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Resurrection reality: There He is Again!

thedoveheisrisenThe resurrection as the epicenter of Christianity: “You shall be my witnesses.” Calvin Miller describes the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the epicenter of Christianity – an epicenter that is both personal and universal.

Read: Resurrection reality 

 

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Saturday of holy week is the day Christians ‘get up in the dark’

carmen easter blogBoth of their faces were stained with tears. The older woman holding the younger. They were rocking slightly. Their shared grief was palpable. I knew neither of them well but I knew that the younger woman had just watched as her son was buried. This was a grief to which I would attend as a pastor over the coming days and weeks and months and years. This would be a grief observed in the life of our faith community.

Several days passed and the older woman came to the church and told me to get in the car. We were going to the younger’s woman’s home. “It is time,” she said, and with that, I followed her lead.

We prayed during our brief journey and I admit now that I did not know exactly what it was “time” for, but that question did not linger long. My mentor was a woman who knew personally the experience of the woman we were visiting. She, too, had buried a child. She possessed a credibility that I did not. I was clearly brought along so that I might learn, not that I might counsel.

She knocked but did not wait long before opening the door. We found our sister hiding in the darkness of a house where every blind was pulled and every light turned off. She was grieving as one who has no hope.

The older woman held her again and simply said, “My dear, precious friend, it’s time to get up. It’s time to get up in the dark. You have to get up in the dark in order to see the sun rise. And you have to get up in the darkness of your grief in order to really know the power of Christ’s resurrection.”

Sobs and then, over time, peace — the peace which passes naturalistic understanding. Grief was being overcome by hope.

Every year on this day, on the day in between the cross and the empty tomb, I revisit that profound experience.   Today is a day of keeping vigil at the tomb. Today is a day of counting the cost of our sin and the sacrifice of Christ. Today is a day of real grief, but not as those who have no hope. Which also makes today the day that Christians get up in the dark as a testimony to the world that Christ is risen, indeed!

The people of Jesus stand at the foot of the cross but we also run breathlessly to the gaping glorious reality of the empty tomb. We do not worship a dead man but a living Savior. So, even when it’s dark, we get up, trusting in the One who is risen and risen indeed.

Even as you attend today to the reality of the grief of Jesus’ death, be encouraged to get up in the dark as a witness to the hope we have in Jesus Christ. And on your way to the empty tomb, go by the house of someone you know who has drawn the curtains, shutting out the light. Attend to the grief and then tell them that it’s time to get up — that they might know the power of Christ’s resurrection and live.

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No substitutes for the One who alone is The Substitute

easter blog graphicWhy is it so easy to accept some substitutes but not others? This time of year, the Easter Bunny gets a free pass. But the acceptance of Jesus as the one all-sufficient substitutionary atonement for the humanity’s Sin faces continual opposition.

There is no Christianity without the Cross; and there is no Cross without the perfect atoning sacrifice of Jesus. He dies in our stead; making of Himself the offering that we could not make for ourselves. But that idea is offensive to many people today. In the now infamous words of one feminist theologian, Dr. Delores Williams, “I don’t think we need a theory of the atonement,” and, “I don’t think we need folks hanging on crosses, and blood dripping, and weird stuff.”

People are happy to substitute therapeutic Deism for Biblical Christianity and they are happy to substitute the theory of evolution for the Biblical account of Creation, but they are not willing to accept the substitution of Christ’s blood for their own burden of sin. Why is that?

Particularly worrisome today is the willingness of some to substitute religious pluralism for the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ as the only way to authentic salvation. The president of Auburn Seminary, Katherine Henderson is currently on a campaign to “re-brand God.” She says that God needs redeeming and, in her view, the means to that end is the wholesale substitution of an amalgamation of all religions in place of any one, including Christianity.

Why are people willing to accept the substitution of this lie for the truth? Humanity is prone to exchange the truth about God for lies. That’s a storyline as old as humanity itself; and it is a storyline with tragic consequences. God reveals in Romans 1 what happens when people exchange God’s truth for lies of their own imagining. They are given over to depravity and become senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. This is a “not your will but mine be done” approach to life and it is expressly contrary to the Spirit of Christ.

