Easter: Seeking Messiah (Part 3)

Simon departed from his brother’s house and headed straight for the temple, the most likely place to find Messiah. Soon the Passover lambs would be slaughtered for the feast, so early today would be the best time to seek Him. A picture of his suffering son flashed through his mind. Hopefully, I can make my petition to the Lord before the people assemble.

Outside the temple small crowds gathered and voices inquired, “Where is Jesus, our King?” Electricity sparked their emotions. Although Simon searched, He was nowhere in sight, but in the midst of the confusion was a man carrying a pitcher of water while moving purposefully through the outer court. Curiosity drew Simon to follow, and two blocks later, he caught up with the man.

courtesy of morguefile.com

courtesy of morguefile.com

“Sir, do you know who Jesus is?”

The man looked over his shoulder at him, out of breath with sweat glistening on his forehead. “I don’t know Him, but I must prepare for a supper at the direction of my master. His upper room is rented tonight for Jesus and His disciples.”

“Can you tell me where?” He pleaded.

The man offered no response as he swept away and disappeared around a corner.

Simon’s heart wrenched at this revelation. There was no hope of finding Him until after the supper with His Twelve. Shuffling back to the temple, he entered, intending to pray. He found a discreet corner and knelt, when the sound of men arguing behind a curtain interrupted his petitions.

courtesy of morguefile.com

courtesy of morguefile.com

“How dare Jesus confront the chief priests by refusing to answer where He receives His authority to preach and perform miracles.” A deep voice hissed.

“Timaus, we all agree. What I can’t understand is how He outwits us with every question we ask. In order for Him to answer us, we have to first answer Him. He outwits the Sadducees the same way.”

“Tricks! All tricks! Asking us if John’s baptism was from heaven or from men. He knew we couldn’t answer …  we must follow political protocol—or be stoned.” The volume of Thaddeus’ voice rose, followed by the sound of shushing.

“Calm yourself. We’re not about to set ourselves up to be stoned. There must be a way to trap Him for our purposes. Unfortunately, the masses believe John was a prophet.”

Another gave a short laugh. “His relative who is a cousin, I believe? A family of prophets.” The voice dripped sarcasm.

“I, for one, do believe that John’s baptism was from heaven. Why couldn’t we just say that to get His answer? Wouldn’t it have been worth it? Perhaps we could have trapped Him after all.” A dissenting voice shrilled.

“How naïve of you, Stephen. Don’t you have any pride at all?” This new voice was full of drawn swords. “That would force us to admit He was right all along.”

Silence. Simon waited, holding his breath.

Nothing.

Just then distant footsteps approached the concealed group of men.

“Quickly! We are going to have this Messiah—the One who masquerades as the Christ.” The voice exuded urgent joy.

Simon tensed and his heart galloped. Dear God! What evil are they planning against Him?

“The High Priest has again spoken with one of His disciples. The one who keeps the money, apparently, is quite interested in hoarding silver for himself.” His tone jangled like heavy coins.

courtesy of getty images

courtesy of getty images

Simon started. Judas? He sat at my table many times with Jesus when they were in Bethany. His memory searched. Had a love of money shaped him into a traitor? Impossible. Yet, he did recall Judas holding tightly to the money bag, which was always in his possession.

“What did they say? Will Judas cooperate with us?” He recognized the voice as belonging to Timaus.

“It looks promising. The High Priest has spoken with him on many occasions, offering to pay. He always refuses. It’s never enough. But this time, his offer was more silver—thirty pieces.”

“If he has always refused, why does he now agree?” The shrill tone condescended into a scoff.

“Because this time … this time, he said he would look for an opportunity to betray Him away from the crowds. Tonight is the first day of Unleavened Bread, and he claims Jesus and the disciples have a Passover Supper planned. We are readying our group of men, arming them with clubs and swords.” Viciousness wrapped around his words.

“But why go with violence? The Teacher has never been anything except peaceful. Just because He outwits us is no reason to take swords and clubs.” Stephen’s voice whined.

“Whose side are you on? This prophet is turning the people away from the authority of our High Priest! The crowds just led him into Jerusalem, intending to crown Him as their King! That. Is. Treason.”

“Yes, and if there is a political uprising, we will take the brunt from Rome. They hate us and find any excuse to tighten the bars of our prison. It’s better for one man to suffer than for all the Jews to be tortured by these cruel Romans. This Jesus must be sacrificed for the good of all.”

