Does the Doubter Get A Bad Wrap?

A week ago we celebrated the discovery of the empty tomb signaling the resurrection of our Lord. But as Paul Harvey would say, now let’s look at the rest of the story…

After hearing the women’s exciting news of Jesus’ empty tomb I imagine the disciples spent their day in a flurry of activity. Mary said she had seen Him but the others had not. As excited as they were there was still a measure of fear that those who hated Jesus might still seek them out and arrest them too. By evening 10 of the 11 remaining disciples were together again behind locked doors.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”  John 20:19-23

Jesus was there in the midst of them! What a sweet time that must have been.

Thomas was missing that night. Yes, that Thomas. When they told him they saw Jesus Thomas replied:

“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side,
I will not believe.”     John 20:25b

We don’t know why Thomas wasn’t with the other disciples or what caused him to not believe them about Jesus. But this is where I think he gets a bad wrap. After all we know the whole story and it can be easy to judge Thomas when we weren’t standing there after losing one of our closest friends and Lord.

But how many times do we doubt God?

Sometimes I find myself in a place where I don’t feel like I have any control over a temptation. Whether it’s a doughnut staring me in the face or something I can’t live without at the store temptations surround us. And yet

 1 Corinthians 10:13 says:
“And God is faithful;
He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.

It’s not uncommon to doubt that we can stand up against pressures to stay in a situation that God is calling us to move on from or walk away from a temptation we don’t think I can resist. That doubt can cause us to not trust in God’s promise that if we turn it over to Him we can stand up against temptation.

Do you ever find yourself in a situation you can’t control? Perhaps you don’t know how you’ll meet a deadline or have enough money left at the end of the month. We may doubt that something good can come from a troubling situation. God’s word also says:

Philippians 4:19 promises:
“My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” 

God doesn’t say He will pick and choose what needs He will meet. He promises to meet all of them.

Doubting is part of our human nature. It takes faith and trust to set that aside and believe in the promises God makes to us. When we do we find a blessed peace in the midst of the puzzles life brings to us.

And it might make us think that Thomas got a bad wrap.

 

blessings & peace to you…
Paula

 

 

 

 

He’s Alive!!

“He is not here;

He has risen, just as He said…”

Matthew 28:6a

 

Sabbath was over and the women just had one thing on their minds. They must prepare Jesus’ body for a proper burial. They left quietly as the men had finally fallen asleep after hours of discussion, debate and devastating sadness over the loss of their leader and friend. The women were also mourning but right now they had to set their grief aside for this important task.

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They left before dawn carrying spices and discussing how they would gain access to the body. A huge stone had been rolled in front of the entrance and sealed with the Roman seal. Even if they could get past the stone, breaking that seal would mean certain death for the women.

As dawn broke and they reached the tomb they stopped in amazement. The tomb stood wide open, seal broken and stone rolled away. Frightened and concerned that someone had taken Jesus’ body the women rushed ahead and found an astonishing sight inside the tomb.

Jesus body was gone!

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Before the women could process the thought they noticed there was someone there.

Two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them the men said to them, Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:  ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’      Luke 24:4-8

 

Then they remembered his words.

And they believed!!

The women didn’t stop to ask questions or wonder where Jesus was. They ran back, woke the men and told them the good news!!

Jesus is Alive!!

Jesus is Alive!!

The men followed the women back to the tomb and saw for themselves that Jesus’ body was gone, but the cloths He had been wrapped in for burial remained.

Their sadness turned to wonder and hope that Jesus was truly alive!

I pray that this Easter you will find Jesus in your heart. I pray you will know the hope of His gift for us on the cross and allow Him to bring you the joy of His resurrection every day of the year.

blessings and peace to you. He is Risen!!
Paula

Sabbath: Would I Have Believed?

“It is finished.”

They were the final words Jesus spoke on the cross.

Then He died.

Jesus was gone.

All those years spent with His disciples teaching, healing, loving, and helping them to know God in a way they never had before were just a memory now.

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Jesus was dead and the Sabbath came so quickly they couldn’t give Him a proper burial. Today was supposed to be a day of rest and worship but all the disciples could do was cling to each other and try to understand what had just taken place.

Together they wept and mourned for the One who was their teacher, their Leader…and their friend. For years Jesus had talked about Heaven and His Father, and even about being betrayed and dying but the disciples never quite understood. He even said He would defeat death and would give eternal life to all who believed in Him and His Father.

Still, it never quite made sense.

Now some of it was sinking in but the sadness was so strong that hope was elusive. What did Jesus say about defeating death? He did talk about dying and being raised to life. (Matthew 16:21) In fact, just the other day before they entered Jerusalem He took the disciples aside and said it again:

“The son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” Mark 10:33-34

Still it was confusing. Did Jesus mean he would come back to earth or that he would rise again in Heaven with His Father? How could they know for sure?

