Why The Resurrection Matters

IMG_3051Some may ask why the resurrection is essential to our faith. Why can’t we just believe Jesus was a good teacher and follow His teachings? Why does it matter whether He had divine power?

If there was no resurrection, what do we have beyond this life?

If there was no resurrection, our Savior has no power to save.

If there was no resurrection, being a Christian is downright crazy.

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

~ 1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:17-19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Jesus’ disciples walked with Him for 3 years. Show-stopping miracles were a regularity. The blind saw. The deaf heard. The lame walked. Demons fled. The disciples bore intimate witness to His divine power.

And yet, as Jesus was led away by an angry mob, they ran for their lives.

The disciples, like most humans, feared death. Like the rest of the Jews, the disciples believed Jesus was going to restore the kingdom of Israel to earthly power. When He died, their misguided hopes died with Him.

Dark despair hung over the disciples as Jesus’ body reposed in the shadowy tomb.

Sunday morning, the sun crept over the horizon, softening the earth with its gentle warmth and light. At that same golden moment, a brighter, more glorious Son, rose from the realm of death.

Hope crushed despair.

Love conquered death.

Jesus overpowered Satan.

After Jesus’ resurrection, we see the apostles boldy preaching the gospel in the face of inevitable persecution. From the depths of prison to a dusty, blood-strewn road, their voices rose in praise. Death no longer frightened them. Fear no longer controlled them.

What changed?

What made them embrace death without fear? What made them choose lives of sacrifice?

The Empty Tomb.

The Living Savior.

The Resurrection.

When Jesus revealed His resurrected self to the apostles, all doubt vanished. Why fear death when your King has demonstrated His power to vanquish it?

The resurrection is crucial.

Without the resurrection, we have no hope.

Without hope, joy is lost.

Without joy, life is meaningless.

But Jesus has risen, hope is assured, and our lives overflow with joy inexpressible.

Our hope is not in this world or this life. Our living hope is the resurrected Christ. We take up our cross daily, crucifying the old man of sin, dying to self until he returns or we go home.

Today, and every day for the rest of your life, treasure this gift from God. We have an unshakeable hope because Jesus rose and Jesus lives.

This Love Won’t Let You Down

This is the final post in the series “God’s Love is the Greatest Love.” To read the previous post, click here.

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For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
    then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
    then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal,
    my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to take sweet counsel together;
    within God’s house we walked in the throng.

~ Psalm 55.12-14, ESV

Next to grief, betrayal is the most lingering pain.

Some betrayals—like adultery—stagger us in their severity. Others are “microbetrayals,” slowly poisoning a relationship until it is beyond healing.

We are a faithless society. The sense of duty has been drummed out of our collective conscious in favor of passion. Passion is fickle by nature. If we love only when we feel like loving, or act only when we feel like acting, then our relationships will never have any staying power. This is why divorce is rampant, patriotism is passé, and “organized religion” is repugnant. If we tie ourselves down too deeply, we will feel the pain too profoundly.

Continue reading

You’re Not As Alone as You Think

This is part 4 of the series “God’s love is the Greatest Love.” For the previous post, click here.

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“But who knows what she spoke to the darkness, alone, in the bitter watches of the night, when all her life seemed shrinking, and the walls of her bower closing in about her, a hutch to trammel some wild thing in?”

~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Loneliness has a way of seeping into the soul uninvited, slowly sapping our stores of joy until a gaping emptiness remains. Loneliness assaults us in the dead of night or kicks us in the gut as we jostle our way through the madding crowd. It metastasizes through our hearts and minds, increasing our susceptibility to temptation.

“I just wish someone understood…”

“Not a single person has walked in my shoes.”

“I don’t have anyone to talk to…”

“Even my wife doesn’t get it…”

“Everyone I see on Facebook is out having a good time, but I don’t have any close friends.”

“Since my husband betrayed me, I can’t trust anyone ever again.”

“I don’t think God hears my prayers anymore…”

Do any of these phrases sound familiar? Have you ever felt misunderstood or forsaken? Continue reading

The Greatness of Sacrificial Love.

This is part 3 of the series “God’s love is the Greatest Love.” For the previous post, click here.

 

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We mortals make much ado about our sacrifices in the name of love. I’ve heard countless people say they would take a bullet for Jesus or their family. On the other hand, they don’t want to give up Sunday sports to go to worship or put down  their iPhone to have a meaningful conversation with their kids or spend a little less on themselves to help a brother in need.They say they would give up their life, but they are unwilling to make even small sacrifices for others. They would die for others, but not necessarily live for others. Real love does both.

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The Love of our Heavenly Father

This is part 2 of the series “God’s love is the Greatest Love.” For the previous post, click here.

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One of the greatest tragedies for a young child is to grow up without a good father. For one thing, fathers provide protection, establish balance, and are often essential to a child’s understanding of how men and women should behave toward one another.