Jesus prays, “Not my will, but Your’s be done,” in full submission to God’s will. Jesus offered His life as a substitutionary atoning sacrifice for your sin and mine. Read and reflect on Matthew 26:36-46.

When you are tempted to believe those who advocate that all spiritualities are equal, consider this: If there had been any other way than Jesus’ death on the cross, wouldn’t God have revealed it in the Garden of Gethsemane? Do you honestly think that post-Enlightment reason somehow trumps the wisdom of God in making a way for sinful, broken people to be restored to a right relationship to their Creator? That not only elevates reason above revelation but it elevates the creature’s opinion above the Creator’s plan.

As Jesus prayed that the righteous cup of God’s wrath against sin might pass from Him, as Jesus asked the Father to consider again if there might be some other way but the Cross, He willingly yielded His will to the Father. If there was any other way to provide for salvation, don’t you think that God would have revealed it right then and right there?  How can anyone say that Jesus’ sacrifice was not necessary?  Or that there are other ways to salvation? Does that not elevate human opinion above God who clearly reveals in the Garden of Gethsemane that there is no other way?

The issue is, and has always been, idolatry: the substitution of our own ideas, our own desires, our own proclivities, for the revealed will of God.

This week, I invite you to fully accept the substitutionary act of Christ upon the Cross for you – and accept no substitutes for Him.

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Where everyone went when everything went wrong

carmen easter blogThe account of the arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane ends with these words: “Then all the disciples deserted Him and fled.” Read Matthew 26:47-56.

Have you ever felt abandoned when you really needed someone on your side?

That’s where Jesus stands at the end of this text — alone in the midst of a hateful mob of bullies. His friend Judas has betrayed Him and by the end of the scene, all His disciples have fled. The angry hands that hold Him fast are rough, strong and coarse. There is no compassion in their eyes and no love for Him in their hearts.

From all outward appearances, everything has gone wrong. Jesus was supposed to be the King. Jesus was supposed to be the Messiah. The bewildered disciples thought, “This just couldn’t be right! How could everything have gone so wrong?”

And yet, had the disciples had ears to hear, this is precisely how Jesus had told them it would go down.

  • Mark 8:31: Then He began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
  • Mark 9:31: He was teaching His disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill Him, and three days after being killed, He will rise again.”
  • Mark 10:32b-34: He took the 12 aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to Him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death; then they will hand Him over to the Gentiles, they will mock Him, and spit upon Him, and flog Him, and kill Him; and after three days He will rise again.”

Jesus has told them the truth. They had been warned. It had been laid out before them again and again, and yet still, when it happened, when the words of Jesus became reality, the disciples all fled.

Before we too quickly condemn them, let us honestly consider what we would have done.

Remember what these guys had been through.

It had been a long journey … three years in the making. They had left everything to follow Jesus. They had put all their trust and hope in Him. Indeed, they had staked their lives on the promise that He was the Messiah, the chosen and anointed one, the one who would redeem Israel and set them free.

His teachings were often difficult to understand and nearly impossible to reconcile with the world they saw around them. But His miracles! They had witnessed God’s power at work within Jesus. He was the Christ; of that, they had no doubt.  But recently He had been saying things that troubled them. They were tired. They were confused. They were emotionally exhausted. And then, He had determined to come to Jerusalem for Passover.

It had been a long week … from the glorious, festive entry into the city with waving palms and cheering crowds to the disruptive confusion of the Temple when Jesus seemed to some of them to go mad. Then there were the awful things He was saying about the teachers of the Law right to their faces! Jesus seemed determined to make enemies with everyone!

They had been glad to retire with Him to the upper room for the celebration of the sacred Pascal meal – but then, what began as a celebration had turned into a very long night.

  • Passover Meal that went off-script and turned into something far different;
  • Foot washing that made them all very uncomfortable and took a very long time to complete;
  • A long walk with a long talk about the Vine and the branches;
  • A long public prayer about Jesus’ unity with the Father and His prayer for His followers;
  • A long time of private prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane …

They simply could not stay awake and it was after the third watchless watch that they awoke to the reality that they were surrounded an angry mob. There were torches flickering through the trees. They were startled, disoriented, confused. And yes, they were afraid. What would happen next? Would this be the big show-down where Jesus revealed His power and glory? Were they about to witness the cosmic battle between God’s good Son and the world’s evil minions? What were they expected to do? Should they draw their swords and defend their friend? Were they about to be arrested, too?

