God’s Victorious Love – Easter Sunday

Because of Jesus ... I Am Free
Love’s Journey to the Cross – Lent Reflections
Easter Sunday – God’s Victorious Love
1 Corinthians 5; Ephesians 3: Romans 10

Today is the day we celebrate God’s victorious love! We have been counting down the days of Lent towards Easter Sunday. Today, we reflect and celebrate… Jesus is no longer in the grave! …He lives! …Hallelujah!

This Lent and Easter season, we have been focusing on dying to our selfishness and choosing to live free in Christ. …What things have you died to this Lent in order to live free in Christ? Have you traded in your disappointments, your worries, your fears, sorrows, selfishness, hang-ups, unhealthy and unmet expectations, or unhealthy relationships…? Perhaps you have not yet nailed something to the cross in order to live in Christ’s freedom. (Meaning, something you have not yet trusted Jesus with.) …Something you think you can find satisfaction in apart from Jesus, but only leaves you empty.

Today, we celebrate Christ’s victory! It’s His perfect love that satisfies our hearts. Whatever has in the past kept you awake at night, or has weighed heavy, Jesus died to set you free from! And now, Jesus lives! In your heart, may you hold your hands wide open to give Him what it is you have clung to, what you have felt trapped under, and instead receive His victorious love for you that couldn’t stay nailed to the cross. May you pray, “Jesus I give this to you…, I trust you with…, forgive me for… and I receive your forgiveness and your victory!”

Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we can say… “Oh death, where is your victory? …Oh death, where is your sting?” Our Good Father gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus, we live not for victory, we live from victory.

(Pray…)

Jesus, because of your resurrection, your Good News is victory! Those who have lived for you and have already died on this earth, rejoice! All things broken will be made knew! You reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. You died for our sins, and have been raised for our freedom. If we confess with our mouths that Jesus, you are Lord of every area of our lives, we are saved. May we choose this day, Lord Jesus, to love and live in your victory!

God, give us your inner strength and power through your Holy Spirit. Christ, be alive in us. I pray that your love may be the ground in which we sink our roots deeply and the only thing we build our lives on. I pray we will be in awe at how wide, long, high, and deep your love is… and that we would walk in all the plans you have for us… to show your victorious love to others around us. I pray this in the name of the risen Lord Jesus Christ, Amen!

(Written originally for Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016)

Love’s Journey to the Cross: Good Friday

Love’s Journey to the Cross – Lent Reflections
Good Friday
God is love, 1 John 4:9

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Image source: cynthiacavanaugh.com

We have been counting down the days of Lent towards Easter Sunday, as we focus on love’s journey to the cross.

How often have you said you were having a bad day or a bad week? Could any of us say we’ve had a week like Christ did… leading up to the cross? Today, we call ‘Good’ Friday… only because we have a Good Father who didn’t spare his own Son, but handed him over to death for all of us to live in freedom!

Do you TRULY know that you can come to God and receive His unconditional love without doing anything to earn it? …Or are you stuck in trying to be good in order to be loved?

Reflect with me on 1 John 4:9…

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

Let me make it more personal for you…

This is how God showed his love to you: He sent his one and only Son for you, that you might live through him.

He chose to live through a horrific, yet Holy week and give His life on a gruesome, but very Good Friday. How can you and I even begin to live our lives in gratitude?

Because of the cross, He invites us to live in freedom. Freedom living is showing His love to others, like a reflection, …much like the moon reflects the sun’s light. The love we show is always, only a reflection of His great love. Matthew 2 calls us to love God, and then to love others. Our love for others comes from our love from God. God is love and we are His.

Let’s pray…

God, You are not simply loving, you ARE love itself. You ARE the source of all perfect love.

Hate sometimes leaks out of our fleshly hearts. Dry it up, Good Father, and help us to see others the way you see them. Live through us, that we may live in freedom, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

(Originally written for Good Friday, Mar 25-16)

What is Lent? (Journey to the Cross)

How will you journey this Lenten season?

First the background…

The 6 weeks before Easter is called the “Lenten Season”. It’s a time to focus on Christ’s sacrifice of death for our life. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we too can rise and enjoy heaven forever when we put our trust in Him.

LENT is a process of prayer and spiritual renewal. The Lenten season focuses on dying to our self and living for Him. Often Christians will fast from something in order to rely less on other things and rely more on Him.

