Filling the Storehouse

We are being bombarded by media. Everywhere you turn, brightly colored amusement and entertainment compete for our attention. It’s on our televisions, our movie screens, our radios, our computers, our cell phones, in our cars and now displayed on billboards. In every place and situation there is something or someone “hawking their wares,” announcing the latest and greatest must-have item or dazzling us with storylines that go beyond acceptable limits of morality and decency; people and machines talking at us in decibels too loud for our own good.

In the midst of the din, most of us sit mesmerized and glassy-eyed while our mind drinks it all in; recording it all in a brain that will never forget what we see and hear. On our televisions, blood, guts, gore, war, crime and chaos swirl before our eyes for hours at a time. Inappropriate slang, swear words and useless conversation is being recorded in our mind, only to be recalled at any given moment in our future. We call it something cute like “couch potato” or “vegging out.” In reality our lifestyles have become lethargic and we are alarmingly lax in setting boundaries for what we allow in our homes, hearts and minds.

Probably the greatest casualty in all of this is the collective loss of social skill and the ability to meaningfully converse with others. Gone are the days when neighbors chatted across the back fence or piled the family in the car for Sunday afternoon drives to “drop-in” and visit grand-parents, aunts, uncles and friends. Seldom do we see children outside playing with friends and neighbors until the street lights come on or Dad gives the “time for dinner” whistle. Porch swings and chairs are now simply decorations rarely occupied by chatting men and women in the cool of the evening. What we are left with are the hurting, broken lives of those who are talked “at” but never talked “with.” We are left with people who are hungry for an encouraging word, a listening ear and to know that someone cares for them.

This social deficiency is most tragic among those of us who know the Lord and are commanded to spread His gospel. Now, more than ever, it is important that we guard our hearts and minds and that we judge the things we see and hear by Philippians 4:8, “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things:” or Psalm 19:14, ” Let the…meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight O Lord…” or Psalm 101:3, “I will set no wicked (vile) thing before my eyes…” It is even more important that we spend time with our heavenly Father; to abide in His word and talk with Him each day. Then, when we are called upon to share the gospel, we can do so from the beauty of the excellent and praiseworthy things our mind has recorded, instead of the junk we’ve ingested from the media.

I heard the testimony recently of a young woman who had tried every religion known, looking for something to give her life meaning. When asked why she never tried God, her answer was that she didn’t know who He was or that He existed. I watched a talk show host interview people on the street and ask them if they recognized the name of a very well-known Bible character. Of all the people he asked, no one had ever heard the story of Jonah. No one had ever told them! You may be the only person to show Christ to your neighbor, co-worker, the cashier at the grocer or the waitress at your favorite restaurant. You may be the only person to ever share an encouraging and uplifting word with them. And, in providing that word, you have opened the door to a much greater conversation about their need for Jesus. A conversation they may have with you at that moment or with someone else at a later time. You may be the only person to ever share the Gospel with them.

I encourage you during this next week to be aware of what information you allow to be recorded in your mind and heart – your inner man. How much time do you spend viewing Satan’s realm of chaos, murder, violence and mayhem through news channels, television and the internet? How much time do you spend taking in the Word and things of Philippians 4:8? You will only give out (speak) what you’ve taken into your heart. Luke 6:45 states it like this in the Amplified version of the Bible, “The upright (honorable, intrinsically good) man out of the good treasure [stored] in his heart produces what is upright (honorable and intrinsically good), and the evil man out of the evil storehouse brings forth that which is depraved (wicked and intrinsically evil); for out of the abundance (overflow) of the heart his mouth speaks.” If what we take in from the Word measures less than what we take in from anywhere else, we may think we are speaking and giving out good things but the truth is we have no idea what God could use and give out through us if we got rid of the trash and filled the storehouse of our inner man with His Word.

Push away from the desk and turn off the computer. Get up from the couch and turn off the television. Pick up your Bible. Fill your storehouse with the treasure of His Word. Be aware of the people you meet. Strike up a conversation, give them an encouraging word and share Jesus with them out of the overflow of your heart!

