Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Nothing Like A Good Cleaning

“… cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
– Hebrews 9:22 (NIV)

When I was in elementary school, I remember having our school nurse come to my class to discuss good dental hygiene. Every student was given a new toothbrush and a small sample size of toothpaste (all donated to the school by some toothpaste company). She also gave us some special little tablets that we could chew after brushing our teeth which would show us how well we cleaned our teeth during brushing. Through a demonstration with one of my classmates, the nurse showed that if we didn’t brush our teeth well, the little tablets would stain our teeth red. Apparently, my classmate didn’t brush his teeth very well because he grinned a bright red smile at the class to our delight.

What we learned was that we needed to do more than just go through the motions of brushing our teeth in order to get our teeth really clean. We needed to accept the instructions we were given by the nurse and follow the procedures in order to have clean and healthy teeth.

I am thankful that our lives, which are stained by sin, can be cleansed and made as white as snow, not because of following some religious rituals but because of accepting the cleansing that comes from what Jesus did for us on the cross.

The prophet Isaiah records an invitation by God to come to Him in order to be cleansed from sin. “‘Come, let’s talk this over,’ says the Lord, ‘no matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you white as wool!’” (Isaiah 1:18 – Living Bible).

The writer of Hebrews describes the inadequacy of ritual sacrifice and how the death of Jesus Christ completely covered the requirements for the forgiveness of sins and the provision of salvation. The author writes, “If that animal blood and the other rituals of purification were effective in cleaning up certain matters of our religion and behavior, think how much more the blood of Christ cleans up our whole lives, inside and out. Through the Spirit, Christ offered himself as an unblemished sacrifice, freeing us from all those dead-end efforts to make ourselves respectable, so that we can live all out for God. … Everyone has to die once, then face the consequences. Christ’s death was also a one-time event, but it was a sacrifice that took care of sins forever. And so, when he next appears, the outcome for those eager to greet him is, precisely, salvation” (Hebrews 9:13-15, 27-28 – The Message).

Imagine what would happen in your life if there was some type of spiritual “tablet” you could take that exposed whether you were going through the motions of devotion and commitment to the Lord or if you had been thoroughly cleansed by blood of Jesus Christ? Ultimately, we will have to stand before the Lord and give an account of our lives based on what we did with Jesus (see Revelation 20:12-15). Only those who have trusted Jesus for forgiveness and salvation from sins will be with God for all time after this judgment (see Revelation 21:1-8, 27).

Praise God we can pray now to Him and ask Him to wash away our sins and make us clean through Jesus Christ. First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (English Standard Version). And God promises, “I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me” (Jeremiah 33:8 NIV). We can simply pray to God by faith what David prayed in Psalm 51: “Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. … Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (Psalms 51:2, 7 – New Living Translation).

To quote some of our hymns of the faith: “Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?” And, “Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe, Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.” Praise God we can receive a good and thorough cleaning from the stains of sin through Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

God Will Never Let Go

“The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? The LORD is with me; he is my helper. …”
– Psalms 118:6 – 7a NIV

Several years ago, I heard a tiny little knock on my bedroom door in the middle of the night by Daniel, my oldest son. It was storming outside and the loud thunder and nearby flashes of lightning made him very frightened. So I got up and went to his room with him and I stayed with him during the storm. We talked about the loudness of the thunder in relation to the nearness of the lightning, counting off guesses as to how near the lightning was to us. After a while the storm passed and Daniel drifted off to sleep with his dad nearby.

When we face the storms of life, we all need to be reminded and have our faith encouraged to know that our Heavenly Father is always nearby to give us courage and strength.

During “Day 3” (Wednesday, June 11) of our Power Lab™ Vacation Bible School (Group Publishing), we had an incredible day with 104 kids in attendance “discovering Jesus’ miraculous power.” That day's Bible Point was “Jesus gives us the power to be brave!” (“Aha!”). And the kids learned about how when Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he was able to walk on water. But when Peter focused on the waves and on the storm…blub, blub, blub—down he sank. After calling for Jesus to help, Peter was rescued by the hand of Jesus. Then they climbed into the boat together after Jesus asked Peter why he doubted (Matthew 14:22-33).

That’s my question. Why do we doubt and fear? God is pretty clear in His Scriptures that because He is with us, we have nothing to fear. And yet we worry and shake in our boots whenever the slightest breeze of trouble blows our way. Granted, many people I know have been or are currently in the middle of some hurricane-force storms of life through the loss of loved ones or through dealing with major sickness. Yet, some that I have talked to about how they are doing have expressed a strength of faith that has truly inspired and encouraged me.