The word ‘lent’ means ‘lengthen’ and stands for the time in Spring when the days grow longer. The original period of Lent was 40 hours, and was spent fasting to remember the suffering of Christ and the 40 hours He spent in the tomb. In the early 3rd century, it was lengthened to 6 days and then 36 days (36 being the tithe or tenth of the 365 days of the year). About 800 AD it changed to 40 days (or 46 if you include all the Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday).

In many traditions, Lent is a time for cleaning, in preparation for Easter and Spring. First your soul, then your kitchen, then the rest of the house was cleansed and purified of the past year’s accumulations. Old clothes are mended, or given away, new clothes are purchased. In the Ukraine, houses were whitewashed inside and out during Lent. In this way, everything was made ready to face the season of Salvation and Rebirth. Traditions of ‘spring cleaning’ stem from this.

I’ve been prompted to choose the following Lenten Focus:

Read Matthew 5 daily for every 40 days (Reflective reading)

Make a Gratitude list – daily

Pray for others I see as I walk

Choose forgiveness daily

I will also be taking my family through reflections on Jesus’ journey to the cross.

What will you set aside, get rid of and focus on in order to set your eyes on Jesus, His love and sacrifice for you?

 

 

Have An Epiphany (Light Bulb Moment)

 

epiphany
Image Source: thegodguy.files.wordpress

You and I can do Christmas and completely miss the wonder and epiphany of it all!

Today is the Day of Epiphany (January 6).

What’s an epiphany?

• a moment of sudden revelation or insight. (Light bulb moment!)

• an appearance of a divine or supernatural being.

We just celebrated Christmas, now it’s a New Year… and Jan 6th marks an event that happened thousands of years ago where philosophers travelled a long journey following a star that would lead them to Divine truth. To the One who bears the name, which I have been pondering this season, Immanuel. To understand the meaning of the name in itself is an Epiphany…

It means, “God With Us”!

 

guwg-epiphany
Image source: getupwithgod.com

Background: The Day of Epiphany remembers the three wise men’s visit to baby Jesus and his baptism.

Epiphany is also one of the oldest Christian feasts. It was celebrated since the end of the second century, before the Christmas holiday was established.

It commemorates the first two occasions on which Jesus’ divinity was manifested: when the three kings visited infant Jesus in Bethlehem, and when John the Baptist baptized him in the River Jordan. The Roman Catholic and Protestant churches emphasize the visit of the Magi when they celebrate the Epiphany. The Eastern Orthodox churches focus on Jesus’ baptism.

The point is… God is with us. 🙂

Recap of the story…

In 700 BC the Prophet Isaiah wrote… Isaiah 7:14

Immanuel means “God with us!” You may have heard this story before…

Read the passages on Biblegateway.com and ask yourself, “How is God with us today?” “What does it mean if God is with me right now?” And…“How does that make a difference in my personal life?”

Luke 2:1-20 – The first Christmas

Matthew 1:22-23

John 1:1,14 – God, the Word became flesh

But, how is God with us today?…

John 14:6, 16-19 – The Holy Spirit – He is that part of God that is with us here and now if we have welcomed Jesus to indeed be our Lord and Saviour. We all have been given this gift, but some of us have left the gift under the Christmas tree and have not yet opened it. Or we have opened it, but we go on living as if we have never opened the greatest gift…

1 John 4:9-11, 19;5:4,12 -The Cross, truly the first Christmas tree. The Light of the world shone on it.

God is with us. He came as a baby boy – to hold him, cherish him, delight in him, he came humbly for you to know relationship with God.

Have you held a baby recently?

I love that God comes as a baby – a baby needs to be held with arms wide open, to be loved with a heart wide open. That is our invitation. God invites us to open our arms and our hearts to receive Him – to be God with us.

I also love that God chose to come into a messy stable with stinky animals and animal dung. You and I, will have yucky stuff happen to us in this life, but He came to be with us in it. He does not refuse to come to us in our yuck. He is there with us and He cleans it up for us.

There is nothing we can do to make our way to God, so at Christmas, God made His way to us. New life will not be found in anything we might do. New life is found only in what Jesus has done for you. Christmas is good news – God is with YOU.

This is a New Year. Are you open to inviting the Creator of the Universe who gave His son for your freedom, to be with you in every situation this upcoming year? The question isn’t: is God with you? But are you with Him??

Living for ourselves makes us overly concerned and consumed with our appearance, our success, how many likes or loves we get on FB or instagram… But, no matter the success …or likes we get, …we can still constantly feel inadequate, insecure, lonely…

But, living with God at the centre of our lives, holding Him in our hearts – makes us full! Our cup overflows! Our joy, our love, our courage overflows – we are contagious! People are drawn to us – when we are not about ourselves, but about someOne who is greater than us!