The world is full of hurting people and we have the answer they are looking for. Talk with them, socialize and share HIS wonderfully life-changing, love and grace! Because, “…how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone (telling) them? …faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:14, 17).

An Open Letter to My Wife

SPOILER ALERT: The following blog contains large amounts of mildly sappy, personal information and is intended to be an homage to my better half. Nevertheless, I hope others enjoy and are able to glean something useful here. #SorryNotSorry

To my beautiful wife, Ashley, whom I gratefully adore and thank God for. I am a better husband, father, and man because of you.

With the New Year just around corner, and in the spirit of that often bright and reflective season, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my own life. You see, 2016 is somewhat of a big year for me. Why, you might ask? Ten years ago an awkward, bumbling young man (that would be me) mustered enough courage to ask a pretty, young brunette girl (that would be my wife) out on a date. To my surprise, she said yes.

Not only does 2016 mark ten years of being a couple, but it also marks five years of marriage. While our life together is still a young one, comparatively speaking, and while I wholly admit to having much more to learn, time is not the only thing that matures a marriage. Over the course of our life together, we have weathered a variety of trials – both good and bad: we have been blessed with two of the most adorable heathens imaginable, we have a quaint place to call “home”, and we have a community of supportive friends and family to rely upon.

The blessings are all the more sweeter when I consider them in light of the trials we have suffered as well: we have endured natural disaster and homelessness together, fought bitterly, cared for parents with disability and cancer, and borne the heavy weight of burying a parent far too early. Ashley has cared for a husband with heart problems, and (I’m sure) has worried about being widowed “before it’s time.” I have provided an anchor for her, when she was tossed back and forth in the emotional turbulence of postpartum depression. We have laughed . . . and we have wept. And, to add insult to injury, I know that our sinful tendencies have caused more than a few scars in each other.

I’m not merely waxing nostalgic here. I have a point and a purpose, and that purpose is this: We have not quit on our marriage. Nowhere near close. It is our commitment to imitating Christ that has kept our union joined, and will continue to do so. My wife is undoubtedly an amazing, beautiful, strong, and forbearing person. But the type of love that is needed for a successful marriage cannot be conjured by mere human determination. There is nothing natural about, “consider others more highly than yourself,” “love one another as I have loved you,” or “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, to maker her holy.”

As 2016 approaches, and as I consider the numerous blessings and mercies God has shown me, I will thank God for my wife and all of the admirable qualities she possesses. Most of all, I will thank God for giving us both new life in the Spirit, and a commitment to love and honor one another as we follow Him. New Years is the perfect season for a fresh start. Consider, then, starting off the New Year with me by renewing your resolve to love and honor your spouse with the strength God provides. In other words, to do that which does not come naturally. We are all sinful, imperfect people – but with God, all things are possible.

 

Lastly, I’d like to close with a personal note: Ashley, you are my joy, my treasure, my bride. Here’s to – Lord willing – 50 or more years of image-bearing, self-sacrificing, covenant-keeping, Christ-honoring marriage.

 

With Love,

Your Husband

 

BY: Jeff Romine

5 Lessons on Mentorship from the Middle Ages

A few weeks ago, on October 31, we celebrated a holiday. And no – I’m not talking about Halloween. While it is often forgotten about, Reformation Day marks an important date in the life of Protestants. Now for those of you who might have slept through your world history classes in high school, let’s refresh:

For much of the middle ages (500 A.D. to 1500 A.D.), the Catholic Church dominated both the religious and political life in Europe. It wielded incredible amounts of power, money, and influence, and as what often happens with unchecked power, corruption set in. Eventually, the church turned to selling indulgences (pieces of paper promising that your loved one would be guaranteed entrance to heaven) as a sort of fundraising racket. On October 31, 1517, an incensed German monk named Martin Luther responded by nailing 95 objections to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany in an attempt to reform the corrupt practices and doctrines that had become prevalent in the Catholic Church.