“We have no king but Caesar!” His tone rang with finality.

Simon’s energy surged, and he leapt to his feet. All the more reason to locate Messiah to warn Him of this evil plot, planned against Him by one of His own.

God help me find Him! 

 

The Revelation Church at Smyrna

Welcome to Smyrna, whose congregation suffered perhaps the greatest persecution in all Christianity. As a materially poor church located in a wealthy city, their faithful works performed in the name of the Lord Jesus brought them great tribulation on earth, yet great reward in heaven.

First, a little history …

Located about thirty-five miles north of Ephesus, Smyrna (modern day Izmir) was a cultural center referred to as the “Ornament of Asia.” Very loyal to Rome for at least three centuries, this city built temples devoted to various Roman gods and was the worship center for Emperor Tiberias. Over time, emperor worship became compulsory for every Roman citizen on penalty of death, and those who refused to obey were burned alive.

Such was the fate of Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, a student under John who would not deny his faith in Jesus. Isn’t is crystal clear what a hotbed of hatred and persecution this church must have faced?

But it has also surfaced today in many parts of the world. Look at the cradle of Christianity in some Middle Eastern countries, for example. Believers are imprisoned, beheaded, and crucified by the thousands for their unwavering stand for Jesus. Quite unbelievable that this could be happening in 2015, but Bible prophecy tells us to expect it in the Last Days before the Apocalypse.

And to the angel of the church of Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this: I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan (Revelation 2:8-9, NASB).

Jesus has no rebuke for this church, but instead commends them for their suffering. The attacks they endured were slanderous ones led by those whose evil intent was to destroy this believing church.

Even today, does political unfairness against Christian churches exist? In some countries, they are being burned down, branded as houses of worship for Infidels. And this trend is spreading around the world.

But God also commends this church for the spiritual riches they laid up in heaven. In contrast to the city’s great wealth, it was materially impoverished, probably due to unfair economic sanctions levied against it.

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 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal (Matthew 6:20. NASB).

Although their enemies were hell-bent on destroying this church financially, their faithfulness and obedience built up great wealth for them in heaven. Think how powerful their preaching must have been for Satan to attack them so ruthlessly!

Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days (Revelation 2:10a, NASB).

God readied them for their upcoming persecution, telling specifically how long it would last. He began with encouragement that they need not fear what they were about to suffer at Satan’s hands.

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Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death (Revelation 2: 10b-11, NASB).

This letter ends on a positive note. What are the benefits of enduring persecution, even if it leads to death? God spells them out.

In Smyrna’s day, one of its money symbols was a crown engraved on their coins. In contrast, Jesus promises to give the crown of life to those who hold true to their belief in the Lord. What a glorious benefit, along with eternal life in God’s kingdom.

No matter how bad it appeared, the Smyrna congregation could rest in the safety of His arms and the comfort of knowing that He is in control.

And so can we.

We don’t have to fear. The Word tells us that God wins the war against Satan at Armageddon, and His kingdom will be established . Then we will rule and reign with Christ forever. The Anti-Christ’s seven-year reign of terror is short, temporary, and controlled by God.

Are you prepared to head into these troubling days? Do you have the personal assurance that you will be an overcomer through Jesus’ death and resurrection?

We find our solace in the Savior. There is only one safe place in these days of terrorism and persecution. It’s  not a physical place, but a spiritual one found in Jesus alone. Here’s what the scripture says:

If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9, NASB).

For by grace are you saved through faith, and not that of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 8:11, NASB).

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe (Proverbs 18:10, NASB).

He who dwells in the shelter of the most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty (Psalms 91:1, NASB).

Are you ready? So am I. Together, let’s face these days with the courage and strength of the Lord

Please continue with me to our next stop. Meet me in Pergamum.

Feasting at Thanksgiving

By Karen

Happy Thanksgiving!

www.KarenJurgens.com

www.KarenJurgens.com

 

If you’re like me, you’ll be in the kitchen chopping, whipping, mixing, roasting and baking for your Thanksgiving feast this week. This is one of two times a year that I go all out, preparing a knock-out menu that requires several days in advance. I absolutely love it! Here is a preview of this year’s holiday table:

www.KarenJurgens.com

www.KarenJurgens.com

 

Do you like to play games? If you never cook for Thanksgiving, or if you just take one dish to a party or family gathering, this blog post is still for you. No, it’s not about menus or recipe ideas—which are lovely—but it’s about thanking God for His blessings this year. And I’m inviting you to join me in doing it.