Jesus seemed eerily calm.

They took hold of Him and Peter lashed out.
But Jesus ordered peace and brought healing.

He was giving Himself into their hands!

The disciples were human … and they fled.

So, where did everyone go when everything went so seemingly wrong that night in the Garden?

Some of their stories we know from the testimony of Scripture:

We catch up with Judas Iscariot in Matthew 27.

Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death. They bound Him, led Him away and handed Him over to Pilate, the governor. When Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the 30 silver coins to the chief priests and the elders.  “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”  “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”  So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

 We follow Peter as he follows at a distance (Luke 22:54-62)

 Peter followed at a distance.  When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with Him.”  But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know Him,” he said.  A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”  “Man, I am not!” Peter replied.  About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with Him, for he is a Galilean.”  Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed.  The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.”  And he went outside and wept bitterly.

 We don’t know where he hid in the interim, but by the middle of the following day we find John standing at the foot of the cross (John 19.25-27)

 Near the cross of Jesus stood His mother, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus saw His mother there, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

So, Judas, Peter and John are accounted for, but what about the other 9? What happened to  Andrew, James the son of Zebedee, Matthew, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, James the son of Alpheus, Thaddeus and Simon the Zealot?

Where did they all go when everything seemed to go so wrong?

Where do you run when you’re in trouble? To whom do you run?

Where would you go if your life were in danger? They would have run to Jesus but that was not an option.  They had just seen one of their own betray the Christ. Whom could they trust? Were they next on the Sanhedrin’s list? Where could they go to collect themselves? What were they to do now that Jesus had been arrested?

  • Maybe they returned to Bethany where they had been staying each night with Jesus.
  • Maybe to the upper room where the Last Supper had just been celebrated.
  • Maybe to hide in the midst of the tens of thousands of Galileans who had swarmed into Jerusalem for Passover.
  • Maybe Simon went to consult with the Zealots.
  • Maybe Matthew went to plead with the Romans.
  • Maybe some of them went to seek out the Jewish leaders who had become believers that they might plead Jesus’ case.
  • Maybe one of them went to Joseph of Arimathea and another to Nicodemus to see if they might buy Jesus’ release.

From the time of Jesus’ arrest to his death on the cross the disciples are virtually invisible. We don’t know where they ran from the Garden of Gethsemane, but we do know that by Sunday they were all together, hiding in the upper room, behind a locked door. Well, everyone but Thomas.

John 20:19-29 tells us that,

 After He said this, He showed them His hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the 12, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”  But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it.”  A week later His disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

 Without Jesus the disciples had been in chaos. With Jesus again in their presence they were at peace.  Without Him they had been panicked, scattered, lost. But with Him they experience the unity of the spirit and the bond of peace.  Nothing in the world has changed and yet the presence of the risen Christ in the world has changed everything.  Indeed, there is no better place to be when everything goes wrong than at the side of the One who makes all things right.

Things don’t always seem to go right in our lives. There is conflict, loss, disappointment and heartache in every day. Your particular pain might be physical, spiritual, financial, emotional or even social. You might be feeling very much alone in the world and you may be wondering if anyone really cares.  Whatever is wrong, there is only One who can make it right.

Jesus came to make things right in an ultimate sense of the word. Jesus came to restore us by giving us His own righteousness.  To make us right with God, right with ourselves and right with one another, Jesus endured what He endured.  Jesus came to make all things new.  He came that we might have life and have it abundantly.  Indeed, Jesus came not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him.

It looked to the disciples as if everything had gone horribly wrong, when in fact all things were going exactly the way God planned in order to make all things right.

The first disciples didn’t get it. I’m hoping we do.  As the disciples of Jesus Christ in the world today we have a choice to make when everything seems to go wrong. We can abandon the One who has brought us this far or we can trust Him to lead us through – even in those times and places where there seems to be no way. We can run and hide or we can take a stand for the truth we know will set us free. We can make alliances with the powers of the world or we can rely on Jesus Christ whose power has overcome the world.

Where will you choose to be the next time everything seems to go horribly wrong?

