I Am Right Now, Resurrection and Life

Jesus said, “Your brother will be raised up.” Martha replied, “I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time.” “You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Master. All along I have believed that you are the Messiah, the Son of God who comes into the world.”

(John 11:23-27 MSG)

There’s a Martha in all of us. The Martha who believes in a future resurrection rather than the present. Jesus says to everyone like her, “You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life.” You don’t have to wait for the end because you can rise again now. Jesus, the Great I Am, the Resurrection and the Life, is able to breathe life into your dead dreams, hopes and circumstances now. But the ultimate question is, “Do you believe this?” Martha believed and witnessed her brother come back to life after being dead for four days. When we believe, we, too, will see the glory of God (v.40).

For quite some time now, God has been bringing me back to the miracle of the resurrection and the empty tomb. There’s a resurrection power living on the inside of us that we need to tap into if we hope to thrive in this world.

The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

A Year to Rise Above

Last year, God led me to write a book where I encourage believers in Christ to rise above life’s unprecedented storms with faith and courage. I wrote the book from having personally experienced storms in my own life and watching God faithfully come through for me time and time again. When the book was published that same year, God’s message was clear: He wasn’t finished with it or me yet.

This year, God allowed me and my loved ones to go through various storms through which the message of the book began to surface. People who have read the book often tell me that it’s beautifully written, but miss that it’s more than just beautiful words on paper; it’s the message that has sustained me and can sustain everyone going through their own storms.

A family member says that they’ve heard the story of Jesus and Peter walking on water come up more than once this year. I tell them that maybe God is trying to tell, or teach, them something through it. For me, it’s been about living out the miracle that I so often tell others they can experience when they step out of the boat and find out the best that God has in store for them when they trust Him enough to embrace life’s storms.

Rise Above with Gratitude

I’ve been feeling under the weather lately (tis the season, after all). Last weekend, I was too tired and weak to even want to get out of bed. But as I lay there, looking at my phone, a recent photo of Lucas which my brother had shared that week came up. When you’ve seen him at his worst and finally see him at his best, it will not only make you smile and tear up at times (tears of joy, of course!), but it will make you so grateful that you will want to get out of bed and give God praise. And that’s exactly what happened. The next thing you know, I was on my feet, getting ready to go to church.

I share this with you only to show you the power that deep gratitude can have on our lives. It doesn’t matter what we’re going through or how we’re feeling at the moment, when we’re moved by gratitude, we will rise above it all. Today, I’m not asking you to give thanks for the good things in your life because we can all do that. If you really want to annoy the devil and rise above, I challenge you to give thanks for the difficult times that you may be facing right now. Not because they’re great, because they’re certainly not, but because we worship a great God who can turn them around for our good when we thank Him. When you’re thankful and you know it, others will too. Happy Thanksgiving!

A Ministry Outside of Church Walls

When my nephews were born three months prematurely, we found ourselves making daily visits to the hospital. Little did we know that along the way, we were also going to encounter other parents just as much in need of prayer and support.

My brother and his wife made friends with many of the parents in the NICU. A year ago, we were visiting our nephews when a woman came to our babies’ room crying, “They said my baby is going to die.” This happened a few minutes after the doctor had just told my brother that Lucas had stage four hemorrhage in the brain. So we went into a quiet room to calm her down. We asked her what her son’s name was. “His name is Peter,” she answered. “Do you know that his name means ‘rock’?” we asked. “Yes, that’s why I named him that.” We then asked her where Peter’s room was. “What for?” she asked. We told her we wanted to pray for him. So she took us to Peter’s room and we prayed for him. At the end of the day we met up with her again and she told us that Peter was doing well. In fact, Peter has come a long way, living up to his name by being a rock. We visited his room whenever we were at the hospital. His mom now encourages other parents to believe.

There are so many people who don’t go or can’t go to church. Maybe God has placed you in their path to remind them that God is just as near to them in the hospital as He is in church. Most often than not, they’ll find Him outside of church walls.

Where is the Glory?