When the waves and storms of life are blowing around us, can anything or anyone truly harm us if God is with us through them all? According to the promises of God’s word, THEY CAN’T! The writer of Hebrews quotes Psalms 118:6 (listed above) in Hebrews 13:6: “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” (NIV) But what gives the writer of Hebrews such “confidence” is found at the end of the preceding verse, “…God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (v. 5b NIV), where he quotes Moses’ words to Israel and Joshua (see Deuteronomy 31:6 & 8).

When we have to face anything in life, we can have the confidence to be brave because God is always with us and He promises never to leave us. This was what the children learned at VBS in their “Power Verse” for the day 3 from Psalm 23:4: “I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me” (NLT).

By faith in Jesus Christ, we can rest assured that nothing—neither storms of life nor even our failures and sins—can loosen God’s grip on our lives. Jesus said in John 10:29: “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (NIV). According to Paul, it’s God’s strong love that holds us tight to Him regardless of what tries to pull us from Him. Paul wrote, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39 NIV).

Therefore, knowing that my strong and loving God is always with me as my Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ, gives me the courage and the power to be brave. There are no storm winds that are stronger than God’s love for me. God will never let go of me.

I close with the words to one of my favorite praise songs by Matt and Beth Redman, which the kids learned at Power Lab™. It’s called “You Never Let Go”.

Even though I walk / Through the valley of the shadow of death / Your perfect love is casting out fear / And even when I'm caught / In the middle of the storms of this life / I won't turn back I know You are near.
And I will fear no evil / For my God is with me / And if my God is with me / Whom then shall I fear? / Whom then shall I fear?
Oh no, You never let go / Through the calm and through the storm / Oh no, You never let go / In every high and every low / Oh no, You never let go / Lord, You never let go of me.

(©2005 Thankyou Music, CCLI License #1167348)

Thank you, God, for never letting go of me.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Somebody Up There Is Watching Me

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
–Hebrews 12:1 (New Living Translation)

Every once in a while I wish I could ask some of my deceased relatives their opinion of how I am living my life. Before you get worried, I am not talking about conversing with them in some type of séance. It’s just that sometimes I find myself missing them and I just wish they were still alive and could give me advice from their wisdom. I wonder how they would warn me concerning the pitfalls of my life based on their own successes and failures. I wonder how they would encourage me in facing difficulties and in facing victories. I wonder if there would be more cheers than jeers from them for how I am running my race of faith.

I know that these conversations with them will never take place. But for those of my deceased relatives who, because of their own faith, are now with their Savior Jesus Christ, I know they have joined the other saints of old and are watching my life of faith from the bleachers in heaven.

Each of us has been preceded by a heritage and legacy of faith. Some of our faith heroes may have been relatives or close friends, or they just may have been believers in history or the faithful from the Bible. These heroes of the faith surround us and observe the strides we make as we grow in and live out our faith. When we fall on our faces in sin, maybe a collective moan comes from them. When we fight the good fight in a given situation, maybe there is a round of thunderous applause and hurrahs. I am sure they are watching us on the edges of their seats pulling for us and booing our enemy Satan for the cheap shots and dirty tactics his evil team of minions throw at us.

The Bible says “we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith” (Hebrews 12:1 NLT). The writer is referring specifically to the heroes of the faith listed in the previous chapter. Some of the faithful were referred to specifically—like Abraham, Moses, etc.—while others were just generally mentioned. Some were faithful throughout their lives. Some were even killed for their faith. Many of the early readers of the book of Hebrews probably knew someone personally who had been persecuted because of faith in Jesus Christ. So the writer is encouraging his readers to live their lives mindful of the faithful examples that had preceded them and to honor those heroes with holy and faithful lives.

The writer encouraged his brothers and sisters in faith to join him by choosing to “strip off every weight”—all the easily ensnaring sin—so that they could run the race of faith more efficiently with less trip-ups. He wanted them all to continue to endure the race of faith which God laid out before them so that they would finish strong.

But for each of us, as with the early readers, Jesus Christ is the greatest observer of our lives. From the best seat in the “Heavenly Stadium,” He not only watches our progress but He is the One to whom we must aspire to emulate. Jesus Christ is “the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (v. 2). This means, because of Jesus’ victory over sin and death, He makes our faith and relationship with a loving God possible in the first place. And second, Jesus is the One through whom the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit makes running the race of faith victoriously feasible for every believer. When we consistently shed the excess baggage of sin in our lives and when we focus on our Champion’s victorious example for us and made available to us, we will run our races of faith better and receive great cheers of “Well Done!” from the One seated on the throne.

