Leadership That Restores Hope, Rebuilds Lives.”

The Gospel doesn’t take a back seat in times like this; it remains our steering wheel. Reaching vulnerable kids with hope isn’t on hold. Shaping resilience in young lives, helping struggling families, and strengthening communities isn’t being postponed. Compassion isn’t canceled. Now, perhaps more than ever in this generation, souls are searching for hope and ready for spiritual answers to the world’s unrest.

As a dear friend, partner, and shareholder in this ministry, we want you to know that our outreach efforts are not paused during “social distancing.” We have been engaged in serving area families facing hardship in the midst of this pandemic, bringing essential food and hygiene aid to low-income households that our ministry serves throughout the year. We are also confident that our Summer of Hope 2020 is going to reach more kids and families with the life-changing message of Jesus Christ than we could have ever imagined before this global emergency.

Most of our friends understand that this is the time of year we are raising funds for kids to go to summer camp. Breakaway provides day camps and residential summer camps for at-risk kids all across our region. More than 95% of the kids who attend our camps in Tennessee would likely not be able to participate in a summer camp without the financial aid of a scholarship. Over the years, we have provided camp scholarships for kids affected by economic insecurity, family hardship, parental incarceration, domestic abuse, and various forms of trauma. Our camps have also been a place of refuge for foster children, orphans, and kids from migrant/refugee communities. We are driven by the belief that no child should have to face hardship alone.

What makes Breakaway camp so unique? It is one of the few camps built specifically for kids facing systemic hardship and high-risk social factors. Everything from our Bible curriculum to the daily recreational activities are structured around building social resilience and spiritual enrichment, taking into account the special needs of our campers. Because of the common struggles that our campers share, they know that this community is a safe place to talk about their problems without risk of being stigmatized, branded, or labeled.

This year’s camp curriculum for our residential and day camps is called “God of the Odds.” It’s based on the Old Testament life of Gideon. This resilient “overcomer” story will resonate with our kids in several particular ways—Gideon was born into family hardship, his future looked bleak, he struggled with injustices, his people were forced into “social distancing” due to Midianite oppression, he had feelings of insecurity and inferiority, he faced insurmountable odds, and yet he saw God come through despite those odds. What a powerfully urgent message for kids living in the middle of a global crisis!!!

We understand that Coronavirus could affect how we flesh out our camp ministry this summer, but it will not stop the impact or the creative ingenuity of our outreach. As we continue to prepare for our “normal” camp ministry, we are also implementing a contingency campaign to distribute “camp in a backpack” to any kids who may not be able to participate in a typical summer camp due to this pandemic or its ripple affects. The backpacks, delivered to children across the East Tennessee region, will include: Bibles, daily Bible lessons, games, crafts, nutritious snacks, a birthday gift card, and a personalized note from a “Breakaway Angel” who is praying for them. They will know that they are not forgotten! We can’t empower kids without your help. Any donation you can make right now will ensure that underserved children get a summer camp experience in one form or another. Thank you for standing with the children, struggling families, and us during this pandemic. We are all in this together, and we will prevail by the grace of God.

God has made us for such a time as this. These aren’t days for fear or trepidation, but days that call for bold faith and gritty courage in the face of an unseen adversary. Nobody understands the concept of an invisible enemy more than Bible-believing followers of Jesus Christ, yet we know WHO wins this war. Easter is an occasion to celebrate and proclaim His triumph over every enemy—including the grave! HE IS THE GOD OF OUR ODDS, and He will never fail you, beloved. Let me encourage you with two unshakeable thoughts David penned in scripture: Psalm 37:25 “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread,” and Psalm 27:13 “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” He will provide, my friend. He always has. God bless you and yours during this trial.

Betting on the God of the Odds,
Jimmy and Cindy Larche

Coronavirus: “The Bitterest Part”

Text: John 11:1-44

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.’” —John 11:25

In Italy, thousands of families have been devastated by Coronavirus. When infected patients are hospitalized, their loved ones cannot visit them due to the contagion. Multitudes have perished in seclusion without family members by their bedside. Proper funerals are not possible during the pandemic lockdown, as the deceased are piled up in coffins and quietly taken away. As well, grieving family members are left to mourn in isolation without the typical closure of a funeral accompanied by the support of other loved ones. “This is the bitterest part,” said one Italian.  

In John 11, Martha and Mary are having a bitterly grievous moment, devastated by the loss of their dear brother, Lazarus. “Lord, if you had been here, he would not have died,” they both cried (John 11:21, 32). To make matters worse, when Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, he delayed two days before coming to Bethany. His lack of urgency might’ve mystified the disciples and the distressed sisters.

Have you ever felt this way? Lord, why did you delay in coming to our aid? If you had only showed up, this wouldn’t have happened? Why didn’t you get here in time?