She named the boy Ichabod, saying, “The Glory has departed from Israel”—because of the capture of the ark of God and the deaths of her father-in-law and her husband. She said, “The Glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”’

(1 Samuel 4:21-22 NIV)

The ark of God was symbolic of His presence. When the Israelites went out to fight the Philistines and faced defeat (about four thousand were killed), they asked themselves, “Why did the Lord bring defeat on us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh, so that he may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies” (1 Samuel 4:3). However, little did they know that the Lord’s glory had departed from Israel. Therefore, despite the presence of the ark in the camp, thirty thousand soldiers died, the ark itself was captured by the Philistines and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died (vv.10-11). The only person who seemed to understand the departure of God’s glory is Phinehas’ wife, who named her son Ichabod meaning, “where is the glory?”

Israel faced ichabod because of their sin, disobedience and idolatry. The sons of Eli the priest were sinning against the Lord and Eli did nothing about it (1 Samuel 3:11-14). We find that ichabod had started to become a reality in the opening of the third chapter, “In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions” (1 Samuel 3:1). It’s not until the fourth chapter when the ark is captured that we’re actually told that God’s glory had departed from His people.

When things go wrong, many people ask, “Why God?” or “Where is God?” And yet oftentimes, these are the same people who have taken God’s presence for granted. After the tragic 9/11 events, Anne Graham Lotz had the following to say:

I say God is also angry when he sees something like this. I would say also for several years now Americans in a sense have shaken their fist at God and said, God, we want you out of our schools, our government, our business, we want you out of our marketplace. And God, who is a gentleman, has just quietly backed out of our national and political life, our public life. Removing his hand of blessing and protection. We need to turn to God first of all and say, God, we’re sorry we have treated you this way and we invite you now to come into our national life. We put our trust in you. We have our trust in God on our coins, we need to practice it.

Thankfully, the ark of God, His presence, returned to Israel (1 Samuel 6), and will return to us when we repent and seek Him once again.

Never take God’s presence for granted.

Avoid Shortcuts

For the third test, the Devil took him to the peak of a huge mountain. He gestured expansively, pointing out all the earth’s kingdoms, how glorious they all were. Then he said, “They’re yours—lock, stock, and barrel. Just go down on your knees and worship me, and they’re yours.”

(Matthew 4:8-9)

This might sound shocking to some, but I really don’t like shortcuts. I find that they require too many twists and turns. And I especially wouldn’t want to take a shortcut on a snowy day because these routes are the least likely to get plowed (and sometimes they really don’t). I enjoy the longer routes because I get to enjoy all the beautiful sights that I would otherwise miss if I took the “shorter route.”

In the temptations or tests of Jesus, we find that the Devil was offering Him shortcuts. After the fall of the first man, Adam, the second man, Jesus, came to restore what was lost. The only way Jesus was going to do that was through His death on the cross. To avoid the pain and suffering, the Devil suggests that Jesus need only go on His knees and worship him. Of course, Jesus refuses this shortcut because He knows that that’s not the way God would have Him win our salvation. I’m so thankful that Jesus didn’t take shortcuts because we wouldn’t have His whole life, death and resurrection to look forward to and draw upon.

After finding out my age, a Christian woman once asked me when I was going to go online and create a dating profile. In other words, “What are you still waiting for, get online and find someone.” I’m sure she meant well, but the more she tried to convince me to go online, the more I tried to persuade her to find love offline (didn’t I tell you that I don’t like shortcuts?).

Many people enjoy shortcuts. They would much rather take the short, boring route than drive on the long, beautiful one. It might look like they’ve saved themselves a lot of time getting to where they want to be in life, but in reality, they’ve missed out on the excitement along the way to get there.

Avoid shortcuts. God wants you to enjoy and live your life to the fullest.

Are You Intimidated by the Devil?

Little children (believers, dear ones), you are of God and you belong to Him and have [already] overcome them [the agents of the antichrist]; because He who is in you is greater than he (Satan) who is in the world [of sinful mankind].