It must have been almost too much to process.

And I have to ask myself, “Would I Have Believed?”

Would I have expected Jesus to come back from the dead?

It’s so easy to be critical of the disciples and their disbelief when we read about the events of Holy Week. After all through the years they had spent with Jesus He kept telling them these things! Why did they mourn instead of standing strong and telling others to wait & see, Jesus would not stay dead?

Honestly I’m not so sure my Sabbath would have been any different. The reality of what I had seen would probably have overridden any truth I had heard from Jesus. The emotions would have been strong and sadness oppressive.

The truth is that even today with all the knowledge I have about Jesus and the power available to me through the Holy Spirit still I often don’t believe. Sometimes I weep and mourn over what I believe has been lost without allowing God the opportunity to resurrect it in His time.

Would you have believed?

When you face losses do you week and mourn or anticipate a resurrection to come?

God can do anything, if we only believe.

blessings and peace to you as you believe today,
Paula

What’s So Good About Good Friday?

We call it Good Friday, but there was very little good that happened that day. Jesus started His week entering Jerusalem to shouts of praise and “Hosanna to the King!”. Now he stood bruised and beaten before a judge, awaiting His sentence of death.

None of this was a surprise to Jesus as it was the ultimate purpose in coming to earth. But knowing the purpose didn’t make it easy or less painful. Remember Jesus was fully & completely man. He was as human as you and me.

Jesus felt every time the whip hit His skin and broke it open. The air stung His wounds but they didn’t stop. Over and over He was lashed. Jesus felt the thorns press into His scalp, burying themselves into His skin for the duration of the day. He felt each fist that struck His face but He never showed anger towards His enemies. He stood there and took it.

The mocking of the soldiers hurt too. While Jesus had the love of God and knew that the words weren’t true they still had an impact. Perhaps the worst pain of all was watching each of His disciples flee from those who arrested Him, fearing the same fate for themselves. And then Peter. The one who just the day before had declared his allegiance to Jesus denied that he knew Him three times.

When I think of the physical pain Jesus went through I am so grateful He went through with it all. He didn’t have to, you know.

Think of the pictures and films you’ve seen of Jesus carrying, or perhaps dragging the cross to Golgotha. That cross likely weighing over 100 pounds pressed down on an already weakened Christ as He moved toward His last hours. Then He allowed nails to be driven into Him and He hung on that tree.

 

For you, and for me.

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At any time Jesus could have called an end to all of this. He was taunted and teased to save Himself and come down off the cross. What His mockers didn’t realize that Jesus could have. At any moment He could have shown that He is God and didn’t have to hang there.

But He didn’t.

When Jesus Christ called out from the cross “It is finished!” He was speaking of death’s curse over the earth. The curse of death came when Adam and Eve chose to sin. From that moment on we were separated from God’s perfection by sin. Jesus came and lived without sin, then allowed Himself to be killed as the final sacrifice for each of us.

This is the GOOD that came from Good Friday!!

Any man, woman or child who believes Jesus is the Christ and accepts Him as Leader of his or her life will also conquer death and will live forever in a perfect Heaven.

I am so grateful for the sacrifice Jesus made for you and for me.

I pray that if you don’t understand this sacrifice and the free gift of Salvation you will seek out someone who can answer your questions and help you receive it for yourself. It will be the greatest Easter you’ve ever experienced!

blessings and peace to you this Good Friday,
Paula

Betrayed, Arrested, Disowned

In amongst the blessings of life we all have times when things don’t go our way. We face sickness, pain, loss of jobs, days when dreams don’t come true or someone didn’t come through the way you thought they would. Sometimes we aren’t sure if we’re even following God’s plan for us.

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All of this is part of living in a sinful world with imperfect people and we learn to cope with it. But have you ever been betrayed by someone you love? Have you ever had a time when someone you thought would stick by you pretended they didn’t know you? This goes beyond disappointment. It’s enough to plunge someone into despair.

When Jesus finished praying in the Garden of Gethsemane He was confronted by a group of His enemies…and one of His closest friends. The kiss Judas greeted Jesus with was not a kiss of affection. It was a kiss of betrayal intended to identify Jesus to those who wanted to take His life.

Jesus was arrested in the Garden and led off to be judged. His friends followed at a distance or I imagine some of them slipped away as not to be taken captive themselves. Either way they didn’t stand at Jesus’ side to plead His case to those who would judge Him.

We don’t know why Judas agreed to betray Jesus, but we do know that he did it for a few pieces of silver. And we know Judas was so ashamed of what he did, sure he could never be forgiven that he took his own life.

