Good Friday

And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43

Salvation. It’s really all about salvation.

He came and died in my place, your place. He took my sin, and yours. He became sin so that we can become the righteousness of God.

Wait, WHAT?

Yep, look at this: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor 5:21 

For the criminal on the cross it was a good Friday. He woke up in Paradise, and there was Jesus. BAM!

For us, today is a great day, because of what He did for us on that one day.  My prayer this weekend is that many people in many churches will come to Christ. I’m praying for pastors who will preach the simple message of the cross and empty tomb. I’m praying for guests that have been invited.  People need Jesus.  Two criminals on two crosses. One mocks, the other cries out in faith.

Thank you, Jesus for the cross.  And for saving me.

I’m praying for Grace this Sunday as we celebrate the resurrection and welcome guests into our church community.  I’m starting a new series this Sunday, check this out.

Many of you remember the impact Zac Smith (my nephew) had on my life and our church family. Zac passed away 4 years ago. This Easter weekend NewSpring Church is retelling his story as Mandy and the kids each give testimony to the glory of God, just as Zac did. Check it out here.

For God’s Glory

Nineteen years ago today it was a Sunday. This would be our first Sunday meeting as Grace Community at Sinagua High School. We advertised in the paper. We had dorky little cards made up. We called it a new beginning.  And it was.

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Eph 5:25-27

Thank you, Jesus, for the sacrifice that cleanses us and makes us new and for the assembly of those with whom we share this new life.  For Your glory!

Grace and the persecuted life

I’m not even sure how to write this evening (morning in Flagstaff).  The people I met and what I learned today is of the kind that can change a person’s life.  It will take some time for me to process.

My main assignment is to do what I love and that is speaking on grace.  However, I’m asking myself why I am the one up front doing the teaching. I’m speaking to men who have experienced great persecutions.  I talked to people today who are not allowed to own property in their particular country because they are Christians.  I met a man who spent over 2 years in prison, because he is a Christian.  I need to find out what I can and cannot say about the men I met with today from an underground church movement. The numbers blow me away.  These are humble men.

And I’m the one teaching them about grace.  I should just sit down and shut up.

But, by God’s grace and in obedience to Him, I’ll keep teaching what I know. And, I’ll also continue to sit and listen to the stories.

I’m not going to lie, I’m tired.

And grateful.

Thank you Lord, for letting me have the mic on this needed topic of grace. And Lord, bless these dear men.  Help me to learn from them in our time together.  I’m so grateful #T2RS

Knowing God

One of the key themes in 2 Peter is going to be the knowledge of God. In the few weeks we’ll be studying this passage we’ll see how the knowledge of God is more than head-knowledge.  Though our knowledge starts with the data of God, who he is, how we can know he is real, and what he has revealed to us about himself, the real knowledge of God comes when we go from knowing ‘about’ God to actually knowing Him. To know him means to be in a relationship with him that is based on him and what he has done for us, through Jesus!  Peter’s use of the word knowledge is not just the data of God. It’s knowing God intimately.  Before you think this is just a ‘touchy-feely’ kind of sentiment, listen to the hard words that Paul gives us in Philippians 3:8-10

“I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death”

What does this passage say about how to know God?  There is nothing easy about this. What this means is that Paul would know Christ as he shared in the sufferings of Jesus.  You and I will suffer. Life involves brokenness and hurt, unfair treatment, disasters of nature and sin-induced trauma.  It can and will get difficult. But it’s through this difficult times that a follower of Jesus gets to know God in a whole new way.  A way that brings glory to God!

If you or someone you know is going through a difficult time of suffering right now, pray that God would make himself ‘known’ during this hard time.  In his grace, God reaches out to us in our sufferings and we know his peace and presence in a whole new intimate way.

Before the mountains…

Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting
you are God.
Ps 90:2

 

I love that this is the only recorded Psalm from Moses. Not that I wouldn’t have liked to see more, but that the one that he did pen, begins with creation.

Who wrote Genesis? Moses.
Moses wasn’t there, but somehow the Holy Spirit gave him the words. He is the one who tells the story time before the mountains were brought forth, or the earth even formed.

From everlasting…
…To everlasting
YOU ARE GOD

How comforting that is. Our God who we trust for eternal salvation and a place with Him for eternity…
He was there, He will be there. So, He is here now.

Remembering

Laurie had just completed her last treatment for breast cancer.  That was on Thursday. Our rejoicing was cut short, by making immediate plans to go to South Carolina to be with Mandy and her kids.  We didn’t expect Zac to be alive by the time we arrived.  As memory serves, it seems that from about Wednesday on, he was ready to go and seemed to be on his way to see Jesus.

We arrived Saturday night . . . me; my wife, Laurie; my sister, Barbara; and Zac’s sister, Stacey.  I remember arriving late and needing food.  I’d say it’s a Smith-thing, but really, we all gotta eat. The only thing, or at least the first thing we found, was a Waffle House. This would be a new experience.

Sunday morning, Stacey left our hotel and went right over to the house to say good-bye to her brother.  It wasn’t long after that we were invited to stop by as well.  I remember the mixed emotions of going to say goodbye to a young man that I loved dearly, my nephew, and a real good friend.  After a time, and some prayer, the family made their way to church while I stayed back with Mandy in case she needed any help.

After church, my brother, Jim, took the whole gang out to find some lunch while Mandy and Sharon remained close by.  After lunch as we were driving back, the cell phone rang.

Being there to say good-bye to Zac was a special moment.  Knowing Zac was much more rewarding.  I, along with those that knew him, had no doubts as to his faith in Jesus.  As sure as I’m sitting here right at this moment, I knew what happened to Zac one year ago on that Sunday afternoon.  Everyone that knew him loved him and would miss him greatly. And we still do.

In God’s sovereign care of Zac and Mandy, He moved them to Anderson, South Carolina where Mandy remains today and where Zac was given an amazing platform to share his story and where we all watched as God would use a couple of videos to tell countless numbers of his confidence in God’s goodness and His glory.

Tomorrow, is the one year anniversary of the day Zac went to be with Jesus.  It was the 16th, which this year falls on Monday.  Just a couple of nights ago, Laurie and I were reminded that she has been cancer-free for a year.

We remember and we rejoice. We rejoice in God’s grace, His kindness, His plans, His mercy, the life He gives us, the days that He has already numbered for each of us. We rejoice that He’s God and He’s got this.  He’s got us.

This weekend I’ll think of Zac a lot more. And I’ll think of his sweet wife and three pretty cool kids.  I’ll pray for them and for his mom and dad and his sister. And I’ll think of Zac’s message that is just as true a year later: God is still God, and God is still good. To God be the glory.


“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116:15

“Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 42:11