When life’s race gets hard, we must remember the examples of those who have run before us. We must remember their successes and failures and run accordingly. But we must never take our eyes off of our Champion—Jesus Christ. He is the One for whom we are running and the One who gives us everything we need for the victory. We must run by faith in the example of our Savior who receives the glory for our races run well. Keep your eyes on Jesus. His eyes are always on you.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Beneath the Surface

[Jesus said,] “…First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean”—Matthew 23:26 (NIV)

Recently in our church's parsonage, we noticed evidence of termites. Whatever the termites were doing beneath the surface deep inside the structure of the master bedroom walls had become evident due to the debris they left on the outer surface of the wall in the room. At first, I just cleared away the mounding debris from the wall and made the wall nice and clean again on the surface. But a few days later, the mound was back.

After talking to our church's property committee chairman, it was decided we needed to treat the termite problem beneath the surface in the structure of the house or the damage would get worse, and dirty termite mounds on the surface would be the least of our troubles. So the “termite guy” came and investigated, and sure enough, the termite problem was bad beneath the surface, but not so bad that the house was going to fall down around us (unless we chose to ignore the problem). He then began to treat the termite problem beneath the surface, digging trenches around the perimeter of the parsonage's foundation, which he filled with chemicals. He sprayed vital areas underneath the house, and drilled holes through the concrete areas around the house, putting chemicals in the soil beneath. It was a long process, but time will tell how well it worked. Nevertheless, periodic re-treatments in the future will help control them at least or prevent their return at most.

Spiritually speaking, we have to be careful with just dealing with the surface affects of self-serving religion and self-indulgent sin. Sometimes we just try to be busier with religious activity, giving an appearance that everything is hunky-dory, but beneath the surface our souls are being eaten away. Busyness is not an accurate determiner of a person’s spiritual health. It takes a deep, prayerful investigation by God in our hearts to show us how healthy we actually are in our relationship with Him.

Jesus dealt with the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law and sought to expose to them the heart problems they had beneath the surface of their lives. He told these religious leaders that, spiritually, they were just cleaning “the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they [were] full of greed and self-indulgence” (Matthew 23:25). He also described them as being like “whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27-28). Other times, Jesus quoted Isaiah to describe the problem of surface religion, saying “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men” (Mark 7:6-7; also Matthew 15:8-9, quoting Isaiah 29:13-14). Left unchecked, Jesus said to them, “Your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:38). These religious people needed their “insides” cleaned—their hearts cleaned—and then they would be cleaned from the inside-out (Matthew 23:26).

As people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, saved by God’s grace, and filled with the Holy Spirit, we constantly need to have deep surface scans, spiritually speaking, of our hearts. We need to seek the Lord as David did in the Psalms: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalms 139:23 - 24 – NIV). And, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalms 51:10 - 12 – NIV).

We must get beneath the surface of our lives and pursue God with hearts desperate for Him. Then our house will be strong and God will be truly praised.

Never Surfing the Same Wave

“See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.” … “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? …”
– Isaiah 42:9; Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)

There is an old saying that goes, “You can never step in the same river twice.” Oh sure, you can go to the river over and over and place your feet in the water, but the river water you first stepped into, will have either gone down stream, been consumed or absorbed by some living thing, or have been evaporated, only to rain down and enter the water cycle somewhere else at some other time.

Similarly, you can never surf the same wave. The ocean moves in waves and the same formation of water molecules will never realign on any shoreline anywhere to form the same exact wave you surfed before. But you keep on surfing, even if you feel like it couldn’t get any better than yesterday or if you feel like yesterday’s waves were as good as waves gets. Some years, in certain times of the year, at certain places on the planet, surfing is better than others for those who patiently pursue the waves. So you keep pursuing the waves because you just love to surf.

Although the only waves around here may be “amber waves of grain,” there can be some huge spiritual waves for us to surf. I have experienced some great spiritual waves in my past, great times of spiritual renewal, discipline, worship, and fruitfulness. But, I am not satisfied with what I have experienced with God so far in my Christian life. I want to know God more. I want to love Him more and experience more of His blessings. I want to serve Him more and see more people come to experience God in greater ways in their lives.

We have to be careful of trying to re-surf old spiritual waves, especially when God wants to do something new in and through our lives. We can only frustrate ourselves in the present trying to realign the same elements from our past which the Holy Spirit of God orchestrated to bring about something glorious and remarkable. That wave may never happen the same way again. Times change, people change, hearts change, and so that particular spiritual wave has come and gone and can never be experienced the same way again. And I know that makes us feel reflective and melancholy, nostalgic and sad as we realize that wave of experience with God is gone and can’t be re-experienced the same way. Wisdom, then, would ask why pursue something that will never be the same and is constantly changing?