I choose to be with Jesus because I know that He alone can make all things right.

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The servants of Christ must first be served by Christ

carmen easter blogOne of the memories of this week that always strikes me anew every year is the act of Jesus, during the last supper, getting up from the table, wrapping a towel around His waist, filling a basin of water and working His way around the table to wash the feet of the disciples. Read John 13:1-17.

One by one, Jesus lovingly kneels to wash the feet of those who follow Him.  We do not know the order, but we know their names, their stories, their failings and their futures. We know that within hours Judas will betray Him, Peter will deny Him and all of them will flee, leaving Jesus alone to face His darkest hours.

We can understand why Peter resists and yet we know the truth of which Christ speaks. If you are not humble enough to allow Christ to serve you, you cannot serve Him.

The servants of Christ must first be served by Christ. That was true at the foot washing and it is equally true today.

You must receive the humiliating act of the One who deserves all praise and glory in order that you can in turn serve Him.  He cannot use a life that He has not bought and He cannot buy back or redeem a life that is not freely given to Him. These are Kingdom principles. They are counter-intuitive and they are anything but worldly wise.

Unless Christ washes me, I have no share in Him. I cannot become a redeemed child of God any other way. Unless I receive the atoning sacrifice of Christ on my behalf; unless I submit to the reality that I am a sinner and I cannot save myself; unless I allow the Lord of love to wash away my sin with His blood, I have no share in Him – no part in His inheritance, no engrafting into His Body, no hope in His resurrection.

This is serious business that the Savior of the world is transacting with disciples who are not so different from you and me.

He also sets for His followers an example: Do unto others as I have done unto you.

Fellow followers of Christ, we have been served in ways we cannot repay by a God whom alone is worthy of glory.  Having been served, so let us serve.

Read and reflect today on Galatians 2:20 which reads, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

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Hearing the echoes of the Old Testament in the Passion of the Christ

easter blog graphicAs you walk with Jesus through the events of this most holy of weeks, listen carefully for the echoes of the Old Testament in the words and the whispers of the New.

While it is true that Jesus fulfills many prophecies contained in the Hebrews Scriptures, it is important to remember that Jesus is the Word of God who spoke through those Hebrew prophets. Read John 1:1-14.

John says, “In the beginning was the logos, the Word, and the Word was pros ton theon”—with the God.  And then John says that the Logos, the Word, was God. The Logos was God! He is called “theos.” The Logos, the Word, is God together with God.  God from God, as the Nicene Creed says.

John continues: And this one, the Word, “was in the beginning pros ton theon”: with the God or around God or together with the God.  “All things came to be through Him and without Him,” without the Word, “nothing that exists, came to be.” God created all that is through the agency of His Son.  There is nothing apart from God’s Word.  Read Colossians 1:15-20.

The Word of God (Jesus) is a reality that predates the giving of the Word by God to the writers of the Hebrew scriptures. The Word of God is a pre-existent eternal reality that also predates the sending of the Word of God into the world. So, the Word is God, and with God, all things came to be through this Word. Nothing that is “is” apart from the Word.

Reading the ancient Church fathers from Athanasius to Basil to St. Gregory the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, to John Chrysostom and others, we see that when each and all reflect on the opening verses of John’s gospel they say if you read the whole skopos of the Scripture, you will understand that God Almighty, the one true and living God, is never without His Word. Indeed, the Word abides with God.  God and His Word are distinguishable but they cannot be separated; the Word is the Word of God, but there never was a time  “when there was no Word of God.”

Athanasius says, “God is never alogos.” “Alogos” means wordless. God is never without His Word.

One way to understand this is to remember that a similar truth is revealed about God’s pneuma, God’s Spirit. God is never without His Word and God is never without His Spirit. The three are one in a way that is a mystery. The Spirit of God and the Word of God are with God from the beginning – they are God’s Word and God’s Spirit.

So, you cannot contemplate God and His revelation nor the life and work of His Son, Jesus, apart from the Spirit nor apart from the Word.  It is a false bifurcation to separate Jesus from the Word of God. It is through the Word, spoken, written and incarnate that God makes Himself known.  The Word is the agent through whom God reveals Himself – through Creation, through the prophets, through the Word made flesh, and the Bible received.  It is the Word that is speaking, delivered, heard and obeyed.

