Happy Easter

Happy Easter to everyone. Today is the most important day of the year for us Christians.

Luke 24New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Has Risen

24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ Then they remembered his words.

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

On the Road to Emmaus

13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19 “What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

The Ascension of Jesus

50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+24

 

Advertisements

The Journey: Conclusion

Woman on a Bridge

It was Memorial Day and we took Jane’s Dad out to dinner. We had decided to go to Double T Diner and take the back roads home. But at the last minute Jane suggested we go to TGI Fridays, so it made sense just to go the normal way home.

On the way there is a bridge you have to cross, when we arrived at that point we noticed two cars in front of us had come to a stop, the passenger in the second car was outside, talking frantically on his cell phone. Jane saw a young lady standing next to the bridge, peering over the side. Jane yelled at me to “STOP THE CAR!”

Jane rushed out of the car, when she did the young lady began to swing her leg over the bridge. By the time Jane got to her, she was sitting on the bridge, legs dangling over the side, getting ready to jump. Jane got to her just in time and began consoling her, rubbing her back. The young woman was a nurse who just got served with divorce papers, she had two little twin girls at home but felt like she didn’t want to burden anyone anymore.

I was frozen, not sure what to do. I wanted to pull her off the bridge but I was in her line of sight. What if she saw me and jumped? The wife of the man on the cell phone got out of the car and went over to them. As it turned out the woman was a nurse also, and began talking with her. Jane began to pray (she told me later it was the hardest she had ever prayed in her life). She was praying for a miracle to get this young lady off the bridge.

Than out of the blue a large man came from behind the young lady and pulled her off the bridge. The young lady began to weep, Jane patted the man on the back and thanked him. I watched the man lean over the side of the bridge, breath a sigh and stare out into to the water. Everyone was talking to the young lady now, I looked down at my watch and checked my cell phone, when I looked up the man was gone. I was puzzled who this was and asked the people in the other car if the man was with them, they told me he wasn’t.

No one saw the man arrive or leave, there was no additional cars, we heard no engines in idle, and we were on the middle of a bridge. Who was the man? Was it an angel from God? No matter what conclusions you draw if it wasn’t for Jane, the nurse and the mysterious man those children would have been without their mother.

After watching her help save that woman, I realized Jane had saved me, that’s what she had always tried to do for people. Since she was a little girl she would show kindness, giving to the homeless (one time as a child she gave a homeless man her Happy Meal), being there for friends and family in times of need, always being loyal and showing love to the people she cared about. She would forgive people, and love them, never giving up on her kindness. She was a better Christian than I was even before she was a Christian. God sent her to me, to change my life, to save my life, she was everything I had been asking for.

I realize now that no matter what you do in your life, no matter what bridges you burn there will be a cross for you to walk on to your salvation.

Part II (His Way Church)

 

That’s when the urge started again to find a church. I would pray asking for guidance for two things, to find a church that would focus on Christ’s teaching and for myself to learn how to do works not just have faith. I had three bible verses that were on my mind. When James said faith without works is dead, when Jesus said to remove the plank from your eye before you worry about the spec in your brother’s eye and when Jesus confronted the men about to stone the adulterous woman he said, he who is without sin cast first stone. These three were very powerful to me.

Now Jane and I still talked about how we missed our old church. Then one day on the way home, we saw an advertisement for an Easter egg hunt and the address was the same as our old church. We couldn’t believe it, but were still hesitant.

After praying the same prayer about finding a church, I felt a pull to try the church. I thought that it would be easy but it was a little harder than I thought. First the website didn’t work, than the phone number was out of service, I found a new number but no one picked up the phone. Jane told me maybe this is God’s way of telling us this isn’t the church for us. But the tug for this church was so strong, finally I decided to just go over there on a Sunday morning. On that Sunday, we over slept, I had stomach trouble and we didn’t arrive until 11:30. Jane says “The service is probably over, I am too embarrassed to go inside.”

I told her that we had gotten up, rushed to get ready, we can at least go inside. I got out of the car and two friendly people welcomed us inside, as it turned out the service started at exactly 11:30. When we sit down, we are immediately welcomed but informed the pastor is on vacation. The service was still very nice, Jane liked it to, and it was nice being back in the old building. We decided to give the church another try.

Just like the previous week we were immediately greeted and everyone was excited for us to be there. I sat down and Pastor Howard began to preach. The sermon was about the circle of faith, works and love. He mentioned all three verses that I had prayed about before. I felt at home and at peace being there. Afterwards Pastor Howard and I talked I told him about what I had been praying about the night before, he told me that the sermon he delivered was not the one he worked on most the week but last night God gave him that message to preach. He also asked if ever wanted to get involved in a church he would find an opening for me.