Instead, we must pursue with fresh passion the unchangeable God. He wants us to experience Him in new ways for a new day. We must actively and prayerfully seek out the movement of God in our hearts and lives and in our churches—letting Him create new waves of faith, hope and love in us. Sometimes, that may require us to get a new “surfboard” to ride the new waves, but, in some cases, our old boards may just need a new coat of wax to help us surf more efficiently.

I say all that to say, I know you want to experience God like you did in the past. But I know that you don’t necessarily want to or expect to experience the same exact waves—because they have come and gone. However, I believe you truly want to experience anew the exhilaration of changed lives, the excitement of renewed passion, and the explosive power of God’s love moving in our midst. That’s what I want, and what I believe God also wants for us.

So what’s it going to take?

The LORD says, “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 – New Living Translation). We must be prepared for when God’s spiritual wave moves. But we have to get ready now, humbling ourselves, praying to God and seeking Him earnestly, confessing and turning from our sins, so that God will hear us, heal us, and carry us to new waves of blessing.

Will you prepare your lives for a new wave of spiritual revival? Will you seek a fresh and powerful new move of God in your hearts, lives, churches, and communities? Surf’s Up!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Once Upon A Track

“… But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on…” – Philippians 3:13-14 NIV

Once upon at time and many pounds ago, I ran track in high school. In fact I did hurdles. Notice I didn’t say I ran hurdles, because there was more stumbling and tripping than running. And I didn’t say I was a hurdler, because that would mean I had gained some level of proficiency. No—I did hurdles.

What I learned about hurdles was there was always one more hurdle in front of me to clear. The hurdles were laid out in front of me in my lane by some unseen track official and I was to engage in running to clear them in succession after the gun sounded. I was to do this until I reached the finish line.

The harder hurdle event for me was the 300 meter hurdles. The difficulty wasn’t due to the distance being too long or the hurdles being too high or too many; the problem came in the space between the hurdles. During this space between the hurdles I had time to think and was easily distracted.

In the shorter distance hurdle event, like the 110 meter high-hurdles, there is never time to think because it happens so fast. For me, however, in the 300, thoughts would come at me like: “Okay, you cleared that one, here comes another one. Don’t jump too soon. Don’t hit the hurdle. Is that girl looking at me? I should have stretched more. HURDLE!”

It takes consistent focus to run hurdles. Missed steps have to be corrected and adjusted on the fly. You can’t let the success over one hurdle or the stumble over another keep you from continuing around the track toward the finish line. You have to keep progressing around the track to the tape at the end. You don’t stop after a successful clearing of the 6th hurdle and say, “I have sure enjoyed the race so far. But clearing this 6th hurdle has been so enjoyable that I think I will just stay right here.” Nor should you just walk off the track when you fall on your face. No, you keep going and don’t stop until the race is over. You don’t wait for the hurdles to come to you; you have to keep running until there are no more hurdles. The race is not about how cleanly you clear the hurdles but how efficiently and effectively you cover the distance from start to finish and how you run between each hurdle.

Only God knows how long our life-races are and how many hurdles or challenges we will face. It is important to honor past successes by learning from them but we must move forward from them to face new growing experiences. It is also important to learn from and move on from failures because another challenge is just around the bend. Until our last breaths we must keep moving forward with our mind set on the prize—to be like Christ and to be with God for all eternity because of Christ.

Paul wrote about his life-race to the believers in Philippi. “Not that I have already obtained all this [meaning obtaining all that God had for Paul because of knowing Christ], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14 NIV).

Then Paul gives some instructions to his fellow Christian runners: “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained” (Philippians 3:15-16 NIV).

We each have to continue on the track God lays out before us. We must not stop regardless of success or failure or even fatigue. We must keep moving and God will give us the strength to carry on. But, if at some point we forget that our attitude should be as it was for Paul, we must ask God to re-enlighten us while we keep on moving forward toward the finish line. We who believe are already victorious because Jesus already won the race for us. We must just “live up to” the victory we have in Him. And at the end of our life-race, we can celebrate His glorious victory for us for all eternity.

Until then, keep running. Here comes another hurdle.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Who Needs Prayer?

“I tell you to pray for all people, asking God for what they need and being thankful to him.”
–The Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:1 (NCV)

Everybody needs prayer. Sometimes, however, it’s seems easier for me to pray for the needs of others than it is to seek prayer for myself. I wonder if this is somehow because—and I am guessing—by concentrating on the needs of others I sometimes find that I feel better about myself, thinking that my troubles may not seem as bad as the needs of those for whom I am praying. I know God’s word commands us to pray for one another, but why do we deny our own need for prayer?