As we’re feasting on the turkey, dressing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie, let’s also remember to take this day to feast on the Word of God.

www.KarenJurgens.com

www.KarenJurgens.com

O taste and see that the Lord is good. How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! (Psalms 34:8).

As I thought about how to choose some “delicious” scriptures, it seemed logical to pick the nine fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. For this game, I’ll begin by listing my favorite Bible verses, from either the Old or New Testament—one for each spiritual fruit. Here goes: (All from New American Standard Bible)

 

LOVE: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).

JOY: These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full (John 15:11).

PEACE: And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

PATIENCE: And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise (Hebrews 6:15).

KINDNESS: Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4).

GOODNESS: Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalms 23:6).

FAITHFULNESS: They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:23).

GENTLENESS: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS (Matthew 11:29).

SELF-CONTROL: And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).

Now it’s your turn … what are your favorite verses we can feast on today?

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Every season is beautiful

Fall is a beautiful time of year, isn’t it? Here in North Texas, temperatures still feel like summertime (but we’ll just wake up one day and suddenly need a coat and mittens, as those of us here know). But nonetheless, signs of the new season have arrived — leaves turning to red and brown, college […]

http://caitharrison.com/2015/10/15/every-season-is-beautiful/

The Revelation Church at Ephesus

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Remember when you were a student? A graded paper would be returned to you with teacher’s comments. Usually these began with the good points, summarizing what you did right—the glowing commendations. Then the criticism, if any, followed, pointing out the weaknesses and making suggestions for improvement.

We all learn from a combination of praise and constructive criticism. Even Jesus used this same pattern when he spoke to the seven churches through John the Revelator. Let’s read their review and examine what they did right.

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary” (Revelation 2:1-3, NASB).

Apparently the Ephesians were very diligent in their quest for truth. God’s Word provides standards for discerning truth from error, and the Ephesians had been well-prepared to fight against false teaching. When Paul was at Ephesus, he trained them in the truth of the gospel, warning that false teachers would surface later. Even Timothy prevailed there with hard work, patience, and perseverance, proving that he and the church at Ephesus had taken this warning to heart.

As we apply this truth to our present-day churches, answer this question: does yours train you in discerning truth from error, like the church at Ephesus? Can you identify false teachers?

With access to the internet, cable, and satellite TV, we have access to myriads of people teaching the Word. Are all teaching truth?

Some are blatantly false, and should be easy to discern, while the more dangerous ones preach truth with slivers of lies underneath. It is imperative to understand what we hear and be able to line it up against the whole truth of God’s Word.

If one little part is a lie, is their entire message false? The answer is best illustrated by the joke about brownies a dad made for his kids.

brownies

When the delicious-smelling brownies were fresh and hot from the oven, the kids gathered round, begging for a piece. But they had to cool, so while they waited, they asked their dad to tell them how he had made them.

He rattled off a list of the finest ingredients. ” Organic flour, pure cane sugar, a pinch of sea salt, and a cup of whole, organic milk.”

“Yummy!” The kids drooled. “What else?”

“Oh, lots of dark chocolate, and just a little smidge of dog poop.” He smiled.

The kids’ faces turned green as they grimaced. “What? You ruined a wonderful pan of brownies with dog poop?” They gagged at the thought.

“It was just a little bit. You probably can’t even taste it.”

I can’t imagine that this Dad could persuade anyone into eating those treats. But this story makes a good point about false teaching. Just a smidge of something contrary to the pure gospel contaminates the whole thing, making it false.

How can you know if you are being tricked? If you don’t know the Word, these charlatans can trip you up every time. In fact, they count on the flock’s lack of knowledge in order to gently lead them astray.

We must know the WHOLE gospel of truth.

God warns, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6, NASB).

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Remember years ago when false teachers surfaced in the news? How about Jim Jones and his faithful followers who all drank the lethal Kool-Aid? Those are an insignificant number compared to thousands today who may be seated on a church pew or a couch at home, their ears devouring tainted brownies, chased by poisoned Kool-Aid.