This week, as you walk with the Word, attune your ear not only to hear the message spoken in the context of the week leading to the Cross, but hear the Word spoken throughout the entire witness of Scripture.

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Rehabbing Judas

easter blog graphicI think Judas has gotten a bum rap. Certainly he is guilty of great sin, but let’s re-visit his story and with an openness to what we might have missed.

In Matthew 26, after the anointing of Jesus at a dinner party by a woman who poured out a lavish measure of expensive perfume, one of the disciples, presumably Judas, who was the group’s accountant, sold out the Savior.

Then one of the 12 – the one called Judas Iscariot — went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” So they counted out for him 30 silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over. Matthew 26:14-16

As we know, that opportunity presented itself in the Garden of Gethsemane, but prior to that Jesus washed Judas’ feet along with the other disciples. Jesus broke bread and shared the cup and predicted Judas’ betrayal. Imagine the deep wound of having Jesus look you in the eye, knowing what was in your heart (and in your pocket) and then saying that it would have been better if you had never been born.  Read and reflect on John 13:18-30.

Jesus’ next direct word to Judas was to identify him as “friend” in the Garden:

 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the 12, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.” Matthew 26:47-50

 Jesus is arrested, false witnesses are produced before the Sanhedrin, Jesus affirms to the high priest that He is the Christ, the Son of God, whereupon He is found guilty of blasphemy, spat upon, beaten, slapped and mocked. We can assume that Judas, now an insider-informant for the Jews, was a witness to this. We also know that when Judas saw Jesus condemned, he repented.

Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound Him, led Him away and handed Him over to Pilate the governor. When Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. Matthew 27:1-5

 Judas did what a God-fearing Jew was supposed to do when becoming aware of sin: Go to the priests and ask for atonement. But what did he get instead? The priests refused their own calling and then they said the unthinkable, “See to it yourself.”

No one can see to their own sin. No one can atone for themselves. The entire Temple system was based upon the truth that substitutionary offerings had to be made, and they had to be made by priests. Judas ultimately did the only thing he could imagine might help, he offered his own life as a sacrifice for the sin he had committed against Christ.

Understanding the depth of Judas’ Jewishness and recognizing the remorse he experienced and the attempt he made to make things right, rehabs Judas somewhat. Certainly he is still the one who betrays the Lord, but he also repents and seeks forgiveness. Told to “see to himself,” he hangs himself.

If Judas had only waited three days he would have stood forgiven by the Risen Savior, but Judas does not see that coming. From his vantage point the Resurrection is not in view.  Be acutely aware today that there are those today who stand where Judas stood — unable to see the Light of God’s redeeming love through the darkness of their own sin. Be a witness as you walk with them to the Cross — and to the Empty Tomb.

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Free Resource from The Reconnect: How to Use The Shack Movie to Talk With Others

As a book, The Shack has sold more than 20 million copies. That’s a huge number. It also claims to be Christian and has been sold as such. That, it turns out, is a controversial claim.

The ShackThe Shack is back, now as a movie. As with all novels, it is essential that we recognize fiction is fiction. But this particular fiction claims to tell us the truth about God, and we need to figure out what to do with that.

Christians need to prepare to engage in conversations with the millions of people who will see The Shack and be prepared to walk with them from Mack’s experience with God in the movie into their own.

We need Christians who are equipped to engage with people whose view of God, themselves, their relationships and their world are going to be radically transformed by this movie. Are you ready?

Be ready to enter into these conversations equipped with truth and grace, with this free resource How to use The Shack to talk with others.

Click here to get your copy of How to use The Shack to talk with others. 

 

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Where is Carmen? On The Radio

“Where’s Carmen?” is a question that I’ve been hearing with increasing frequency from friends in all branches of the Presbyterian family.  The answer is: On the radio!  Every weekday from 3-4 p.m. Eastern time, streaming on the internet and available 24-7 via podcast at ReconnectWithCarmen.com.

Every day on The Reconnect we reconnect the eternal with the everyday, equipping listeners to serve as effective Ambassadors of the Kingdom of God in the kingdoms of this world. So many of our conversations are marked by giving people a piece of our mind when what they really need is the peace of the mind of Christ. So, we help listeners cultivate the mind of Christ on the matters of the day and then communicate in ways that honor Jesus.