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy and told him “to pray for all people” because Paul knew God could meet all people’s needs and was, therefore, worthy of thankfulness all the time. But Paul was not above asking for prayer support from his brothers and sisters in Christ.

Paul made a request to the church in Ephesus to pray for him. He wrote: “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (Ephesians 6:19-20 NIV). In this request, obviously, Paul is asking the Ephesians to pray that God equip him to teach the message of Jesus Christ effectively and fearlessly. This is his main concern, it seems, because he asks it twice. But there is a subtle reminder of another personal need of Paul’s mentioned in two words: “in chains.” Paul was a great ambassador for the Kingdom of God and the message of Jesus Christ, but at the time of his request, it had cost him his freedom.

I wonder if being “in chains” wasn’t a real downer sometimes for Paul, regardless of how thankful he was to God for the privilege of suffering for Jesus (see 2 Corinthians 12:9-10). I wonder if Paul had days where he just didn’t feel like being “ON” for the Kingdom and wanted to take a mental health day. So, sure, Paul asks for fearless effectiveness as the subject for the prayers of his friends. But was Paul also admitting he needed encouragement from God because of the chains associated with being a servant of Jesus Christ?

We must admit our needs and seek the prayers of others on our behalf. At first glance this may sound selfish, but hear me out. Sometimes we don’t ask for prayer for our own needs because we don’t want to admit that we ARE in need of prayer. We may not want to appear weak by asking others to pray for us. But until we admit our own weakness and need for prayer, we are not being very humble, an important component in getting God to hear our prayers (see 2 Chronicles 7:14).

Everybody needs prayer. We all struggle with temptation and sin. We all struggle with pain and disappointment. We all struggle with finding God’s plan and guidance in our lives. To deny these needs makes us out to be liars. Nobody has life all together and to act like we do is arrogance.

Furthermore, by admitting our needs for prayer to one another, we are actually admitting our need for God to move and work in our lives. If we can’t admit we need prayer, then, we are admitting, on a heart level, that we don’t need God. But the truth is: We all need God.

So here’s the question to consider: how can we expect God to move in the lives of others if we won’t admit that we also need Him to move in our lives? That’s just not right. Instead, we must do what James 5:16 (Amplified) says: “Confess to one another therefore your faults—your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins—and pray also for one another, that you may be healed and restored to a spiritual tone of mind and heart. The earnest, heartfelt, continued prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available, dynamic in its working.”

We all need prayer like we all need God. I need you to pray for me. I’m praying for you.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Emptiness Filled By Jesus

“This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” –Luke 2:12 (NIV)

One day, the manger was empty except for a few straws of hay for the animals in the stable. Then, that special night in Bethlehem, it held the Bread of Life that came to fill mankind with peace in their lives and joy in their hearts.

One day, the stomachs of those on the hillside were empty and there wasn’t any food to give them, except for the lunch of a boy in the crowd. Then, Jesus took those loaves and fishes, blessed them, and miraculously filled those thousands of stomachs and still had more to give.

One day, the eyes of a man born blind were empty except for the darkness of a life without sight. Then, after the man’s eyes covered with a salve Jesus created with His spit and some dirt from the ground, and after obediently washing in the Pool of Siloam, the man went home filled with light in being able to see for the first time.

One day, the road leading into Jerusalem was empty, except for a few passersby. Then, at the beginning of His week of Passion, Jesus, riding on the back of a donkey, was met by many of His followers who filled the air with waving palm fronds and with shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!”

One day, the cross was empty, except for the blood of the One who had just painfully given His life on it, having proclaimed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Then, after being taken down from the implement of torturous death, Jesus had fulfilled His purpose of dying to take away the sins of the world.

One day, the tomb was empty, except for the remnants of grave cloths that had once covered Jesus’ dead and buried body. Then, after the stone was rolled away, Jesus filled the world with His victorious presence, having conquered death and offering life to all those who would believe.

One day, my heart was empty, except for the hope that someone could satisfy the hunger of my soul, shine a light in my darkness, and remove the pain of sin in my life. Then, after I heard His still small voice in my heart saying, “I’ve done it all for you!” Jesus filled my life with peace and my heart with joy.

And one day soon, the sky will be empty, except for the sound of the archangel’s trumpet blast. Then, after Jesus appears in triumphant return, the sky will be filled with those who knew Him, returning victoriously to heaven with Him.

If your life is empty, let Jesus fill it. He is the only One who can. Merry Christmas.