Everything I had been praying about had been covered in the sermon, we felt at home the moment we walked in. It was all coming together. Than something happened I will never forget.

The Journey Part I

I thought I was a believer, that I had strong faith. But what good is faith without works? “Faith without works is dead” That’s what James 2 teaches. I would claim to be a Christian, but I didn’t go to church, I was resentful of the church. How can these people be such hypocrites? How can they continue to do the opposite of what Jesus teaches? Do they really do anything for the poor and needy or do they just care about themselves?

It wasn’t till recently that I realized I needed to ask those questions to myself.

When I was 19, I was still claiming to be Christian but continued sinning without repentance, not following what God teaches us. My only communication with God was, when I fell into brokenness and begged for help, when that didn’t seem to work I would scream at him and yell, wondering where he really was? Having gone to High School in an awful environment, I dropped out. I was severely depressed, I had never had a job, had no car, no license, not even an ID. I felt like I didn’t even exist in the World.

After a while, I dusted myself off and ventured out, I got my GED, got a job, got a car, and had some new friends. I thought everything was going great, not noticing that it was God who was guiding me through all of this. However, I still felt the same emptiness and loneliness.

Then everything changed, I met a young 21 year old woman named Jane. My entire life was different after that. We fell in love right away, spent almost every day together and within three months I asked her to marry me. She said, yes! I was happy beyond belief. Of course we both lived at home, I only worked 12 hours a week for minimum wage at a Taco Stand and she was in college. We obviously couldn’t get married right away. But man was I convinced this was the girl of my dreams.

There was one problem though, she wasn’t a believer. She grew up with an Atheist father, and spent most of her life with the same beliefs before now being an agnostic. I talked to her about my faith, told her about my experiences and others experiences. I felt I needed to save her.

But I was the one who needed saving. I still had the same resentment, bitterness, anger for the World. I had no compassion, no love, no drive to be a better Christian.

After many discussions and a few arguments, I gave up on trying to convert her. I went through an occasional interest in YouTube sermons and a few bible reading days here and there but I was still the same guy. After a while I would settle back in to the same habits.

Jane and I went through some rough patches and had some dark moments. My anger and depression were getting out of hand. At one point the engagement was called off, she left and went to her sister’s house.

I was alone in our home when I began to scream at God, I yelled, I cursed at him. I blamed everything on him, why did he make me this way? Why do I have depression and anxiety? Why can’t he just take it all away? I convinced myself I needed no one but me. Then I did something the bible teaches us not to do, I put God to the test. I told him that he needed to prove himself to me right now.

There was silence, the quietest silence I had ever heard, I could feel it. I truly felt alone, I collapsed and wept. I was more broken than ever. I begged for forgiveness, I told him to lead me, guide me. I immediately felt calm and relaxed, accepting everything that happened.

The next day, Jane came over to grab some things and I asked her to listen to me, I told her everything I needed to change and what I have done wrong. She was very resistant, but I kept praying to God, asking him to guide me in my words. Finally she cried and said it was exactly what she needed to hear. After a long talk we decided to get back together. We still have our rough patches but things have never been as dark as before that.

I started reading the bible more, watching sermons from all over the World but was still convinced I didn’t need church. Meanwhile Jane’s mother had become a Christian, she was an alcoholic and was close to dying. She had hit rock bottom and turned her life around, she kept writing Jane letters telling her about God and bringing God up to her every time they talked. I was unaware of the changes going inside Jane’s mind.

Then one day Jane said, “I want to go to church” I was shocked and excited. But also at the same time I was scared, I didn’t want to go to church, I still believed I could be a Christian on my own.

We searched for a while and finally found a church. We started going but didn’t go as often as we should have and didn’t full commit like we wanted but we still considered the church our home. Then one day a notice was posted on their website, the pastor had decided to quit ministry and the church was up for sale. Jane and I were so upset that we decided not to go through the whole process again.

For almost a year we watched sermons online and had discussions on Christianity. She had started going to a university which required religious studies courses and before long she was teaching me things. Every time I asked her about her beliefs she kept telling me she wasn’t ready to call herself a Christian, she still wasn’t sure. At one point during a time when she was feeling guilty about her mistakes and depressed about what other people had done to her. I told her “Go over and sit down and pray, confess all your sins and offer your heart to Jesus.”

She did this but when she came back she described the experience as “Weird” and that she still wasn’t sure if she was a believer. This went on for months finally I asked her why? She looked down and said “Because I don’t feel I am worthy”

I told her, “None of us are.” She smiled and looked down, I gave her a hug, looked at her, then asked her the question again, she looked up at me and said “I am a Christian” Her smile lit up the room, I hugged her, and felt a new love radiate through my body as I held her. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. When she offered her heart to Jesus, he took it, like he always will to anyone who asks. But we still needed to find a church.