I simply want to encourage you to live in the reality of the resurrection of Jesus today. His resurrection points to our resurrection and to our being transformed into true and perfect people. I know this world is hard and we are ready for it to end. But, take heart – Jesus is here, the resurrected Jesus is making all things new. The work of transformation has begun. All we have to do is look forward expectantly to the day when we get to enjoy it in full. Paul says it best:
“And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. … everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. … Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. …But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Corinthians 15:19-57
May we all live today as resurrected people with resurrection hope. Not as people just waiting for this life to pass and we move on to the next. But as people who are living in resurrected victory today – looking forward to complete and total transformation tomorrow.
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13
Take a second and think of three things you truly hope for. What are they? Now, who or what are you depending on to see those things become reality for you? How confident are you that what you hope for will happen?
The Bible speaks of hope quite a bit. In fact Paul lists it among the three greatest gifts the Spirit gives us – faith, hope, and love. But, there is a difference between the hope the Bible speaks of and the hope we talk about. For us hope often comes off as wishful thinking. I hope I win the lottery even though I know the chances are slim to none that I actually will. That kind of hope has very little to no confidence behind it. Partly because that hope is grounded in this world and depends on someone or something from this world to make it happen.
The hope God talks about and that the Holy Spirit gives us is more than a wishful though. Biblical hope carries with it the idea of confident expectation. This kind of hope has an assurance about it. Romans 5:5 tells us the hope we get from God is a hope that does not disappoint. Now, that is the kind of hope we need. It is that kind of hope that gives life, energy, and motivation to keep striving forward.
The biggest reason for the confidence and assurance we have in this hope is that the source of this hope is beyond us. The source of this hope is trust worthy and dependable. Jesus is our hope (1 Timothy 1:1). This hope doesn’t come from within us, it comes from Him. So, if we are lacking confidence in our hope the first thing we need to seriously consider is the source of our hope. Is our hope placed in the right place? Is it in Jesus?
Sometimes we grow frustrated in our hope because of what we are hoping for. Hoping to win the lottery is always going to be frustrating. So, what should we hope for? Should we hope for better? Should we hope for heaven? Absolutely. Jesus said, in Revelation 21, that He is making all things new. That is what we can hope for – better and new things! It is resurrection hope!
If you are feeling hopeless today, know you don’t have to stay that way. Trust Jesus – He will give you hope!
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.
Jesus tells a group of religious leaders a short story in Matthew 21. He tells them about two sons both of which were asked to go to work. The first son said no but after thinking about it decided he better get to it, so he ended up going to work. The second son said, “Yes, I will go” but then never actually does. Jesus asked which son was obedient? Of course, it was the son that actually went to work. You see, our words can only get us so far before they require us to take some action.
The grit God has given us (2 Timothy 1:7) is to be used in our every day lives, not just in the toughest moments of life, but all the time. God expects us to live out our faith and not to just talk about it. He expects us to actually do what we say. If we say we believe in Jesus then our life and actions need to reflect that belief. We need to be doers. He expects us to take what He has given us, the Spirit of grit, and actually do something with it. That means we need to live a gritty life.
Another way He explains this is in the story of the talents in Matthew 25. Three servants are given some talents. Two of the servants do something with the talents given and multiply them. The third servant just protects the one given because he is afraid to lose it. He doesn’t want to take the risk. So, he does nothing with it. He is called the lazy and wicked servant and the master takes the talent from him.
The things God has given us are meant to be used. We are supposed to take a risk with them in order to be obedient to God and be a doer of His word. That is what James mean when he says we need to be a doer and not just a listener. He means we have been given a spirit of power, well we better display that power. We have a spirit of love, well we better love. We have a spirit of discipline, well we better show some discipline. In almost every case it will require some grit.
God has not given us a spirit of laziness or called us to a life of ease. He has given us a spirit of grit – a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. God has given us the necessary talent to expand His Kingdom. We are called to use it, to take the risk, and live a gritty life. God is ready to use that gritty life to change lives and make Kingdom impacts. Be gritty. Live gritty.
And He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once.
I was playing a virtual reality game not that long ago and realized how hard it is to convince your mind of two different things at the same time. I knew I was standing in my living room, but my mind was seeing a miniature golf course with cliffs and water falls. I tried to “walk off” the cliff a couple of times and even though I knew there really was no cliff it still caused a funny feeling and I had to “force” my brain to be ok with it. It was weird!
Gritty faith can be like that at times. Where we have to go off of what we know to be true and not what we feel or the circumstances we are looking at. There are times in life where we will have to have that kind of faith to experience the victory God has for us.
In the story in Matthew 15 there is a Gentile woman who had a daughter that was demon possessed. She, like any mother, wanted her daughter to be healed, to be set free of the torment. So, she came to Jesus for that healing. She knew Jesus was able to heal her, she knew Jesus as Lord, and she believed in who He said He was. It took that solid foundation and some grit for her to see her daughter set free.
