CELEBRATING EASTER EVERYDAY
I remember growing up, Easter was mostly a day for getting together with family and having a good meal. Going to church may have also been something we did, but I vaguely remember that. And I do not ever recall saying a prayer together before we had our meal. This was my typical Easter, among other special celebrations growing up.
A few years later now (ok, maybe more than a few), Easter has a completely new meaning and significance for me and my family. It’s all about Jesus. He came to please the Father and to do His will. This is life-changing for us as Christians, if we truly grasp it.
Before we truly appreciate this wonderful Resurrection Day that we call Easter, let us remember what happened before the resurrection. This is where it starts.
It always amazes and humbles me that Jesus went through everything that He did, to ultimately bring glory and to please the Father. He suffered like no other, in every possible way. This is something that we cannot really understand as human beings. Such a selfless sacrifice.
“But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”
Today, we can have a relationship with God through Christ, because of
the perfect sacrifice that was made. This is something we should remember
daily. As I recall growing up, today this is one of the things I most
appreciate about having a relationship with God. It’s real, it’s a daily thing,
that challenges and encourages me.
So, let’s talk now a little bit about Easter. What a moment that must have been as they found the stone rolled away and the body of Jesus not there (Luke 24:2-3). Jesus had said that He would rise again, but they were still perplexed (Luke 24:4).
As we read on in Luke, Jesus appears to many and shares these beautiful and impactful words:
“He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what My Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
We are all witnesses for Christ. Not because of us or what we have to offer. Because there is an awesome God who loves unconditionally and desires that all would come to know Him (2 Peter 3:9). Did you know that there are people out there who have never heard about Jesus? We are so blessed and honored to know this amazing life-changing news. Let us not take this for granted. God has a heart for the nations and we should also.
As we celebrate Easter, may we remember the sacrifice Jesus made and may we remember the words that He spoke.
If you are reading this at any other time of the year, be encouraged to celebrate and remember these things daily. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We can celebrate Him everyday (Hebrews 13:8).
How was Easter for you growing up? Is it any different now? Please share below in the comments. We would love to hear from you!
“May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make His face to shine upon us, Selah
that Your way may be known on earth,
Your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise You, O God;
let all the peoples praise You!
So far in this series, God’s Heart for the Nations, we’ve seen thatmankind is not at the centre of God’s plan and the Bible is not about us. And we have also seen that the Bible is not simply a collection of 66 books. It is actually one book telling one story with an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. We learned how God’s blessing and His purpose for that blessing connect and we saw how God reaches the nations by blessing His people.
In this post, we will learn that we do not worship some tribal deity or the god of a region or a people or a country. We worship the God of all nations. And this truth is plainly seen in the psalms of Israel. The psalms and the prophets reveal God’s heart for the nations, God’s call for the nations to worship Him, and the declaration of praise among the nations by His people.
Let’s look at a few Psalms and learn what God tells the nations to do, what God tells us to do among the nations, and what God is saying to the nations.
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.
Then He will speak to them in His wrath, and terrify them in His fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.”
Now, therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.
Remember that when the psalmists use the word “peoples” they are referring to the nations.
In this Psalm, God is acknowledging that the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain, because He is God and He is sovereign over all. He has set His King on Zion and will give to Him the nations as a heritage. Thus He warns the nations and tells them how they ought to behave before the King.
From You comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear Him.
The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek Him shall praise the Lord! May your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You.
For kingship belongs to the Lord, and He rules over the nations.
All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before Him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive.
Posterity shall serve Him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
they shall come and proclaim His righteousness to a people yet unborn, that He has done it.
In Psalm 22 we see God saying that all the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord and all the families of the nations will worship before our Lord. Because kingship belongs to the Lord and He rules over the nations. And this will be told about the Lord to the coming generations, coming and proclaiming His righteousness. Lots of worship from the nations.
Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of His name; give to Him glorious praise!