What’s important about Reformation Day is not the man, or the fact that his actions were instrumental in spawning the Protestant faith. What matters is that God used Martin Luther in incredible ways to help His people rediscover His Word, and to help His church return to true, biblical Christianity. However, it is not Reformation Day (or even Martin Luther for that matter) that I want to focus on, but Luther’s lesser known mentor, Johann von Staupitz. 

Martin was born to Hans and Margaret Luther in 1483. Hans was a miner by trade and, wanting to spare his son of the same life, encouraged Martin to enter law school. By all accounts, Martin disliked law school and had a natural bent for theology and philosophy, but he nevertheless obliged his father. One day, while on a trip back home, the young Martin was caught in a thunderstorm and was nearly struck by lightning. Terrified that he might die and go to hell, he made a promise that he would become a monk. So in 1505, Martin left everything behind and went to a monastery in Erfurt, Germany to do just that.

It was in Erfurt where Martin Luther met one of the most influential persons of his life – his mentor Johann von Staupitz. Not much is known about Staupitz, but he served as an overseer and superior to young, aspiring monks – including the young Martin Luther. Even though Martin was going through the process to become a monk, it is clear from his own admission that he was still unconverted when he first came to the monastery. Martin was constantly plagued by a guilty conscience and fear of hell. To alleviate his conscience, he frequently made pilgrimages, fasted, prayed, and spent hours in confession.

“If ever a monk could get to heaven through monastic discipline, I was that monk. And yet my conscience would not give me certainty, but I always doubted and said, ‘You didn’t do that right. You weren’t contrite enough. You left that out of your confession.’ The more I tried to remedy an uncertain, weak, and troubled conscience with human traditions, the more I daily found it more uncertain, weaker, and more troubled.” -Martin Luther

For much of Luther’s time in “seminary”, Staupitz faithfully mentored and counseled the troubled young man. Seeing Luther’s obsession with his own sin, Staupitz frequently counseled him to look away from his own sin, and towards Christ who was able to forgive sin and grant a change of heart. It was because of Staupitz’s advice, as well as being washed by the scripture, that Martin Luther was finally converted and tasted grace.

Luther had a great respect and fondness for his mentor. By his own admission, Luther said of Staupitz: “If it had not been for him, I should have sunk in hell.”  It was nothing other than the stirring of the Holy Spirit that saved Martin Luther. Nevertheless, Staupitz’s godly advice, mentorship, and personal investment into a young troubled soul made a critical difference – not only for Martin, but eventually for all of Christendom. Even though history remembers Martin Luther, let us not forget that we are benefactors of Staupitz’s faithful, behind-the-scenes mentorship. That said, what can we take away from their examples?

1. Awareness of our sin is a gift of God

Ephesians clearly states our salvation is a gift from God, and that no one has any grounds to boast. Likewise, an awareness of sin – which is necessary for repentance that leads to salvation – is also a gift of God. Luther, for much of his life, saw the deadly reality of his own sin, but he didn’t know what to do with it. He, like many still do today, turned to doing religious things in order to gain favor with God. But, as Ephesians says, there is no way that man can gain favor with God by doing good things. We must be aware of our sins, repent of them, trust that Christ’s death is the only means for God’s forgiveness, and subsequently lead a life of submitting to the Holy Spirit.

What should I do if – like Luther – I am suffering from conviction and an awareness of my sins? First, recognize that God is showing you mercy. God is opening your eyes and ears and granting you godly sorrow that leads to repentance. Secondly, know that although sorrow and fear from conviction are necessary, they do not comprise repentance and faith. As Jesus said to a number of would-be disciples, you are close to the Kingdom of Heaven, but you have not found it yet. Thirdly, and most importantly, because God is convicting you He is giving you the opportunity to repent and believe. Therefore, in light of His mercy, use the opportunity he is giving you to repent and trust in Christ’s death as the atonement for your sins.(After all, there is no guarantee that you’ll get another such opportunity. Only by repenting and trusting Christ do you find the Kingdom of Heaven.)