Her circumstances were not in her favor – she was a Gentile woman – unclean in the eyes of the Jews and would have been ignored by most Jewish men. Her cries for help were met with demands of silence by those closest to Jesus. Even Jesus didn’t respond in the most favorable way. But, she kept on. She kept asking. She got on her knees and cried out for help. This was one gritty mom!
This gritty faith led to a victory for her and for her daughter. Jesus has guaranteed us a victory, but He never promised it would be an easy one. Don’t let your circumstances dictate your faith or your action. Let God do that. Hold on to who you know Him to be! Never let anyone or anything steer you off track – have some grit and wait for God to work!
Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death… Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.
Hebrews 2:14, 17-18
There is a really interesting story in Matthew 4 of Jesus being tempted. It says God led Him out into the wilderness in-order to be tempted. That sounds very strange to me. I mean, think about it, God led His Son out to be tempted. Would you send your child out into the world to be tempted? It is a questionable decision until you take into account what Jesus was doing. He was becoming like us in every respect to help us live victoriously through this life.
When Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness He was showing us that living victoriously is possible and He was showing us how to go about it. Jesus put His grit on full display. According to the writer of Hebrews He did all this so He could helps us in the same way. So, are you facing some temptation – have some Jesus grit!
Jesus grit starts with some steps of obedience. In Matthew 4 the first thing Jesus does is follows the leading of the Spirit. I am sure He didn’t really want to go out into the wilderness but He went anyway. If we are going to have Jesus grit we are going to have to be willing to follow the leadership of God even if that means following Him into the difficult. Grit doesn't come from the easy – it comes from the hard. So be obedient to God so He can cultivate the grit you need.
Jesus also took time to surrender Himself to God. We can see that in His baptism as well as in the 40 days of fasting in the wilderness. Jesus grit requires surrender. To make it through you have to be all in for God. Are you? Jesus was.
After those 40 days and that temptation Jesus came out victorious. According to Hebrews, that means we can go through the same thing and come out the same way. Now that Jesus has gone through it, He is ready to lead you through it too. Jesus grit trusts in the help of Christ.
And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
We all need some good friends in our lives. People that are there for us no matter what. Someone who is always helping us move ahead and get to a better place. Good friends are a vital part of a healthy and happy life. When you think of a good friend who do you think of? What has that person done for you?
Jesus once said that there is no greater love than for someone to lay down their life for another. Jesus, of course, demonstrated that for us when He gave His life for us. He really is a true friend – the best friend. He is always there for us. Always has our best interest at heart. He is there, looking out for us, no matter what. The problem is we don’t always see that and we often have trouble getting our selves in front of Him. Much like what happened to the paralyzed man in the story above.
In this story these men knew Jesus could heal their friend. But, since he was paralyzed he was unable to get to Jesus himself. So, they had to help. They had to carry him, they had to dig a hole in a roof, carry him up on the roof, tie up some ropes, and then lower him through the hole and in front of Jesus. None of that sounds easy! Have you ever tried to carry another person. It isn’t an easy task. But, they did it because they knew how much their friend needed Jesus.
There are times in life when we need those kinds of friends. We need someone who is willing to carry us and lower us down in front of Jesus. There are also times when we need to be that kind of friend – willing to go the extra mile and do the hard work of loving someone and helping someone get to Jesus.
I am thankful for the friends God has given me, who have held the rope for me when I have needed it. I am especially thankful that God is that kind of friend too. Jesus came and held that rope for us – removed the obstacle of sin so we could gain access to the Father. Be that kind of friend to those around you. Surround yourself with those kind of people, you will be better for it.
…Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God…
Do you know what happens to a balloon (filled with air) when you hold it over a flame? It pops. I am not a scientist but I am sure it has something to do with the air inside expanding due to the heat resulting in a popped balloon. But, do you ever feel like a balloon that is being held over a flame? You are being stretched and stretched and you feel like you are going to explode at any minute? The trials and troubles of life have just heated you up to the point where you just can’t take it anymore? It is a feeling most all of us can relate to, I am sure.
The story the above verse comes from is one where most people would have popped. Paul and Silas have been put into prison for doing what God had asked them to do. Paul, just before going into prison, seemed annoyed and exhausted. A combination that usually leads to an explosion (at least I know it can for me). But, instead of exploding they sang praises – right from their prison cell. In a trying and stressful time they found a way to rejoice. How did that do that?
Let’s go back to the balloon for just a second. The balloon popped because of what was inside of it. Now, if you fill that balloon with water and hold it over a flame it won’t pop (at least not as easily and not right away). That water that is filling the balloon will protect it from the heat of the fire. It really does matter what you put in it.
The same goes for us. What is on the inside matters. Paul and Silas were able to sing praises because God’s joy had filled them on the inside. They still experienced the stress, pressure, and heat of the outside world but it didn’t destroy them because of God’s presence in them. Paul once said that he has learned to be content in every circumstance because of God’s love for him – because of Jesus.
Allow God to fill you today – to fill you with His love, forgiveness, and peaceful presence. With Him you too will be able to sing praises in the face of trials. Paul and Silas experienced peace in prison and also freedom. As they sang their chains fells off. Sing praises to God today and watch Him lead you through the storm and free you of your chains!