Say to God, “How awesome are Your deeds! So great is Your power that Your enemies come cringing to You.
All the earth worships You and sings praises to You; they sing praises to Your name.” Selah
Come and see what God has done: He is awesome in His deeds towards the children of man.
He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There did we rejoice in Him, who rules by His might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations—let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah
Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of His praise be heard.
In this psalm, God is telling the whole earth to sing the glory of His name and to give Him not just praise but glorious praise. His wonderful deeds are to be remembered and rehearsed because He rules by His might forever. The peoples are exhorted to bless God and to let the sound of His praise be heard. Again lots of worship from the peoples.
Now let’s look at messages from three prophets.
Jeremiah 1:5, 16:19-21
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
O Lord, my strength and my stronghold, my refuge in the day of trouble, to You shall the nations come from the ends of the earth and say:
Our fathers have inherited nothing but lies, worthless things in which there is no profit.
Can man make for himself gods? Such are not gods!”
“Therefore, behold, I will make them know, this once I will make them know My power and my might, and they shall know that My name is the Lord.”
It is clear in Jeremiah’s call that God had consecrated Jeremiah as a prophet,
not just to Israel, but to the nations. And the verses from chapter 16 show us
that in the day of trouble the nations will come to God from the ends of the
earth and acknowledge the emptiness of the lies inherited from their fathers.
Man cannot make for himself gods, for such are not gods. Thus God will make
them know His power and His might and they shall know that His name is the Lord.
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him.
And to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
In these two verses from Daniel 7, we see that the son of man was presented before the Ancient of Days so that He would be given an everlasting dominion and glory and a kingdom in which all peoples, nations and languages would serve Him. This kingdom shall not be destroyed.
For from the rising of the sun to its setting My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to My name, and a pure offering. For My name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.
In this verse from Malachi God reveals that His name will be great among the nations and that in every place Incense (praise) would be offered to His name.
It should be pretty clear by now that God has indeed blessed His people and continues to do so today. But that blessing comes with a responsibility to make His name known among the nations to the end that every people, tongue, tribe, and nation will worship His name and declare His marvellous works.
What about you?
Why do you think that most of us miss the connection between God’s blessing and His purpose and our responsibility in that purpose?
What steps could you take to be more aware of your responsibility to the nations? If you would like more ideas, leave a comment below.
And please share this post with others.
“Be still and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
So far in this series, God’s Heart for the Nations, we’ve seen that mankind is not at the centre of God’s plan and the Bible is not about us. And we have also seen that the Bible is not simply a collection of 66 books. It is actually one book telling one story with an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.
In this post, we will look at passages from the Bible that show how the two themes of God’s blessing and His purpose connect. As God blessed the people of Israel He would show Himself to the nations and draw Gentiles to Himself.
As we work through some familiar portions of the Bible, pay attention to how both themes are wound together. Notice how God’s blessings are used to impact the nations and how individuals respond. Also, take some time to reflect on why you think the second theme of God’s purpose/man’s responsibility is usually ignored when these passages are discussed or preached.
Ten Plagues on Egypt
In the book of Exodus, God undertook to free the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt. To do so, He inflicted ten plagues on the Egyptians. A typical reading of the account reveals that God is blessing His people by releasing them. But is that all there is to it?
Exodus 7:5 - “The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.”
Exodus 7:17 - Thus says the Lord, “By this you shall know that I am the Lord: behold, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood.”
Exodus 9:13-16 - Then the Lord said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me. For this time I will send all My plagues on you yourself,[a] and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth. For by now I could have put out My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you My power, so that My name may be proclaimed in all the earth.
Parting of the Red Sea
In the Book of Joshua, we see God parting the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to get away from the Egyptians who were pursuing them. A typical reading of this account shows God continuing to bless His people by protecting them. But is there more to it?
Joshua 4:23-24 - For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”
Joshua 2:8-11 - Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.