2. Wallowing in conviction can become an idol

As I said before, Luther was clearly under conviction of his sin for many years of his life.

Instead of turning to Christ, Luther turned to doing empty (albeit good) religious things such as making pilgrimages, fasting, praying, and confessing as a tool to gain favor with God and make atonement for his own sins – an impossible task.

Religious activity is good. God indeed wants us to pray, to confess, to seek Him, and to do good works. However, when they are used as tools to tray to gain favor with God – without trusting and valuing Christ – they too become empty human traditions.

Therefore, don’t repeat Luther’s mistakes. Do not let wallowing in your despair and punishing yourself become an idol to you. Don’t focus so intently on your own faults and sins that they become an insurmountable burden. Don’t try to make atonement for your own sins. Your sins are indeed grievous to a holy God. However, He is also loving and desires to give you only what He can give you: repentance and a new heart that values Him above all else.

3. Being religious is not the same as being converted

A problem that affects every human heart is that we want to be made much of. For many, that involves giving others the illusion that we are more spiritual and  religious than we actually are. We may even genuinely do religious things, like what I have listed previously. However, such “worship” does not honor God. God frequently addresses humanity’s false religiosity. It is a stench to Him. In Isaiah He says that, “they honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Likewise, Jesus frequently rebuked the Pharisees (religious leaders of the Israelites) for being “white washed tombs” – having the appearance of being religious on the outside, but on the inside they are spiritually dead.

What is more important than attending church and fasting and praying is having a converted heart that now values God above everything else, and that trusts in Christ’s death as the appeasement for its sins. And as far as doing religious things? “You should have practiced the latter [religious actions], without neglecting the former [conversion].” (Matt. 23:23)

4. Mentorship matters

People often like to make separate little boxes. One for evangelism, one for discipleship, one for mentorship, and so on. The truth is, regardless of what you call it, they are all part of the same scale. The activity and the end-goal is one in the same: to get people to become more like Christ. And so, if the person you are mentoring is unconverted – we happen to call it evangelism. If the person you are mentoring is saved – we happen to call it discipleship.

Mentorship is incredibly important work. The stakes are high, as it is the difference between eternal life and eternal death. We must be serious about grabbing as many lives as we can – unconverted and saved alike – and faithfully help them to treasure Christ. As you mentor people, you are not affecting just one life, but the thousands and millions of lives that would have been touched by that one life. Little did Staupitz know the effect he would eventually have on the course of history by mentoring that young, nervous, German monk.

5. Behind-the-scenes ministry is not meaningless

Generally speaking, mentoring is a ministry that often goes unnoticed and unthanked. There is no spotlight or adoring audiences – as you might find with the preaching and teaching ministries. Instead, it is often a day-to-day, one-on-one kind of work. But just because there isn’t a spotlight, doesn’t mean that there isn’t joy in it or that the work is meaningless.

Not all ministries and gifts are the same. But all are useful for building up the body. So regardless of what ministry you are involved with – please know that your work is not meaningless. 

3 Observations on Sexting and the Gospel: The Fruit of a Post-Christian Culture

A November 7, 2015, Associate Press story out of Canon City High School in Denver describes how a large number of athletes on the football team are apparently involved in a sexting (that is, sending pornographic text messages through mobile phones) scandal that has caused the school to forfeit at least one game while the investigation of illegal activity is underway. Law enforcement is involved, as sending of nude photos of minor children constitutes child pornography—a felony. When school district administrators discovered the illegal activity, apparently centered in the football team, they asked the coach to do a fast, preliminary investigation to determine how many players were involved. The Friday night game would proceed if reasonable assurances could be made that enough players were not involved that they could field a team. Stunningly, no such assurances could be made. It appears the vast majority of the team is involved in what the law will view as felonious actions. High school students may enter adulthood as felons and be required to register as sexual offenders.