When Jesus finally arrived, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled, asking, “Where have you laid him?” Then we have the shortest Bible verse ever recorded: “Jesus wept.” In this moment Jesus hurts like we hurt. He grieves like we grieve. He suffers and mourns as we do. He steps into our pain, identifying with us that “the bitterest part” of our earthly journey is the human loss of our dearest loved ones. I’m so comforted that we have this moment in the Bible—Jesus pausing to grieve. He takes time to feel the pain. It shows that HE understands our suffering (Hebrews 4:15).

I’m also comforted in the fact that there is more to this story. Jesus has shown the disciples that he feels their pain, their loss, and their bitterness. Now he is about to show them that this chapter of agony is not the final chapter in life. As Paul Harvey used to say, “You know what the news is—in a minute, you’re going to hear the rest of the story.” Martha and Mary are overwhelmed by bad news, but they are only moments away from being overcome by the good news.

Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” He told the disciples to take away the gravestone. Then he prayed to the Father, and commanded Lazarus to “come out” in a loud voice. “The man who had died came out,” the Bible roars. The next chapter begins with Lazarus sitting at a table with Jesus doing dinner church! (John 12:1-2)

What a glorious picture of the resurrection. We are just a few weeks away from Easter, a time when the church celebrates the resurrection life of our Lord and Savior. It’s a time when we proclaim over all of our present pain, loss, tears, and suffering that a better day is coming. Jesus didn’t just preach about resurrection and life, He dramatically hailed, “I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE.” He promised that whoever believes in him, though he die, yet shall he live.

Whenever we find ourselves in a chapter of sorrow and anguish, may we be reminded that there is still another chapter to come. One day we will sit at the King’s table during the marriage supper of the Lamb and we will have “church” like never before. Our ashes will be turned into beauty. Our weeping will be turned into laughter. Our grief will be turned into dancing—one day, beloved, one day. Let that resonate with your soul as you seek to abide in Him this week.

I have posted an audio message on my website from Francesca, our Breakaway Outreach Italia representative, about her EASTER HOPE. It’s a short voice message that I believe will inspire your faith in these days. LISTEN TO IT BELOW. If want to know the peace that comes with knowing Christ as Lord, go here.

PRAYER

Lord, sometimes it feels like you don’t understand our urgency. But we need to remember that our timing is not your timing, and your delays are not denials. There are things in our world and sufferings in our lives that we can’t understand in this moment. We may have the news, but it isn’t the whole story. We patiently wait for that day when our Redeemer will appear, redeeming everything that is lost and restoring everything that is broken. Help us to trust you in these times. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Questions for Reflection, Small Group or Family Discussion:

  1. What is one of your greatest disappointments in life? When has God given you comfort in the middle of a sad time of life?
  2. What did Martha say to Jesus about His having come after Lazarus had died? (John 11:21-22) What did Jesus tell Martha that Lazarus would do? (John 11:23) 
  3. How did Martha misunderstand Jesus? (11:24) What did Martha and the others learn about Jesus’ identity? (11:25)
  4. What did Jesus say would happen to those who believed in Him? (11:26) How should that shape our faith in this present time?
  5. What attitude of disappointment do you need to confess to God and change to trust in His sovereign control? How can you be a comfort to a struggling or hurting believer this week?

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Palm Sunday: Don’t Be a Fickle Sunday Morning Cheerleader

Text: Matthew 21:1-11

They embraced him as a king, and yet only five days later the crowds were yelling, “Crucify him!”

What would it look like if the biblical accounts of Palm Sunday were taking place in our generation today? Imagine Jesus entering New York, Miami, Los Angeles, or Seattle during Holy Week. I’m sure the crowds would welcome him with awe—especially if the network news channels had just reported him raising Lazarus from the dead. We’d strike up the band, ribbon the streets, and cue the parade. People would be intrigued. Just like in the Gospels, the whole world would come out to see him (John 12:19). Folks would be lined up by the droves hoping to capture a selfie with Jesus passing by behind them, so that they could post it on their social media profiles.

But this is something I am equally sure of: by the end of the week, we’d have him nailed to a cross, too.

Why? Because the Kingdom Jesus came to establish still threatens the kingdoms of this world—the kingdoms of lust, greed, power, self-promotion—even religious bigotry (exemplified by the Pharisees in Jesus’ time).

Have you come to experience in your lifetime that we, human beings, can be a strangely fickle species? You can be loved one day and hated the next simply because of one petty action, an offensive statement, or a politically charged “Tweet.” Loyalties in our day can be rather capricious and temperamental. In that regard, not much has changed since Jesus passed by those adulated crowds on Palm Sunday.