Fathers are a vital part of the family unit.

In ages past, fathers often treated their children as though they ought to be seen and not heard, rarely showing affection and often remaining aloof. This explains why many of the old preachers and pastors framed God as wrathful and distant. In our current culture, many hear “God is our Father” and do not believe He actually exists or cares because their own fathers are likewise absent or uncaring.

How we view earthly fathers directly affects how we relate to our Heavenly Father. Continue reading

8 Habits of a Forgiving Heart

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How do we heal from those wounds for which no restitution can be made? How do we extend true forgiveness when we don’t feel like forgiving? How do we ease that burning in our hearts for justice?

Forgiveness is one of the most challenging commands given to the Christian. Sometimes complete forgiveness takes more than a day, a week, a month, or even a decade. What we feel on the inside must not dictate our actions on the outside. We must make a conscious effort to obey God externally while fighting the battle internally.

In the previous post, we discussed Peter’s flawed question of how many times we ought to forgive. Today, I hope to encourage you to develop a mindset of forgiveness, particularly for those hurts which run deep.

Forgiveness is not merely an action, it is an attitude we must develop and nurture until we return to dust. Continue reading

What the World Needs Now

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Some songs make me cringe.

It’s not necessarily the lyrics—although cringe-worthy lyrics abound. Often it’s the style of singing or instrumentation. Sometimes it’s an associated memory. For instance, whenever I hear Andy Williams’ voice belt out, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” I can’t help but groan inwardly. I associate it with disgruntled black friday shoppers and unhappy ugly-Christmas-sweater people. I don’t know why…. it’s probably related to some lame commercial. Then there’s Burt Bacharach’s “What the World Needs Now.” The words aren’t bad, it’s just the way it was sung or the melody or… something. Think “nails on chalk.”

And yet… Continue reading

Help! I need somebody, not just anybody… (Day 25 of the #encourage marathon)

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I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 121, ESV

Welcome to mile marker 25 of the #encourage marathon! (If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.)

Someone out there is struggling alone. (At least, they feel alone…) It might even be you.

If you’ve ever heard the Beatles’ song “Help!” You’ll recognize their lyrics in the title. We do need help from “somebody,” and not just “anybody.” We need help from the Lord.

When life gets hard—it does, and it will, if it hasn’t already—we find ourselves in a state of loneliness. Our eyes and heart look down, our feeling of isolation grows, and we cast desperately about for support. The danger is in looking for help in all the wrong places—drugs, alcohol, friends, weapons, etcetera. Hills may offer high ground and hiding places, but they are incomparable to strongest helper of all—the Lord.

How is the Lord a strong helper?

He made heaven and earth.

There is a tendency to gloss over this point. Consider, for a moment, the vastness of the earth and the far more incomprehensible reaches of the universe. Yeah, the God that I serve made all that. Now, flip that around and consider the invisible atom or the microbes that can only be observed under high-powered microscopes. The God I serve is so observant, that he knows the number of all those trillions of microscopic entities. No problem of ours is so great he cannot tackle it, nor so minor that it escapes His notice.

He doesn’t sleep.

When the prophet Elijah stood on Mount Carmel and defied the prophets of Baal, he had a good laugh when they made futile supplications to a non-existent God. “Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” (1 Kings 18.27)

Our God never has to be roused to hear our prayer. He knows what we need before we ask Him; He just waits for us to bring our troubles. While we are asleep, God is still working. He never sits idle.

He is our keeper.

A keeper is, by definition, a guardian or caretaker. God is our guardian. The remainder of the Psalm emphasizes some of the ways in which God guards and cares for us. He watches our goings and comings and is concerned with every moment of our life, and the lives of the billions of people around us. Warren Wiersbe writes,

“In writing about the sun and the moon, the psalmist was saying several things. To begin with, in that part of the world, the burning sun is menacing (2 Kings 4:18-19Jonah 4:8), but at night, the sudden drop in temperature is both uncomfortable and unhealthy, if you lack warm covering. Day and night, our Father is with us to shelter us from that which could harm us. The Jewish people followed a lunar calendar (81:3), so the writer was also referring to days (the sun) and months (the moon). From day to day, from month to month, from season to season (Gen. 1:16-18), from year to year, our Father is with us in the many challenges and changes of life.(To read more, click this link to visit Bible Gateway.)

Are you seeking help from God first or do you come to Him only at the end of your tether?

Go to the One who is all-powerful, all-seeing, and far wiser than any human who has ever, or will ever, live upon this earth.

It could be today you feel alone and helpless. No mountain is too isolated, no storm too strong, no prison so impenetrable that God cannot reach you.


It’s almost over! Tomorrow we reach the finish line of our 26-day #encourage marathon! I hope you will join me on FacebookTwitter and here at Elihu’s Corner as we reach the end.