 

Three immediate thoughts:

 

1. Teens are openly, without shame or sense of inappropriateness, engaging in self-made porn. This seems a logical step forward for those who have (A) been told that there are no moral absolutes and you are free to determine what is right in your own mind and heart, (B) have seen unrestrained sexual behavior from their parents, politicians, and purveyors of entertainment, and (C) believed porn use is normal, acceptable, and productive. Welcome to post-Christian America.

 

2. There is a moral crisis occurring on the side of those who promote sexual rights and freedom (that is, the idea that any sexual behavior is acceptable if any individual says it is). It is evident that certain sexual behaviors and ethics are destructive. I’m speaking beyond the obvious biology of disease and physical injury of violent actions—I’m talking about real damage to the human soul that has long-lasting consequences. It further impacts the ability to lead a productive life. I have no thought that this evidence will lead to corrective behavior or change in thinking. These deadly consequences will either be ignored, covered up, or accepted as the cost of doing business in the new market of sexual freedom–or simply denied by the morally blind, as a physically blind man might deny the sun’s light. But as the sun’s heat can be felt and experienced regardless of one’s capacity to see, so the consequences of sexual expression outside of the Creator’s framework will be experienced for a very long time.

 

3. The sexual ethic (or lack thereof) embraced by the post-Christian west in general, and the United States in particular, must run afoul of the law, which itself must be rooted in an objective standard fixed in time, however transient that standard may ultimately prove to be. Legislatures simply can’t meet, debate, and amend laws fast enough to keep up with the speed of our moral freefall. That means teens and younger children are going to find themselves in the juvenile justice system and will be confused about why they are there since they are simply practicing what their parents, politicians, and entertainers are doing with apparent impunity. Further, because of the moral insanity of our culture, there will be no coherent way to explain why they are being punished. This will soon leave the country ripe for open revolt against law enforcement, courts, and government that punishes people without being able to justify why it does so.

 

This deadly moral morass is exactly the target of the Gospel: Jesus came to save morally blind, depraved hearts, spiritually bankrupt dead souls from their sin and give them life in Christ in exchange for eternal death and condemnation. Grace restores and heals those who flee to Jesus in faith and repentance. There is a balm in Gilead that makes the wounded whole. The church is given the joyful, satisfying assignment of calling people from death to life in him.

The parents of these children desperately need Christ. These children desperately need Christ. Our nation desperately needs Christ. This is our watch, and it is no time to fail in fulfilling our assignment. If you are a follower of Christ and your life, heart, finances, schedule, affections, and intellect are not adjusting to proclaim the glories of Christ in our dying world–to broken children, broken parents, broken families, broken society—you’re not following very closely.

 

Source:

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_SEXTING_HIGH_SCHOOL?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2015-11-06-17-35-49

 

A Fast Changing World: An Answer to Prayer

We are living in an unusual period of rapid, radical change throughout the world, especially in the West. We dare not ignore what God is doing in the world around us.
Islamic people groups are surging out of their countries into Europe and other western nations–nations formerly shaped by the Gospel of Jesus, but now adrift in post-Christian decadence. In the US, peoples from around the world are streaming into our land. Whether their entry is through legal or illegal means is not the primary concern for the follower of Christ. This global seismic shift of people offers an unprecedented opportunity for God’s people to “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples.” We must be careful and diligent to think like God’s redeemed people–ambassadors–who are joyfully responsible for making known the glories of the Lord Jesus, and calling all people to repentance and faith in Christ. As pilgrims who are passing through a passing nation, our first assignment is to our eternal King. Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Our first and most passionate loyalties are to our Savior, alone. Any goal other than seeing his Kingdom come is idolatry.
In response to this seismic shift of people and cultures, at least two very different views can be taken:

1. A political view as a citizen of a passing nation who places preeminent value on maintaining cultural heritage and comforts, and,