Palms were a symbol of royalty and nobility in Jesus’ time, and everyone who lined the streets of Jerusalem had a different reason for waving those palms. Some were political activists hoping that Jesus would overthrow opposing parties, and ultimately to liberate Israel from Roman rule. His disciples were expecting Jesus to establish himself as an earthly king. Many were curious onlookers casually joining in on the cultural festivities of the day. For others this was a moment of desperation; they may have been sick or had loved ones who were dying, and they waved their branches in faith, hoping for a miracle.

In the parade that day, only Jesus knew why he was coming into Jerusalem—to give up His life as the Savior of the world. He had a mission, while everyone else had an agenda.

You know, it is a lot easier to cheer for Jesus than it is to lay down our lives for Jesus. It’s easy to praise the name of Jesus and sing “Hosanna” when it doesn’t cost us anything. Posting inspirational Bible verses for the world to read doesn’t require much of us—certainly no degree of sacrifice. As Adam Clarke says, “How strange is it that these same people… should, about five days after, change their hosannas for, Away with him! Crucify him! Crucify him! How fickle is the multitude! Even when they get right, there is but little hope that they will continue so long.”

This Palm Sunday let’s be reminded that our worship must cost us something to go beyond Sunday morning cheerleading.

Oswald Chambers wrote,

“It is much easier to die than to lay down your life day in and day out with the sense of the high calling of God.”

This high calling bids us to live beyond Sunday morning ‘cheerleaders’ and to give way to his Kingdom rule in all of our earthly affairs—to surrender our pride when there is strife in our day-to-day relationships (Proverbs 13:10), to do the gritty work of peacemaking with others (Matthew 5:9), to love the unlovable (John 15:12), to show mercy to those who deserve it least (James 2:13), to forgive your enemies and do good to those who hate you (Luke 6:27), to do what is just and right for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow (Jeremiah 22:3), and to keep no record of wrongs done to us (1 Corinthians 13:5).

It’s easy to sing about Jesus on Sunday. But it will cost us much more to follow him all the way to the cross the rest of the week. Let’s don’t just wave our palm branches when it is convenient as the worship band plays, let’s lay down our lives in daily submission to His Kingdom reign, fleshing out our faith when it becomes apparent that it will truly cost us something in our generation.

Think about that, beloved, as you seek to abide in Him this Holy Week.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, help us to live beyond religious fanfare. Holy Spirit, embolden and empower us to follow Jesus down that blood-stained path to a rugged cross which beckons us to lay down our lives in reckless abandon and total surrender. Show us what it looks like to live under your Kingdom rule in all the affairs of our lives. For your glory and your Kingdom come, we pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

twitter-64It is a lot easier to be a cheerleader for Jesus than it is to lay down our lives for Jesus. Tweet this

Questions for Reflection and/or Family Discussion:

  1. How would you describe what it means to be a loyal sports fan?
  2. Where have you seen loyalty or disloyalty play out in your relationships?
  3. In what ways do you think our culture makes it is easier to breed ‘cheerleaders’ for Jesus rather than true disciples of Jesus?
  4. When has it been easy or convenient for you to proclaim the ‘teachings’ of Jesus without necessarily having to sacrifice for them?
  5. What will your faith cost you this week? Spend some time in prayer talking to God about this. Ask Him for wisdom in fleshing out your faith.

 

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What Happened After the Resurrection and Why It Matters

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The Ascension: What Happened After the Resurrection and Why It Matters

Do you have a project that you’ve been working on, trying to get finished, maybe even for a long time now, but for whatever reason, you just haven’t brought it to completion? Perhaps I’ve just described your garage, that business plan, a book you’ve been trying to write, some home repairs, a ministry project, or the tree house you intended to build for your kids in the backyard. Sometimes having unfinished business can keep us up at night and feeling restless. But in contrast, there is nothing quite as exhilarating, or fulfilling, as seeing a work come to fruition.

Our family has mastered the art of celebrating the completion of things—even the little things. It’s become so common in our household that even after our son takes out the trash he walks back up the hill and says, “How are we going to celebrate?” Of course, if you’ve seen the hill we live on you would agree that taking our trash to the curb is a colossal feat!

Why do we have this culture of celebration in our home? Because whether it’s closing out one chapter of ministry and beginning a new one, celebrating the end of a grueling gymnastics season, finishing a school project, or returning from an exhausting but successful mission trip, we want to foster a culture in our home that puts a premium on finishing strong. In the little things as well as the big things, our children have learned that faithfulness in carrying out our responsibilities and bringing them to completion is a virtue.

In short, our family understands the importance of finishing what we began.

After His resurrection, Jesus spent forty days giving convincing proofs that He was truly alive (Acts 1:3) and had conquered death itself. He presented Himself to some women near the tomb (Matthew 28:9-10), to His disciples (Luke 24:36-43), and to more than 500 other witnesses of His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:6).