We will have people in our lives who will like us because of what we can do for them. Then, there are those who love us, because God loves us. Those people are contagious and deeply attractive, and when they dance, or even smile… it’s as if God Himself is smiling at you. I pray that you can be like that, that when people see you or hear your name, they feel the love of God Himself through you.

You and I all long for something greater, and yet we are far too easily pleased with things that do not last.

 “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink, and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” ― (C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses).

I pray with deepest emotion that you can be apart of making changes to focus our young women (and men) to live not as sex objects but as artists with a greater purpose and a greater message.

The lie from the beginning is that YOU are God, or things are God, or other people are God. (Gen 3:15)

But, Immanuel, God with us (the Bread of Life, who comes to us to feed us) comes to deliver us from this lie. He defeated death to rescue us and restore us. He answers the cry of our hearts – “O Come, O Come Immanuel…” which is literally… “O Come, O Come… God, Be with us!” One of the oldest Christmas Carols that is sung today was translated in the 1800’s, but written earlier!

Immanuel, God with us, came humbly as a baby but sits powerfully on His throne and offers you and I life and freedom, and His continual presence!

Imagine if you were invited to (…dance, sing, act, create…) for royalty! Well, you have been! Every thing you do, you have been invited to do for someone greater! For our Creator, the King of kings, for Jesus, our Saviour, for Immanual, God with us! Dancers who dance for God in worship, dance with a greater joy and passion!

Know that He is here with you, that He loves you and smiles on you.

Picture yourself (…dancing, singing, acting, creating…) and He is beaming proudly: “That’s my girl. That’s my boy! I made her or him to dance so beautifully. She/he has my great purpose. I just ask that she/he trusts me! I want to surprise her/him!”

You and I can do Christmas and completely miss the wonder and epiphany of it all!

Where do you need God right now? Where do you need to invite Him to do His mighty work? Do you have fear, shame, guilt, loneliness, grief…or even happiness, yet it is so temporary?

In this moment, let your heart be filled with God who has come and is coming again! May you not worship yourself, or others, or things, but worship Him alone, and you’ll notice how this shrinks your worries and your fears! The joy of the Lord is your strength.

A Blessing over you…

The Lord is your Shepherd. He gives you everything you need.

He leads you to rest in fields of green grass.

He leads you to streams of peaceful water to refresh your life.

He is true to His name, Jesus (Saviour), Immanuel (God with us)

He leads you along the right paths.

You may walk through valleys as dark as death, but you don’t need to be afraid.

God is with you. His shepherd’s rod makes you feel safe.

He treats you to a feast, while your enemies watch.

He honours you as His guest, and He fills His cup until it overflows.

His kindness and love will always be with you each day of your life,

and You may live forever in God’s house, in His presence.

I’d like to play for you…

One of the oldest Christmas Carols that is sung today, written in the 1800’s: O Come, O Come Immanuel… (God with us).

And as it is played, let His presence and love overwhelm you. Open your heart to Him…

It is written in old language, so let me share with you what it is literally saying in a prayer I once prayed over my church family a few years ago…

Lord of Might, you gave us your perfect law from Mt Sinai to protect us from self-harm. You raised the bar high for us because of your great love, and then you came as our rescuer from the family tree of Jesse, defeating the enemy, bringing victory over the grave.

Jesus, you are our Dayspring, our dawn, our sunrise. Jesus you send away the clouds of the night and send away the dark shadows of death to retreat. Jesus, you make a way wide open to heaven safely and you shut the road to misery.

O Lord Jesus, God with us, you came to rescue your people out of slavery, out of lonely bondage. And you are here with us now. You have appeared. Allow us to see you in our life today, to see your nudgings, your promptings – through people, events and your Word. Prevent us from overlooking your Godly authority in all things and help us to know deeply that we are rescued and not alone. We receive your love through the Christmas miracle. We receive your love this day. Open our hearts to worship you, Lord Jesus, for you came for each of here today. Amen.

(Take a listen…)

Closing Prayer:

Surprise us Lord, with your presence here today. Pour your Spirit on each reader to come to understand their incredible value – that you love each one and enjoy each one – so much that you broke into history 2015 years ago to be the Saviour of the world. You moved into our broken neighbourhood that first Christmas and you paid the price that first Easter, so that we can be rescued. You smile when we live for you! You delight in us! When we dance or sing or play or work, may we do it with passion for you! And with that passion, we can show your light and your rescuing love to the world around us. Thank you for your passion for us, God with us, so that we can (…dance, sing, act, create…) and live in passion for far greater things than what we see around us. We dance and live for you King of Kings. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Songs to further bless you as you reflect that God is with you…

Christmas Prayer

Merry Christmas Prayer
How did God show his love for us?
He sent his one and only Son into the world.
He sent him so we could receive life through him.