2. A spiritual view as a pilgrim passing through a world that is not home, placing ultimate value in making Jesus known for the joy of all people.
God, who has “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him,” has assigned us this time, and this watch. We are to abide in him and be responsive and obedient to him in a hostile, transient world. It has always been thus, and it is certainly no less now. There is a place for politicians and governments to establish and enforce order for the good and flourishing of humankind. God sovereignly sets up and brings down governments and rulers as it suits his purposes in accomplishing the flourishing of humankind. But political positions are rooted in a decaying world, making them intrinsically inferior to eternal spiritual values.
We must set our hearts to seek the Lord and feel what he feels for the nations.
We must pray for spiritual power and stamina to first serve our King.
We must place our minds under the authority of Scripture to be transformed by God’s wisdom, understanding the weight of glory and the surpassing joy of seeing Jesus worshipped by every tribe, language, people and nation.
We have routinely prayed that the nations may come to know Christ. We give money to send the Gospel via missionaries to difficult places in the world who need to know Christ. Now the difficult places are coming here. The unreached are arriving at places where they can be reached. The unengaged are coming to the lands of God’s people where we can engage them. Is this one way God has answered our prayer for the nations? His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor our ways his ways. We dare not ignore what God is doing.

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/01/world/europe/a-mass-migration-crisis-and-it-may-yet-get-worse.html?_r=0
Psalm 96

2 Corinthians 5:20

Philippians 3:20

Acts 17:26-31

Romans 13

Revelation 5

Is

Total Realignment of the Heart (Part I)

What things bring you joy when you think about them? What are the things you just can’t seem to step away from? What things do you lie awake in bed thinking about?

For some, they can’t help but think that life is “all about the Benjamins”, and fretting about how to grow their bank account. For some, they value time at home with their spouse and their children. For more than a few college-aged persons, it’s all about maximizing fun-time between (and sometimes instead of) classes.

None of those things I listed are inherently bad: that is, money, sex, family, possessions, or even intangible things like love or fun. In fact, when they are enjoyed in such a way that shows that God is more valuable to us than those things, they are blessings.

However, even for a people whose entire faith hinges on the promise of the resurrection because of the substitutionary death of Christ, I am convinced that we spend far too little time thinking about (read: dwelling on) the new heavens, the new earth, and the glorious God who will govern both. The reason is that we are so prone to becoming bogged down by other concerns – some of which are sinful, and some of which are legitimate. Kids need to eat. The mortgage needs to be paid. You know, stuff like that.

If we are going to live fruitful Christian lives, we must rise above our sinful, idolatrous addictions, and we must rise above our tendency to settle for the here-and-now. How do we go about doing that? Hebrews reminds us to, “lay aside every weight and sin which so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:1b-2).

We notice at least three admonitions from the author of Hebrews: First, lay aside sin. Seems obvious, right? Second, lay aside other stuff (even good stuff) that prevents you from seeking and obeying God. Thirdly, realign your heart to treasure Christ. This third admonition from Hebrews really is the key to unlocking the first two. By fixing our eyes on Jesus – his glory, his goodness, his loving sacrifice, among his other manifold qualities – the things of this world “grow strangely dim.” In other words, not only are we to lay down one set of passions, but we are also to pick up a better passion – namely, God.

 

Our Lord sets the very same example for us when “for the joy set before Him he endured the cross.” What joy is the author referring to? The joy of ascending to heaven, the joy of being returned to his rightful place at the Father’s right hand, the joy of redeeming a people for himself, and the joy of conquering sin and death (just to name a few) were more valuable to Him, and motivated Him to obey the will of the Father.

No doubt this world offers many things that capture our desires and attention. Falling out of love with the world is a hard thing to do. Nay, it is impossible to do on our own. We are creatures that are naturally inclined to seek joy and fulfillment – which is not wrong! What is wrong, is where we choose to fulfill those desires. When we were unconverted, we were dead to God and had no other choice than to seek fulfillment in sin and in the here-and-now. But once God gives us the gift of conversion, Christ frees us from our absolute enslavement to sin. Even though we still have a sinful nature inherited from the fall, Christ now gives us the freedom to tell our sinful natures, “no,” and to seek fulfillment in Him.