Some congregations may begin on the right path of truth, but somewhere down the road, they get sidetracked by worldly desires. The leadership may fall from grace because of the temptation of adultery, or watching pornography in the late night hours in the comfort of their home offices. Ever hear of Ashley Madison, for example?

Or perhaps it’s the lure of wealth, and they become greedy for bigger salaries to live like kings in palaces. Ever hear of the prosperity gospel?

Whatever the sin may be, coming through the leadership or the congregation, everyone is tainted and affected.

But God.

The Lord will help and deliver us from false teaching if we stay close to Him, planted in His Word. The Holy Spirit is our comforter, our teacher, and our link to God through the blood of Jesus. He lives inside our spirit and will never leave or forsake us. He will lead us into all truth, guiding us through our conscience, teaching us as we study God’s Word.

He protects us, His sheep, from wolves hiding under sheep’s clothing. He will reveal the truth to us, and we don’t have to fear becoming that wolf’s dinner.

Now let’s now examine Epheseus’ shortcomings.

“But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore, remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent” (Revelation 2:4-5, NASB).

How could this church be so savvy at uncovering false teachers, yet be accused of this? Those who hate evil and false teaching have a strong gift of discernment from the Holy Spirit; yet, leaving  Jesus, our first love, is different. It’s about the condition of the heart.

Remember when you first got saved? Most of us fell in love with Jesus and couldn’t stop talking about Him and witnessing to the lost. We devoured His Word and prayed every day. We were sloppy-drunk in love with the Lord and His Holy Spirit. Just like a romantic relationship that culminates in marriage, we spiritually felt and acted the same way.

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What happens? Just as in a marriage, the relationship settles and cools as that fire of passionate love begins to temper, dying down into glowing embers. We must poke them, blowing gently, feeding them with kindling until it smokes and the fire again catches. The more we feed it, the hotter and higher the flames will grow.

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How do we stoke the fires of our love for the Lord?  Revelation 2:4 instructs us to “repent, and do the deeds you did at first.” Then the fire will catch and burn again.

Here’s a 2015 example we can all relate to. Our cell phones and other electronic devices must be charged every day or else they will go dead. This is of such major importance in our lives that we carry chargers with us to use during the day. Even in schools, airports, and hospital waiting rooms–you’ll find charging ports with people sitting next to walls with their devices juicing up.

Think of your relationship with Jesus. We also have to charge up our spirits on a daily basis. We download His power through reading the Word. Then we send back the current to God through prayer, and the Holy Spirit joins us together through the cross and the blood of Jesus so that we’re one with Him. If we neglect to do this, our power lessens, and at some point will go dead.

But the good news is that we can get charged up immediately as soon as we go into our prayer closets. It’s never too late.

OR ELSE …

As parents, haven’t we used OR ELSE phraseology to back up our demands?  We let our children know exactly what consequence their rebellion holds.

God does likewise.

At Ephesus, Jesus added a solemn consequence if that church refused to listen and heed His warning. His OR ELSE is spelled out in Revelation 2:5: “I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.” Jesus meant business, and He meant what He said. Ephesus would lose its place as a church, unless they listened and obeyed.

It is interesting that Jesus concludes this warning to Ephesus by saying, “Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate (Revelation 2:6, NASB).

Who were the Nicolaitans? We know little about them, but it is supposed that they may have been a sect that introduced false teaching in regard to a believer’s freedom in Christ. Perhaps they espoused that once you’re saved at the cross, that frees you to live like everyone else who was immersed in a world of idolatry and sexual sin. Whatever the teaching, it was a stench in the nostrils of God, and He hated it with a passion.

The truth is that the cross frees us from sin to live a sanctified, holy life in Christ.

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As with each letter to the churches, the conclusion ends on a high note with a wonderful promise.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7, NASB).

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Do we have a spiritual ear to hear what the Holy Spirit is speaking to us today? If we hate evil, persevere for truth without growing weary, discern false teachers, and always keep our love for the Lord first in our hearts, there is a reward for that victory. Jesus promises us fruit to eat in heaven—but not just any fruit—the tree of life that gives eternal life.

Is it worth it to be obedient to God’s Word? You bet it is. What a wonderful reward awaits us in God’s kingdom!

Where are we traveling next? Meet me in Smyrna.