At the end of those forty days, Jesus and His disciples went up to the Mount of Olives, near Jerusalem. There, Jesus promised His followers that they would soon receive the Holy Spirit, and He instructed them to remain in Jerusalem until the Spirit had come (Luke 24:49). Then Jesus blessed them, and as He gave the blessing, He began to ascend into heaven.

Jesus rose from the ground gradually and visibly, in a literal, bodily return to heaven, as many onlookers watched in wonder. As they stood in suspense, two angels appeared and promised them that Jesus would one day “come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

His glorious ascension into heaven signified success and completion in His earthly ministry. Jesus had accomplished His work. All that He had come to do, He had accomplished. His sacrifice on the cross was perfect, exchanging His righteousness for our sins, and the way He went back to the Father marked the culmination of a sacrifice that God was well pleased with (Hebrews 10:1-18).

Paul, while in a prison cell, was able to write with passionate assurance in God’s faithfulness even in such dire circumstances because he was convinced that God always brings His plans to fruition. In Philippians 1:6 he says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Regardless of your circumstances today, you can rest assured that God will always bring His good work to completion in your life. We serve a God Who finishes what He begins. Let this truth breed boldness in your life that no matter what you may be up against in this hour, you worship (celebrate) a God Who brings goodness to fruition (Romans 8:28).

Let this be your confidence as you abide in Him today!

God can be trusted because He always finishes what He begins and He brings goodness to fruition.

AIH-32816

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Passion Week: Jesus Got His Uniform Dirty

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Passion Week: Jesus Got His Uniform Dirty

Spring is here and so is baseball. I love watching little leaguers in their colorful new uniforms on opening day. The only problem is, they usually don’t want to get them dirty on the first night. For many that means not laying out for that line drive or failing to slide into a base when they should. After a player on my son’s team failed to slide into home, a highly animated coach asked the kid, “Did you just shave your legs and are afraid to mess them up?”

That imagery reminds me of an essential truth about the gospel of Jesus Christ: God wasn’t afraid to get dirty for us.

Passion Week is when we celebrate history’s most significant and revolutionary event. And at the heart of all of it’s many theological implications is this inescapable truth: The Creator and Sustainer of this universe loves you so much that He was willing to get dirty for you, so that He could save you. Scholars would refer to this as the Incarnation; God wrapping himself in flesh and stepping into our messy world.

From the time that Jesus came into this world to the day He ascended back into heaven, He got dirty.

On the day He was born, they wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and placed Him in a manger. These cloths were rags that had very likely been used to wipe down animals in the stall. From the very beginning God was showing the world that His sinless Son would take upon Himself the dirt, the grime, and the mess of our sins.

Jesus also got dirty in the sense that he associated with people whom others rejected. When the Pharisees (the self-righteous religious leaders) found Jesus reclining at a table in the home of a tax collector and dining with “many” sinners, they immediately questioned his disciples saying, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when [Jesus] heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick… For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:11-13 ESV)

This highly offended the religious establishment of Jesus’ day because they prided themselves in staying away from sinners and people they deemed as unclean. It made them feel more righteous. But Jesus confronted their spiritual pride by opening his arms to sinners.

In John 4, Jesus associates with a Samaritan woman at a well. It was revolutionary for a Jewish rabbi to do this because the Samaritans were considered a ‘dirty’ race by the Jews; an inferior and unclean race of people. Plus this woman was considered unclean from a moral standpoint by the religious establishment in Jesus’ time, making this encounter even more scandalous. But Jesus valued people too much to worry about what others were thinking about him. He pointed this so-called ‘dirty’ woman to a life-giving relationship with God and she went back home and shared the Gospel with her entire village!

Jesus wasn’t afraid to get dirty.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “That is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…. God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.”

When they tortured Jesus and nailed Him to the cross, He fulfilled a 700-year-old prophecy by Isaiah, who described a coming Savior as one who would be beaten so badly that he would be marred and disfigured beyond recognition (Isaiah 52:14).

Talk about getting dirty!

Why would Jesus be willing to get this dirty? Well, the answer is found in Romans 5:8:

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

It was God’s love that drove Him into the mess, the chaos of our world, and the brokenness of our own lives.

This is history’s most significant event: The sinless Son of God becoming disfigured so that we, sinners, could be reconciled with a holy and perfect God. Jesus took all of the filth associated with our sin, wrapped himself in it, and nailed it to the cross. He then buried it in the grave and on the third day, He rose from that grave proving that He is indeed the very Son of the living God.

Peter said, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24 ESV)

My friend, Jesus was willing to get dirty so that you could be reconciled to God, be healed of your brokenness, and become whole again. May His death on the cross and resurrection on the third day continue to declare victory in your life over any guilt, shame, or condemnation.

You are loved, and your God proved it by getting His uniform dirty! Remember this as you abide in Him today.

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