We must, therefore, for God’s glory and our joy, realign our hearts to treasure Christ. It is the only thing that will help us – for the long run – to live lives that are pleasing to God. Recognizing that it’s easy to spout platitudes, part two of this blog will provide some practical advice on how to realign our hearts. In other words, what does the process look like? Stay tuned for part two.

Dark Watches of the Night

The dark watches of the night. Outside, all is hushed except for the occasional cricket song, croaking frog and distant barking dog. Inside, anxiety gnaws at the pit of their stomach, fear is a ball of fire in their heart and grief crushes like lead weight.

Read between the lines and picture the disciples between chapters 19 and 20 in the book of John. They have locked themselves away to mourn and grieve. Sleepless nights find them gathered in dark rooms, talking in hushed tones about what they have seen and reminiscing about good times with their friend, their teacher, their Lord.

The question of where to go from here is the gnawing anxiety they feel.

Fear for their lives is that ball of fire in their heart.

Grief for their murdered friend and Lord is the crushing lead weight.

Mary Magdalene visits the tomb in the dark early hours of morning after her own sleepless night.  As soon as it was “tomorrow”—at the earliest opportunity—she was up and on her way to the tomb of the Savior she loved. Can you feel her fear as she races to tell Peter and John that she found the stone rolled away from the tomb that morning?  Can you see the worried lines that crease the disciples’ foreheads as they quietly rush to investigate? The moment he saw the empty tomb, John believed. But, surprisingly, John 20:9 says, They (the disciples) still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.

I have to admit that I sometimes find myself a little annoyed with the disciples. Wouldn’t you think that after sleepless nights, grieving over the death of Jesus, they would be overjoyed to find His tomb empty? Wouldn’t you think they would remember all He had said and know that He had risen? But it is my annoyance and impatience with them that only enhances  the loving picture of the Savior throughout the rest of John chapter 20.

For you see, instead of being angry because of their unbelief, instead of throwing up His hands in frustration and returning to heaven to take His place at the right hand of the Father, Jesus instead appeared to them multiple times. He appeared to a sobbing Mary in the garden where she stayed after the disciples returned to their homes that morning. He tenderly calls her name and her grief is replaced by the joy of seeing the risen Savior, Rabboni, her teacher.

On the evening of the first day of the week He appears to the disciples who are locked away in their fear. He shows them His hands and side and then breathes on them the precious gift of the Holy Spirit.

Thomas wasn’t with them when Jesus came and he wasn’t just going to take his friend’s word for it! It was too far-fetched! Even though he had walked with and been taught by Jesus for three years, he still wanted to see Him with his own eyes before he would believe. And so, one full week later Jesus appears to the disciples again, specifically to Thomas. He is not upset by Thomas’ doubt—He welcomes it. Thomas wanted and needed proof that the Savior had risen and Jesus was more than happy to provide it. He not only appears to Thomas, but He patiently and lovingly invites Him to touch His hands and side.

When they needed visual evidence, Jesus appeared. When just one of them needed tangible evidence, Jesus became touchable for him. He appeared to them so that they would believe beyond any doubt; so that these men, his disciples and friends, would know and emphatically believe that He truly was the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior.

I suggest to you that the Savior appeared to them multiple times because of His great love not only for them but also for us!  Looking through time, Jesus saw us and knew we needed to hear this story! The disciples’ unwavering belief and love for the Savior would be the catalyst for their lifelong preaching of the Gospel and the telling of the story for millennia! In order to believe in Him as our own Savior, the story—the Gospel—needed to be told and passed down through all generations.  For …faith comes by hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the preaching [of the message that came from the lips] of Christ (the Messiah Himself). (Romans 10:17 AMP)   

Sleepless nights filled with anxiety and fear? Where is it that you need Him to meet you? What is the reason for your doubt? He will meet you at the point of your need and show you what you need to see. He welcomes your questions. Just like the disciples, He wants you to know and emphatically believe that He IS the Christ, He IS the Messiah, He IS your Savior. BELIEVE!

…if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10 NIV)