Feel free to download and share the graphics of these verses/passages on your Twitter feed or Facebook page with the hash tag (#encourage), or email them to a friend who needs encouragement.

Make some time to copy down these posts. Some of them are a bit long, but it only takes a few minutes. Ask your kids to do it with you. Don’t just be encouraged, encourage others!

If you missed the original post listing all 26 passages, click here to download the PDF list. All these posts will be available here under the #encourage tag. You can also type #encourage in the search window at the top of the page.

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What is Your ‘Why’?

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In the race of life, there are moments when we forget why we are running. We focus on how to be better, faster, and stronger. We waste fruitless hours bemoaning the uneven ground, the unexpected rocks, the sand in our shoes, and more. We see something lovely,  our breath momentarily suspended, only to trip over our own feet and hit the ground.

It’s a long, hard race.

(Can I get an amen?)

In this race, every person, at some moment in time asks the question, ‘Why am I here?’ or ‘Why am I doing this?’.

Indeed, why are you here?

Why do you do what you do?

What do you want to be remembered for when you cross the finish line?

For myself, the past seven years have been like a never-ending obstacle course. I’ve bounded over hurdles, climbed ropes (and mountains), dodged flying objects—all in the effort to keep forward momentum. I cannot count the times I hit the ground and wondered aloud, “why on earth am I here?”

The answer is simple: I am here to glorify God. That is, and always has been, God’s intended purpose for my life and the lives of countless others. That is my “why.”

My “why” should dictate how to best serve God, my family and those within my circle of influence.

Whys from the Word

Why #1: I serve Christ

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.
You are serving the Lord Christ.

~ ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:23-24‬ 

Why #2: I fear the Lord.

The end of the matter; all has been heard.
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man.

~ Ecclesiastes 12:13

Why #3: I love God and my neighbors.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God,
and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

~ 1 John 4.7-8

 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels,
but have not love,
I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,
and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains,
but have not love,
I am nothing.

If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,
but have not love,
I gain nothing.

~ 1 Corinthians 13.1-3

We glorify God when we serve Him, fear Him and love Him.

“But, my job is lousy and my boss is a jerk!”

Who are you working for? You are working to provide for your family because you love them. You are working to provide for yourself so as not to burden others. You are working for the Lord. Remember your “Why.”

“My spouse/kids/parents fail to appreciate anything I do!”

Did Jesus’ disciples appreciate everything He did for them? Not really. If we love God and love others, we will love like Jesus loved.

“I can’t talk about God at work or at school. I’ll get fired/disciplined.”

Who do you fear more? God or people? Be an example of joy, hope, faith, and love. Be prepared to give an answer for the hope within you. Don’t hesitate to give credit where it is due. If you are working diligently and cheerfully in a lousy situation and someone asks, ‘How can you possibly be happy in this doing this?!’, you reply, ‘I’m working for the Lord.’ In doing this, you will have shown and spoken your purpose. Fear God.

Is life frustrating and purposeless for you? Make a list of the things which seem meaningless and ask yourself if you are fulfilling the purpose of the Lord by doing these things. If you are not, you need to re-evaluate what you are doing and adjust how or what you are doing to fulfill the Lord’s purpose for you.

 

7 Marriage Principles We Should Teach Our Children

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Many parents squirm over the prospect of their children dating and marrying—and for good reason. We who have been through that stage of life are well-acquainted with the pitfalls, dangers and temptations. We have observed (or experienced) them and are more than a little reluctant to let our kids face that particular gauntlet.

Because we live in a society in which people choose their marriage partner, it is absolutely vital that we actively teach our children what marriage is and what to look for in a spouse.

#1: Dating/courtship is for the purpose of finding the right person to marry.

Dating/courtship is a vetting process like a job interview. Get character references (not necessarily in writing), get to know that person’s friends, learn how they behave in various situations. We need to remind our children that when they date someone, they need to closely examine that person’s character:

1. Do you they walk with the Lord or do they merely go through the motions?

2. Do they anger easily?

3. Do they have emotional imbalances?

4. How does a man treat his mother? How does a girl treat her father? Odds are they will treat you the same way after you are married.

4. Do they give in to vices—drugs, gambling, overeating, overspending, alcohol, etc.?

5. Are they lazy or hardworking?

6. Do they treat you respectfully or try to lead you into temptation?

7. Are they willing to wait until marriage to have physical intimacy?

Teach your kids these principles in any conversation about potential dating prospects. I saw an example recently in which a mother told her daughter to insert her boyfriend’s name in place of “love” in 1 Corinthians 13 and determine whether he possessed some of the attributes (patient, kind etcetera). It was an eye opener for the young girl!

#2: Marry a true fellow Christian.

I am certain there will be many who disagree with me on this one.