 

As Jesus was taken into the temple to be judged Peter followed. I believe Peter wanted to protect Jesus and wanted to defend Him but I think he was scared. Whatever his reason, when asked if he knew Jesus Peter denied that he did. He was pressed by someone who saw him with Jesus and still he denied it. When Peter heard the rooster crow early that morning he realized what Jesus said had come true. Peter had denied he anything to do with Jesus three times. Imagine his despair as Jesus died before Peter had a chance to make it right.

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Have you ever said something and then wished you could take it back? Perhaps you have treated a friend badly or had a fight with your family, then parted before being able to make it right. It is a terrible feeling.

The good news for Peter was that after Jesus rose from the dead He gave Peter an opportunity to redeem himself. Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Jesus. Three times Peter said that he did. And all three times Jesus told Peter to go and take care of others, helping them to know Jesus as Peter himself did. Peter didn’t let Jesus down again.

This same opportunity is available to you and me. No matter what we do, when we genuinely confess and repent to Jesus we will be forgiven. It may take time to repair the damage done to earthly relationships but there is hope for those as well.

Jesus’  gift of forgiveness and restoration offered and granted to Peter is there for us too. We only need to ask.

blessings and peace to you,
Paula

Persevere ~ A Lesson from Gethsemane

As we draw closer to Easter weekend we remember the time Jesus spent preparing for the last meal He would eat with His disciples before His death. Throughout the day Jesus tried to explain to them what was to come – of His imminent betrayal and eventual death. His disciples didn’t get it. Jesus washed their feet, explained to them about serving others, and asked them to join Him as He prayed in the garden. He never gave up trying to teach them of God’s love for them.

When evening came Jesus gave us such a beautiful yet heart wrenching picture of perseverance. Jesus knew He was about to be betrayed and executed. He had lived a perfect life. In all His interactions with those who opposed Him Jesus never sinned. Yet He would be ridiculed and hung on a cross to die the most painful death for all people who believe that He is Lord and Savior.

His heart must have been so heavy, yet He persevered.

Jesus Gethsemane

Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane that evening to pray for God’s will. Matthew’s gospel tells us that Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” He didn’t receive an answer so He prayed again, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” Jesus prayed a third time in the same manner, persevering for an answer from His Father for what He was facing.

The outcome of Jesus’ perseverance was not His deliverance from the coming ridicule and death. It was not what He desired but for Him it was more important for God to be glorified than for Him to be comfortable. Because Jesus persevered and completed the purpose for which His Father sent him to earth we reap countless blessings. Every year as we remember Jesus’ sacrifice for us we are reminded that if He had not persevered through His times of tribulation we would not have the gift of eternity in Heaven with Him.

Each one of us has challenges to work through and overcome. While yours may not seem significant to the world it is significant to you, therefore it also matters to God. Whatever you are facing as you read this I pray for your perseverance. Don’t give up – on yourself, a solution, and especially your faith that God will bring good out of your circumstances. And as you persevere remember that through Jesus’ gift of salvation we can have the blessing of peace that passes all understanding.

blessings and peace to you as you persevere today,
Paula

Preparing

How do you spend the days before a holiday or special event? Mine are usually filled with lists, shopping, decorating and baking. I want to make sure everything is just right for the special day.

Passover was a time of preparation as well. There was cleansing, choosing a lamb and preparing food for the feasts. I imagine there were plenty of lists and worries over everything being just right.

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This year Jesus was trying to prepare His disciples for what they were about to experience. He tried to explain that He was going to die. They didn’t realize how different Passover would be this year.  Jesus even told them that one of them would betray Him and send their Savior and friend to His death but still they thought He was talking about the distant future instead of a few days away.

Maybe the disciples weren’t truly listening to Jesus closely enough to figure out the intent of His parables and believed as before He would explain them later when all the other people had gone.

Possibly some of them did begin to understand what Jesus was preparing them for but were too afraid to believe it really could happen. There could have been a sense of denial as well. They may have quietly hoped this one time Jesus could be wrong.

When all that Jesus was trying to prepare them for did come to pass the disciples found themselves unprepared and unable to process it all. They weren’t ready to move on and see what God had for them next.

Have you ever found yourself at a place of uncertainty, unprepared for what comes next? I know I have and sometimes I look back and see how God had been trying to prepare me only I wasn’t paying attention or didn’t want to hear what He had to say.

Thankfully, while the circumstances the disciples found themselves in left them without Jesus for a time that never has to happen to us.

Jesus and His Holy Spirit are always with us to guide and direct us, giving us wisdom beyond our own. He will take our fear and turn it to confidence and joy.

 

We need only ask.

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If you’re facing uncertainty today and it’s unclear what your next step should be I encourage you to take some time to sit quietly and seek God’s guidance.

Ask the Holy Spirit to show you, and be open to His leading.

Prepare your heart to be ready to hear from Him.

I guarantee you will.

 

blessings and peace to you…
Paula