Knowing His Voice

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My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me (John 10:27, NASB).

When do we begin learning to recognize voices? My younger daughter, Cait, taught me the answer shortly after her birth.

She had been born in the wee hours of September 30th, and I was exhausted from the excitement of welcoming her into the world. When the nurses volunteered to keep her while I indulged in a quick afternoon nap, I assumed that she would also sleep. However, after I awoke and made my way down the hall, I could hear an impatient wail growing louder with each approaching step. Although her cry was still brand new to my ears, I was shaken with the sudden realization that this was my baby crying, pleading for her mommy. Must admit, I felt a little guilty.

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Then my newborn taught me an amazing lesson. As I began conversing with the nurses, she turned her head toward me and silenced her cries. She found that trusted voice, the one she had grown to recognize and love as soon as her ears were able to hear in the womb. As I spoke to her, she wiggled and cooed out those adorable gurgles, pacified that she was now safe with Mommy, and we bonded completely from that moment.

Isn’t it like that with the Lord? As His children, we come to know and love our good shepherd’s voice.

Imagine being encased in this world, just like a baby in her mother’s womb. We hear Jesus’s voice and learn to recognize and trust Him as He speaks to us through His Word and the Holy Spirit who lives within us. Even before entering His kingdom, we know Him.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then, face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known (I Corinthians 13:12, NASB).

Just as a baby delights in pairing together her mother’s voice and face, we will do the same after we’re born into His kingdom. Won’t it be a glorious day when we can match that trusted voice with His wonderful face, as He holds us, safe and secure, in His arms for all eternity?

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What will He speak to us on that day? As a mother croons her newborn’s name over her child, will He also over us? As we prepare to meet our soon-coming Lord, we can only imagine.

Victory Through Prayer

By Karen Jurgens

“The Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and valiant warriors’” ~ Joshua 6:2, NASB.

During difficult times, how do we fight?  By going to battle on our knees. Prayer is the most powerful weapon we have to come against the enemy, but we also need strategy for using it effectively.

Let’s look at the story of Joshua and see how he was guided in the battle for Jericho.

180px-Tissot_The_Taking_of_Jericho wikipedia

Wikipedia.com

Directed by God, he and his troops were faithful to do as commanded. “You shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days” ~ Joshua 6:3, NASB. Marching around the city in silence once each day must have been a true act of faith—no swords, no fighting, and no words. Armed men went first, followed by seven priests blowing seven rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord, followed by the rear guard.

How could a simple march bring down city walls and usher victory into the hands of the Israelites? It must have been especially challenging on the sixth day—the day before the miracle—but they had God’s promise that He would bring them that victory.

Do we also feel the same way as we pray in God’s will for our requests—perhaps for days, weeks, or even years—as we keep waiting for that breakthrough?

But the seventh day dawned in Jericho. On that special day, the procedure was different. “…then on the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets” ~ Joshua 6:4b, NASB. They marched around the city walls six times, and on the seventh round, God told them “…when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the walls of the city will fall down flat…” ~ Joshua 6:5, NASB.  What a victory celebration that must have been!

That seventh day is on the way for us prayer warriors. As we march around and pray over our requests, let us continue to have faith that the day when God will pull down our strongholds is coming soon.

Dear Lord, like the story of Joshua, may our walls come tumbling down!

www.bing.com

www.bing.com

Dream Again

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By Karen

Remember when you were a young child, beginning life’s journey full of hopes and dreams for the future?

Along the way, you lost your precious dreams as you traveled down the highway of life. Perhaps someone stole them, so you mourned their loss and believed they were gone forever. Or an unexpected accident trampled them, so you discarded them as unsalvageable. You tended the broken pieces in your heart by burying those dreams deep inside…hidden, locked, the key thrown away, never again to see the light of day.

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Cinderella must have felt the same way at midnight—her stagecoach turned back into a pumpkin, her ball gown back into rags, her glass slipper lost. Reality screamed that her dreams of marrying the prince were lies.

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When her fairy godmother had worked magic so that she could attend the ball, Cinderella’s heart was bellowing out Happy Days are Here Again, but at midnight, she was singing a different tune.

“That fairytale? Dreams don’t really come true. I. Will. Never. Be. A. Fool. Again.” 