The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
What does the Gospel do for us? I know The Gospel Story tells me how I can be forgiven of my sins and go to heaven, but is that it? What does the Gospel do for me today? Does it have anything to say about my present reality and struggles that I face every day?
The Gospel Story is the most powerful and profound story ever told. This story removes every excuse we have ever given for all the bad decision we have made and continue to make. When we seriously consider the full Gospel story we have no excuse for living defeated or defined by sin and destructive life styles. When we trust in Jesus that is simply not an option, it is not part of the Gospel Story.
Paul tell us in Romans 6 that when we are baptized into Jesus (when we accept Him as Lord of our life and truly believe He died for us and rose again) we are like Him in death and in life. What Paul means is that Jesus died the death we couldn’t and lived the life we couldn’t so we might finally be able to be set free and live how God created us to. When Jesus died on the cross for us He broke the power of sin in our life and when He rose from the grave He made it possible for us to live a new and different life.
Paul uses some pretty strong words. He says, “When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life.” There are not more excuses – only Jesus.
We might want to argue back and say but I am not Jesus! I can’t do that! You are totally right. You are not Jesus and you can’t do that. Which is exactly why Jesus has done it for us and given us the Holy Spirit. As followers of Jesus we are not living in our own power but in His power. We are living in the power that created everything, that defeated Satan, and that rose Jesus from the dead! Sin has no say and we have no excuse. Live in the power of The Gospel Story! Live in Jesus!
In the beginning there was no life. Everything was dark, formless, and void. Then, one day God spoke and creation took shape. Light broke through the darkness, order out of chaos, and something came out of nothing. He took humanity and breathed life into us. Giving us all we needed to survive – food, space, community, and purpose. But, it wouldn’t be long before we started to doubt His goodness and stop trusting in His sovereignty. We wanted more – He wasn’t good enough anymore. We fell for an alternative story, a lesser story, a lie. What story are you living by today?
The lesser story led to pain, suffering, guilt, shame, broken relationships, and death. We died relationally, spiritually, and physically. When we chose to live without God we learned quickly that life without Him is painful. In fact, there is no life apart from the one who breathed life into us. We tried to hide from Him, in our guilt and shame, but we failed. He quickly found us. We could see the hurt in His eyes and hear the compassion in His voice. He wanted us back. We started to wonder – how can we ever get back? Who will ever be able to save us?
God didn’t leave us in this death for long before He started working on His plan to redeem us and bring us back to the good He originally created us for. We failed and continued to turn from Him, over and over and over. But, He is persistent and continued to pursue us. Even saving us from our own sin and chaos time and time again. Eventually He sent Jesus, His only Son, to die for us and put an end to the death. Jesus was the One we have been waiting for. He is the one to save us. God isn’t just our creator, now we know Him as our redeemer.
This redemption wasn’t just from death but it was also to life. All along the way we can see where His redemptive plan was breaking through and His grace was at work. That time our enemy became our friend. That mountain that got moved. The wall that got knocked down. The chains that fell off. The freedom we found. The countless victories He won for us. All this gives us hope that one day we will be in His good presence fully and be back with Him walking in that good and perfect garden. One day, we will be back in chapter 1. We just need to trust Him again. We need to hold on to His story.
Then the Lord said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?”
The last chapter in Jonah leaves us wanting more. We want to know how Jonah answered that question. I for one would really like to know where Jonah went from here. All we really know about Jonah is that he did not want God to act in His compassion, that we was rebellious, and apparently loved the plant more than he loved his fellow humans. But, in this story we learn a lot about God. We can clearly see that God is gracious and compassionate with all of His creation.
In this final question to Jonah God also says a lot about Himself. Jonah looked at the city of Nineveh as evil. He looked at this city and these people as a threat, someone that needed to be destroyed so his way of life could be preserved. Jonah put limits on the very same gracious compassion that God had just showed him (an underserving, rebellious prophet). But, God didn’t see a rebellious prophet or an evil city full of His enemies. God saw a man who was struggling with God’s grace and who needed to be saved. He saw a city full of people who were lost and needed some direction to find their way. In both cases, they were His creation, whom He loved dearly.
God moved in His compassion way more than He moves in His anger. Praise God for that! We understand Jesus to be God’s revelation of Himself to us – God in the flesh, the Word coming to life and living with us. Jesus didn’t come out of God’s anger and Jesus didn’t reveal God’s anger to us. Jesus came out of God’s compassion and came to show us just how much God loves us. He came to reveal God’s grace and compassion.
Jonah had things wrong. In his self-righteousness he cared more for the plant than he did for the people. When we allow our own self preservation to take over and when we are moved by our anger we will put limits on God’s compassion and limits on the compassion we show. Which leaves us with the same question to answer – do we want God to be compassionate or not?
Pastor Matt Huff leads Portland Central Nazarene Church. He loves being in ministry and seeing lives transformed by the power of Christ.