For example, “fake news” is a term that entered our lexicon in 2016. Intentionally false stories with click-bait headlines were shared millions of times in the run up to the U.S. Presidential election. Some people are trying to stop the spread of fake news whilst others fan the flame and expand the meaning as if anything with which we disagree is now fake news. What is the Christian worldview on that? How does a Christian address and deal with the issue of fake news in our post-truth culture?

We declare that Truth, along with goodness and beauty, are the three transcendental virtues defined by God. People may debate what is virtuous but without an immovable eternal standard (God), morality devolves to the least common denominator. In that devolution truth is suppressed and goodness is perverted and beauty is distorted. In the midst of that reality those who follow Jesus, who is the way and the truth and the life, are challenged to shine like stars, holding out the Word of Truth as living demonstrations of the Gospel.

That kind of witness needs constant encouragement and that’s what we do every day on The Reconnect.

We encourage listeners to live in the freedom real truth provides and take God back into every conversation, representing God’s eternal perspective in the matters of the day.

To share more with you about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, join me on one of our upcoming Ask Carmen conference calls:

April 3 at 11:30 am Eastern, 10:30 Central, 9:30 Mtn, 8:30 Pacific

April 6 at 6 pm Eastern, 5 Central, 4 Mtn, 3 Pacific

April 10 at 12:30 pm Eastern, 11:30 Central, 10:30 Mtn, 9:30 Pacific

April 13 at 6 pm Eastern, 5 Central, 4 Mtn, 3 Pacific

RSVP for one of the above days and times by calling 1-800-368-0110, emailing jlee@layman.org or by visiting http://tinyurl.com/CarmenCall

On the day of the call, at the appointed time, you will join by calling 319-527-2829 and entering Passcode 763026.

I look forward to talking with you and fielding your questions!

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Love That Endures Forever; What We All Need This Valentine’s Day

(Blog originally posted 2/12/16. Updated on 2/14/17). Life is fleeting but love endures forever. By tomorrow, Valentine’s Day will be over. The roses and chocolates and cards will be history, but we will still need to know that we are loved. 

My husband sat on the steps and held out a ring. It was large and worn and engraved with a date from 1966. He keeps it in a drawer and puts it on from time to time. His uncle Paul made it and it belonged to his dad. We talked and then he said, “This ring is going to be around even when I’m not.” Yes dear, you’re right.

Life is fleeting but love endures. Even when in human relationships there has been disappointment and heartbreak and neglect, somehow love endures. Even when the relationship was not all that you had hoped or would have wanted, somehow love endures. We are not always patient and we are not always kind, but love endures.

Today is Valentine’s Day and I’m holding out hope that the focus will be less on the fleeting emotion of cards, candies, roses and hearts and more focused on the love that endures forever.

1 John 4:7-16 says “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows GodAnyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

Knowing someone by the fruit of their life, by what is produced through their thoughts, words and deeds, is an oft repeated biblical refrain. In Matthew 7:15-20 Jesus affirms that “by their fruits you shall know them” and in Galatians 5 we learn that the first fruit the Holy Spirit produces in a believer’s is love.

The passage in I John goes on to say that “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”valentine john 3 16

That sounds a lot like John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in Him shall have everlasting life.”  That is really God’s valentine to each of us.

Continuing in I John, we read, “11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”

As Christians we are supposed to be living demonstrations of God’s character in all the fullness of its beauty and truth. God is love, but God is also holy and God is Great and God is Good. God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent.  When we re-present God to others we do so by speaking the truth in love, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us God.  The challenge is always to present God’s character, not some caricature of my own imagining.   Why? Because life is fleeting and love endures forever.

People need to know God, not me. People need to know the name of Jesus, not my name.  My life is fleeting, His love endures forever.

The I John passage concludes, “13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

 Where does your love abide this Valentine’s day? In the fleeting nature of this life or in the God who is love and in whom love endures forever?

The lover of your soul has sent you a valentine. His name is Jesus. All He wants in return is your heart. Valentine’s day is a good day to give it to Him. You can trust Him to hold it in love, forever.

 

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