Cinderella stepmother

It was back to scrubbing floors and waiting on her stepmother and stepsisters.Cinderella didn’t know which way to turn…or how to find her way back to that road where she and her dreams had last walked together.

But in a surprising turn of events, her lottery ticket to princess-hood did come up a winner–just not the way she had foreseen.

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Here’s the truth: dreams do become reality. It is the invisible filigreed needle and thread that hope uses to weave the fabric of your future. Its road is easy to find…and to find again if you are currently on a detour. All you have to do is believe in the Lord and trust Him to bring it to pass.

Did you know that Jesus’ followers also experienced broken dreams after His crucifixion and burial? Although Jesus had plainly told them what was about to happen to Him, they still didn’t understand. Although they had witnessed Him perform many miracles and had even performed some themselves, they were about to be part of the fulfillment of the greatest dream of all time—a dream that was coming to pass differently than they had expected.

What was their dream?

The Jews had been living under the oppressive political tyranny of the Romans during this time in history. They believed from Scripture that their Messiah would physically come to bring deliverance and set up His kingdom on earth…and the disciples and fellow believers knew that Jesus was that One.

The mistake, however, was their lack of understanding about God’s timing. When Jesus was crucified, all their hopes and dreams of freedom from Roman tyranny died with their Messiah on the cross. In their deep sorrow, all they could ask was why? Their dreams lay at the foot of the Cross, shattered in jagged shards.

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But Jesus didn’t leave them without an answer. On the third day after His crucifixion, there had been some reports among the disciples that Jesus was alive, but no one had yet seen Him.

Two disciples decided to get away from it all and walk to Emmaeus. On the way, Jesus appeared to them, but unrecognized. It didn’t take much prompting before they were pouring out their hearts to this traveler about their broken dreams.

Then Jesus began teaching out of the Scriptures about Himself, beginning with Moses and the prophets, explaining why the Messiah had to suffer and then enter into His glory. He was reaching into their hearts, gathering those broken pieces, and mending them by answering their whys.

At Emmaeus, they pressed the traveler to stay with them. The moment Jesus said a prayer over the bread, the blinders fell off and they recognized his true identity. Then their Lord suddenly disappeared…but He was alive—just like He said!

Their despair turned to overflowing joy as they streaked the seven miles back to Jerusalem to announce it to the other disciples. Along the way, they analyzed what had just happened. “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as He talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32, NLT).

Their dreams were coming true—just not the way they had envisioned.

His kingdom is still coming in the future, but first the perfect lamb had to sacrifice His life, shed His blood, and be resurrected so that mankind could be saved through Him. His kingdom will be established when He comes to earth the second time, and all believers are looking forward to that day.

On this Easter of 2015, my prayer for you is that you will not only find Jesus on your road of life, but especially that He will resurrect your broken or lost dreams buried deep inside your heart. Even when you feel discouraged, look to Jesus and remember to walk in faith. Rest patiently in the knowledge that He is with you on your journey and will never leave you nor forsake you.

Yes, He will surely bring your dreams to pass…His way…in His timing.

“For I know the plans I have for you, for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11, NASB).

EasterCross

The Still, Small Voice

SunSaturday began as a perfect day…the balmy weather almost whispering, it’s spring! Blue skies framed the background of the bright lemon sun, toasty-warm. I shed my winter coat in exchange for the day’s warmth, so liberating after days upon days of knife-cutting cold.

Uptown, Dallas. City sidewalks teeming with sweater-clad people of every age. Moms and dads directing little girls bouncing in pink tutus and jeweled tee-shirts, their long, dancing curls glittering white in the sunlight. Couples holding hands, their strides exactly matching. Older couples with younger family, sons and daughters and grandchildren. One storefront flowed into the next, parked cars slept snugly in a row, manicured winter flower beds hugged majestic trees, bare in this winter season.

Having a late lunch in a restaurant, still full in spite of the late hour. Everyone is out to celebrate this glorious day, to revel in the wonder of a small slice of spring dealt in the middle of winter. No, it wouldn’t last long. We pretended we didn’t know or that we had forgotten. Every precious minute counted. Like Cinderella, we knew this party would end as soon as the sun set.