Daniel in the Lion’s Den
Every Sunday School student (do you know what Sunday School is?) can tell you the story of Daniel and the lion’s den. Daniel was very successful in his role as an administrator and a satrap, so much so that the King planned to put Daniel over the whole kingdom. But jealousy drove the other administrators and satraps to find a way to discredit Daniel and knock him down. The only way they could do so was to make it illegal to pray to anyone other than the King because every day, Daniel would pray to God. So they convinced the King to enact this law. Daniel was caught and brought before the King who, although he was fond of Daniel, was bound by the law. So Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den. Now, we know that God closed the mouths of the lions and in the morning, Daniel was found to be unharmed.
A typical retelling of this story shows God vindicating Daniel and saving him from an unjust death. But is there more to it?
Daniel 6:25-27 - Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth: “May you prosper greatly! “I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.
“For He is the living God and He endures forever; His kingdom will not be destroyed; His dominion will never end. He rescues and He saves; He performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”
Esther and Mordecai
What about the story of Esther and her uncle Mordecai? We know that Haman hated Mordecai because he refused to bow to him and made a plan to destroy the Jews to get rid of Mordecai. The plan became known and Mordecai challenged Esther, at the risk of losing her own life, to go before the King and plead with him to change his mind. And this he did, instead sentencing Haman to death on the very gallows he had constructed for Mordecai.
Again a typical retelling of this story shows God’s blessing of His people by protecting them from an unjust end. But is there more to it?
Esther 8:15-17 - When Mordecai left the king’s presence, he was wearing royal garments of blue and white, a large crown of gold and a purple robe of fine linen. And the city of Susa held a joyous celebration. For the Jews, it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honour. In every province and in every city to which the edict of the king came, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them.
I hope that you’ve been able to see that in each of these stories there is both the blessing of God as well as purpose beyond the obvious.
Can you think of times in your life when you were blessed by God but suspected that there might have been more to the story?
Let’s embrace the truth that we are not the centre of God’s universe, that only God is suited to be the centre and surrender to His purpose and our responsibility to spread His glory among the nations.
“Be still and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
YOU SHALL BE WITNESSES
Have you ever really thought about what it means to be a witness for Christ? Today, we will look at a few verses to learn more about witnessing for Christ and we will also outline 4 practical points on how we can witness for Christ.
First, let’s answer the question of what it means to be a witness for Christ. Being a witness sounds like something simple, but it actually carries a lot of responsibility. When we witness for Christ, we are essentially representing Him and what is important to Him.
As children of God, we experience Him and then bear witness and represent Him to the world. Witnessing can be sharing scripture or sharing our personal testimony/story that testify to God’s love, grace, and forgiveness in our own lives. We are all called to be witnesses, regardless of gender, age, etc.
You may say, “I am not gifted in speaking or I really don’t know what to say,” so why should I be a witness? The simple answer is that we are all called to be witnesses.
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
I just want to note 3 points from this text before we move ahead.
1. You SHALL receive power WHEN the Holy Spirit has come upon you.
This power that we receive, does not come from us. This is the first thing that we must realize before we witness, because it is not by our own strength. This power that we receive is the empowerment through the Holy Spirit.
2. And you SHALL be witnesses.
There are those words. Once we know that it is through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we then witness for Christ as we are led.
3. In Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
We can be a witness for Christ to our own family members, our neighbours, friends, co-workers, and to all people in the world. God is for all people, and He sent Jesus to die for the world, not just those who are geographically close to us.
Let’s look at 4 practical points on how we can witness for Christ.
1. Start with Prayer
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;”
If we are unsure of how we can witness for Christ or who we can witness to, we can pray about it. This is very important and something we must always do. Often times, God will put someone in our heart to speak with and we may not exactly know why, but He does. God knows the heart and the words that we all need to hear.