1 John 4:9 NIRV

Treasuring this truth today deeply as we got a phone call yesterday that you don’t ever want to get. We found out our Aunt was killed in a car accident and our Uncle is in hospital with broken pelvis. Every emotion becomes heightened as we process and enter the stages of grief…denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and somehow acceptance…

We grieve deeply and call out to Jesus with this prayer… Fill our homes with your presence, Lord…
Fill our eyes with Your light.
Fill our songs with Your joy.
Fill our hearts with Your love.
Fill our mouths with Your truth.
Fill our minds with Your mission.
Fill our spirits with Your courage.
Fill our homes with Your presence.

(Read the full post over at in.courage…)

12252015_lizcurtishiggs_yourpresence
Source: incourage.me

Wind of the Spirit

wind-in-sails
Image source: timemanagementninja.com

Your wind is blowing across this lonely land.
We are Your messengers, Your touch is in our hands.
Use us, Lord Jesus, to care for our friends.
Help us to love them, it’s Your great command.

Oh, wind of the Spirit,
fill the sails of my soul –
send us on, Lord, let your wind blow!
(2x)

Your Spirit is moving with power and might.
We’ll walk together by faith, not by sight.
You’re calling an army to rise up and fight.
We’ll be Your soldiers, flooding darkness with light!

“25 years ago my first studio album, and it’s title track, Wind of the Spirit was released. That song found its way all over the world and into the hearts of many. Many guitar players first chords were that classic progression up the fret board and countless people identify with the song as a marker on their life and faith journey. Maybe you do too? With that release, we were propelled into the world of music and a fresh vision of following Jesus.” – Russ Rosen (http://russrosenband.com/news)

Russ Rosen Band. Lyrics by Russ Rosen, Sandy Rosen and Mike Oshiro, music by Russ Rosen, lead vocals by Mike Oshiro produced by Roy Salmond.

Easter Sunday Reading: He is Risen!

Image source: https://kagesa.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/holy-week-easter-sunday-kagesa.png

Begin with no candles lit.

HE IS GOD! He cannot stay dead. HE IS ALIVE. The true Glory of God shines in the world. The Light has won! The Eternal Light! TheBright Morning Star! The Light of the World!

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.

Light all the candles.

Click on the passages below and reflect…

Matthew 28:5-6; Colossians 1:15-23; 1 Peter 1:3-4

The Lord is risen!
The Lord is risen, indeed!

Death is no longer the final act. Because of Jesus’ victory over death, we have freedom to live eternally in restored relationship with God. Our history has been changed forever. Yet, we still have a choice to believe…daily.

How will you allow this amazing truth change you?

“Dear Jesus, I believe you defeated death. I place my trust in you. Transform my heart and mind to live fully in friendship with you beginning today!”

How will you let others know around you that Jesus is risen?!

“Dear Jesus, guide me to share this truth and hope with those around me – my family, friends and neighbours. Help them to see your love and hope within me and be drawn to your grace! Amen.”

Sources: Some of my own and some adapted from Noel Piper, http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/lenten-lights

Lenten Reading for Palm Sunday, the Sixth Sunday in Lent:

Image source: http://all-creation.franciscan-anglican.com/donkeyjesus.gif

Light two candles.

God made very sure that we could understand who He is, what He is like, and what He wants for and from us. He did this by sending his Son, Jesus. Now we don’t have just the written Word, we have the Living Word—a real person. When people watched Jesus, they were seeing God. When He entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey (a symbol of humility and gentleness), they praised Him…

Mark 11:1-10

BUT even God himself, God in person, was later rejected. That same crowd who praised Him, would later turn on Him. People hated him and rejected his message.

John 3:16; Luke 2:6-7; Isaiah 53:3; Mark 10:32-34

1. Read the passages above slowly. (Click on the passages for the link.)
2. Linger with them quietly.
3. Ask God what He is saying to you and how He invites you to respond.
4. Write out or say a prayer back to Him.
5. Thank Him for His message to you today.

Snuff out the next candle. Do not light again until Easter Sunday.

More reflections to come…

Sources: Some of my own and some adapted from Noel Piper, http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/lenten-lights