(1 John 4:4 AMP)

We were out on the playground with the kindergarten students when a grade one class joined us. All was well until one of our students ran up to me crying. “What’s wrong?” I asked him. He didn’t look like he had fallen and hurt himself, which is usually the case when you let kids loose on the playground. Instead, he pointed to the grade one boys out in the field and said, “They said they’re going to beat me up.” Although the boys seemed tiny and weak to me, the little boy couldn’t help but feel intimated by their threats. I assured him that I would keep an eye on him and that he was free to go back and play, which he did.

Are you intimidated by the devil? Someone once said that the only power the devil has over you is the power that you give to him. Today’s Scripture reminds us that we are already overcomers “because He who is in [us] is greater than he (Satan) who is in the world.” If we would only believe this simple yet awesome truth, we wouldn’t be intimidated by the devil and his threats when they come. Like the little boy who took his teacher at her word and went back to play, I pray that we will learn to take God at His Word and enjoy life because with Him living on the inside of us and keeping an eye on us, we have nothing to fear.

Satan can’t harm Christians who have Jesus living in them because he would have to deal with Jesus and he is too weak to do that.

Staying Calm in the Storm

While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?” Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

(Mark 5:35-36 NIV)

Ever noticed how calm Jesus was during times of tragedy? The story of Jairus’ daughter is one of the many examples in the New Testament. When some people came to tell Jairus that his daughter had died, Jesus responded with “Don’t be afraid; just believe” (Mark 5:36). And when He arrived to Jairus’ house and saw the people crying and wailing loudly, He asked, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep” (v.39). The people didn’t get it and laughed at Him (v.40). Then there’s the example of Jesus’ good friend Lazarus. When He was told that Lazarus was dead, Jesus noted, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it” and “he stayed where he was two more days” (John 11:4, 6). Of course, His delay upset Martha and Mary and the first thing they said to Him when they saw Him was, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (vv.21, 32).

What if we could be as calm as Jesus was during times of calamity? What if instead of resorting to tears, self-pity and endless questions, we learned to stay calm and trust God, just as Jesus did? Is it possible? The Bible has the following to say about those who have learned to trust God, “They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD” (Psalm 112:7). And another Psalm reminds us that “Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever” (125:1). Years ago, bad news would have devastated me, but as I’ve learned to trust Him, I’ve learned to stay calm in the storm. You can too.

Trusting God enables us to stay calm in the storm.

Don’t Delay Your Healing

There’s an interesting story in John chapter 5 about a man who was sick for 38 years. When Jesus met him, He asked him if he wanted to get well. But the man began to tell Jesus how many people had been getting ahead of him to get healed. So Jesus simply told him to get up and get going with his life (John 5:1-15). I once heard that this man had been delaying his own healing by sitting by the pool, expecting a miraculous healing. Thankfully, he did get healed, but after 38 years of waiting.

There’s a similar story in 2 Kings 5 about a man named Naaman who had leprosy. When told that the prophet Elisha could heal him, Naaman went to him, expecting a quick healing. However, Elisha told him to go and wash seven times in the Jordan. The man didn’t like it and for a while refused to obey. He was advised to follow the prophet’s instructions and get his healing, which he did.

When the doctors decided that my nephew Lucas would need two surgeries to get well, most prayers were in opposition to the doctors’ orders. “He is too young to be going through that,” “I don’t want him to suffer,” and “He’s already been through a lot,” some reasoned. Little did everyone know that surgery was going to save his life. Thankfully Lucas’ parents agreed and were commended by the doctors for insisting on having Lucas go through with it.

I share these stories to encourage those reading to get the help they need. I believe that God can just say the Word and heal us, but sometimes He may ask us to seek medical help. Whatever it is He is asking you to do, is for your good. So don’t delay your healing any longer and take care.

Phony Christians

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

(Matthew 7:21-23 NLT)

One of the shocking truths in the Bible is that not everyone who professes to be Christian is a genuine follower of Christ. Take Judas Iscariot, for instance. He was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples–a fact that’s repeatedly emphasized in the Bible–which meant that everyone who looked at him would have thought that he was devoted to Jesus, yet this same Judas betrayed Him. Did the other disciples see this coming? No, but Jesus did. And it’s Jesus who tells us in today’s passage that not everyone who claims to be His follower will enter the kingdom of Heaven.

Phony Christians are eventually exposed.