2. Be sensitive and loving
“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”
1 Peter 4:8
Whatever we are sharing should be done in love. Sometimes you may be witnessing to someone you don’t know very well or at all, so being sensitive and loving is especially important.
3. Read the Bible everyday
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
1 Peter 3:15
The more we read, study, and memorize the Bible, the more we will grow and the more we will be able to share with others. We can be reminded of something we read and use it when we are witnessing to others. Even if we are unsure of some questions that we are asked, we can be honest and say that we can get back to them. As we read, study, and memorize the Bible more, we grow in our knowledge and understanding. It is a continuous learning process for all of us as witnesses for Christ.
4. Trust God for the results
“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.”
1 Corinthians 3:6
Both Paul and Apollos did their part, but it is God who caused the seed to grow. We can be witnesses of Christ, but not see any results right away or at all but this shouldn’t stop us from witnessing. We must continue to be obedient and trust God for the results. It is Him who draws men unto Himself.
Let’s be encouraged as we witness for Christ. God is with us, He has empowered us, and His purposes will be accomplished according to His perfect plan.
Feel free to take a look at our website to learn more about us, our missionaries and projects, and our blog. You can share these with others as you witness for Christ.
THE HOLY SPIRIT AND PRAYER
Welcome back to this series on prayer. If you have missed any previous posts you can click here to catch up.
In this post we are focusing on the Holy Spirit and prayer. There are many scripture references to the Holy Spirit in reference to prayer or praying. How do we make sense of these?
Writing to the Ephesians, Paul established the role of the Holy Spirit in every true believer’s prayer life. He described prayer warfare, the devil’s schemes, and the armour that equips the one who prays for victory (Ephesians 6:10-17).
Concluding this section, Paul commanded his readers to, “Pray in the Spirit,” meaning with the help of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 6:18).
There are three points to be made at this point.
The Holy Spirit Helps Us Pray
Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26).
If we were to be honest, most of us would have to admit we don’t often know what we ought to pray. At times it’s difficult to understand fully our needs and to face our true condition.
When others request our prayers, we possess even less insight. Therefore, instruction from the Holy Spirit is necessary. He gives insight and leads us along the line our prayer is to move so that it may correspond with the will of God.
The Holy Spirit Brings Power to Prayer
"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you,” (John 14:26).
The Holy Spirit gives Christian prayer power beyond anything ever before known in the history of world religions.
Every prayer skill that we lack, the Holy Spirit can provide. He is with us forever. We know Him. He lives with us and is in us. He makes our hearts into good homes for Jesus and the Father. (See John 14:23.)
But how exactly do we pray using the power of the Holy Spirit? We only need to pray, “Come Holy Spirit” and give the Spirit permission to pray through us.
Set aside quiet time when you allow the Holy Spirit to bring to your mind what you already know or have experienced in prayer with Him. Thank Him for being the guardian of your life and of your prayers. Then pray, “Come Holy Spirit” and wait for Him to speak new and wonderful prayers through you.
As we pray with the power of the Holy Spirit, He brings things to our minds we have long forgotten. He warns us of dangers we cannot foresee, opens our insights into Who Jesus is and applies supernatural healing to wounds we have forgotten we suffered. He points out our need for confession of sins that we would rather not face and helps us pray for a future we cannot yet imagine.
The phrase “full of the Holy Spirit” is used frequently in the book of Acts. To be filled with the Holy Spirit is a command. And power comes with the Holy Spirit.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth,” (Acts 1:8).
His Fullness if for Everyone who Prays
Jesus promised us that the Holy Spirit would be with us forever (John 14:16). He was not given only to first century Christians, but to all in every century who seek him. To receive the Holy Spirit’s fullness and power, we must respond to God’s plan.
When Paul says the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26), what do you think he meant by weaknesses? What do you consider weaknesses?
Paul also says that the Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words can’t express (Romans 8:37). Can you share an experience where you felt weak and knew the Holy Spirit was speaking your longings?