I have seen 3 cases in which an unbelieving spouse turns toward Christ and becomes a strong, dedicated Christian. It is possible—all things are with God. However, it is a phenomenal risk. Do you really want to place the spiritual future of your unborn children on the line?

Another thought: it is much easier to pull someone down than to lift somebody up. The relationship between a husband and wife is one of the strongest, most intimate earthly bonds. How can two walk together unless they are agreed? You will each keep trying to pull one another down disparate paths, leading to contention, separation, or one side caving to the other. I don’t care how strong you think you are, you set yourself up for a troublesome path if you choose to marry someone who doesn’t love the Lord.

Lastly, just because someone says they are a Christian does not mean they live like one. Observe their conduct both in worship and when surrounded by worldly people.

#3: Marriage is a lifelong commitment.

Our society has been eroding this concept for decades. The homosexuals didn’t destroy marriage; heterosexual married couples beat them to it. Divorce rates have been high since the 1970’s, with the result that marriage is—to quote Mary Poppins—a “pie crust promise, easily made, easily broken.”

Emphasize the importance of commitment to your kids. If your children promise to do something—no matter how small—hold them to it! If they fail to keep appointments, show up for jobs, fulfill agreements  etc, let them suffer the consequences. If they learn to be committed to their word, they will carry this over into their married life.

#4: Husbands should love their wives.

Duh.

This may seem obvious, but it’s often neglected.

Husbands, take the initiative to set up a date night with your wife away from the house. Show your wife affection in front of your children. I’m not suggesting that you be inappropriate about it, just give her small tokens of affection such as coming up behind your wife to give her a hug, holding her hand when you’re out walking, opening the car door for her when you get ready to leave, or  giving her a kiss whenever you part from each other. Women crave romance and affection, no matter what their love language might be. Random acts of romance are great too!

One last thing: praise her often, especially in front of the kids. They need to see that their mother is cherished and appreciated by their father so they will model it in their own relationships. They need to know that women are not doormats, nor are they goddesses—they are a valued partner in the marriage relationship and ought to be treated as such.

#5: Wives should respect their husbands.

I was surprised to learn that Aretha Franklin’s hit song “Respect” was written by Otis Redding—a man. It wasn’t meant to be a feminist mantra; it was a husband’s plea to his wife!

Just as women crave affection, men long for respect. Our culture has gone out of it’s way to demean men in an effort to promote women. This isn’t equality, folks, it’s selfishness. Why do you have to tear someone else down in an effort to build yourself up? Men should show respect to their wives, but wives should also respect their husbands.

Wives, do NOT demean your husband behind his back or to his face. Speak civilly in front of the children. Find the good that he does and praise him behind his back and to his face. Ask his honest opinion and consider it without rolling your eyes. Build him up, don’t tear him down. This makes a huge difference for your children as well. If a wife disrespects her husband, the kids will also disrespect him. If there is really something irritating you, take it first to the Lord in prayer and then communicate it to your husband privately once you’ve considered the best way to approach it.

#6: Married couples should be a team.

I think two of my three children have tried the “daddy-said-no-so-ask-mommy” routine (or vice versa) at least once. They quickly learned to discard this tactic. If we disagree about something with the kids, we do it behind closed doors. In front of the kids, we are a united front. They’ve learned that we aren’t to be manipulated or turned against each other.

#7: Married couples may disagree, but they do it respectfully.

Have discussions, not arguments in front of your children. I’ve heard people say that kids should see married couples argue so they know that “it happens” and doesn’t mean the marriage is over. I’m not so sure about that. I recommend discussing things (in a civil manner) in front of the kids. Children should see that spouses disagree (it’s reality), but that it can be done without resorting to anger. (Remember:  don’t argue about your kids in front of your kids—keep those discussions private!)


We cannot force our children to choose good partners or to have good marriages. Even in good marriages, there may come a time in which one spouse is lead away by temptation or crumbles under pressure.

Here is what we can do: 

  1. Pray for your child’s future spouse—daily.
  2. Actively teach these principles
  3. Be an example of the above principles!

What if I’m a single parent?

If you are widowed with children at home, you have a challenging job dealing with grief and caring for children. Pray diligently! Seek out families with good parents that your children can spend time with so they can observe good marriages. If you choose to remarry, tread carefully and make sure to do your due diligence in researching that person.

If you are divorced, you have a tough mountain to climb, depending on the age and maturity of your child. Don’t spend all your time running down your ex. You cannot control that person or what they say; you can only control what you do with the time you have with your child. Love them, teach them, and point out the pitfalls of divorce—they see it firsthand though they may not grasp it. Be an example of steadiness and stability. Above all, pray ceaselessly for your children—divorce is hard for them to handle too!

If we want to see stronger marriages, we need to start by strengthening our own and teaching our children these principles.

What marriage principles are you teaching your children? What would you add to the list?