Walking back to the car, we stopped to take some pictures in front of a bare tree with a landscaped flowerbed. My elderly mother, almost 93, walked with my daughter and me down the sidewalk. For some reason, she walked ahead, faster. I heard the Holy Spirit whisper softly to me. Watch her…take her arm. But I was distracted, conversing with my daughter, looking in the shop windows as we lounged down the sidewalk. Looking down, I observed the pavement, cracked and uneven.

Sidewalk

“Mother, come back and walk with us.” I called ahead, counting on her to do just that. But her determination to “do it her way” prevailed.

Distracted. Go get her. Make her stop. Laughing and enjoying the conversation, almost finished. My eyes turned completely the opposite way, focused on my daughter’s face. Her eyes popped as she screamed, “Nana! Nana!”

She ran to the curb. I turned around and followed, seeing what I could never have imagined. My mother was lying on the side of the pavement, next to a car. Her shoe held wedged in a crack on that rounded curb, a curb she had not seen as she took a shortcut around a tree.

In a crisis, God always supplies help, and today it was in the form of a strong father and his teenaged son. They helped her up and into the car. Terrified that she had broken something, we rushed her to the hospital. At her age, the ease of breaking a hip, a wrist, or having a head injury is all too common. But nothing was broken—just a gently-sprained ankle. A true miracle!

Later, she revealed to us that the Holy Spirit had also spoken a warning to her. Before making the split-second decision to walk around that tree, He had whispered to her, Go straight. Don’t walk here. But the way around the tree would save a few steps, so she ignored the warning and continued, not looking down to see the jagged curb. Too late.

How often have we heard that soft whisper of warning? Do we recognize that the Holy Spirit, who lives inside us, is guiding and protecting us from harm?

I regret not responding. Next time, Lord, I will promise to listen and obey. Immediately.

The Holiday Blues

Can you imagine that Christmas is exactly one week away? In honor of the season, I’d like to share with you a previously published post from Christmas, 2014. I hope it will be a blessing to you today.

holiday shopping

Do the approaching holidays bring you joy? Or not?

Everywhere you go, anticipation of Christmas Day abounds. Neighborhoods glitter with lights outlining rooftops and everything on the ground that can be wrapped or staked. Reds, whites, purples and blues reign in the form of sleighs, Santas, and snowmen in the darkness. Christmas trees twinkle behind windows, promising wonderful surprises for December 25th.

But on the other side of the glitz and glamour is a different story that begs telling.

Shoppers exhaust themselves over the hunt for good parking spaces as they fight bumper-to-bumper traffic. Artificial trees, lights, wreaths and bows adorn malls and stores, luring buyers to the latest price reductions on popular merchandise. To find that perfect gift at that perfect sales price means pushing and bustling through the thick crowds, even at wee hours of the morning–even on Thanksgiving Day.

Then more work ensues, from tediously wrapping each present to cooking a deluxe Christmas dinner. As if that’s not enough, there’s the worry of how all those relatives– seen only once a year–will get along at the dinner table. Can the clashes of personalities, seasoned with sarcasm and a sprig of jealousy, lead to a bad case of indigestion?

By the end of Christmas, emotions are a mixture of a little bit of everything ranging from exhilaration to disappointment with a generous dash of exhaustion.

So how can we to find true joy in this season?

On the first Christmas, Mary rocked back and forth on the donkey which carried her from Nazareth to Bethlehem. She bent forward in pain as the growing labor stabbed her body. Joseph’s face set with anxious determination as he sought shelter for them. A stable with clean straw served as her maternity bed, surrounded by animals witnessing this miraculous birth.

Not a Christmas tree in sight, but a shining star blazed with triumph in the heavens.

No carolers, but real angels sang and blew trumpets as they announced His birth to nearby shepherds watching their flocks by night.

No engraved birth announcement, but His star in the sky announced that a Savior for all mankind had been born.

No exchange of gifts except from three kings from disant lands, who brought Him gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The Holiday Blues by Karen Jurgens

In the simplicity of the first Christmas, let’s put aside our 21st century first-world problems and reflect on Him. He is the perfect gift given to us by our God, His Father.

I pray that Jesus would be born into your hearts this Christmas season. Receive Him fresh this year and freely give away His love to others.

Focusing on Jesus is the way to find joy this holiday season.

Joy to the world, The Lord is come,

Let earth receive her King.

Let every heart, prepare Him room,

And heaven and nature sing!

 

Enjoy Joy to the World by Chris Tomlin. Click Here.