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I hope you were able to celebrate the true meaning of Easter today. We love the Easter bunny (especially the chocolate kind), egg hunts, jelly beans, family dinners and baskets filled with goodies…but Easter isn’t really about those things.

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Pastor Don McGarvey, Troy Mills Christian Church

Easter is about our risen Savior Jesus Christ who was crucified, buried, and raised to new life. My husband preached a great sermon this morning (yes – I’m biased) on the Odds of Easter.

He related the story of Dylan McWilliams who, in three separate incidents in three separate years, survived a rattlesnake bite, a bear attack and a shark attack. Some math geek somewhere figured the odds of all three incidents happening to one man is 893.35 quadrillion to one. In case you don’t know, a quadrillion is a 1 followed by 15 zeroes….it looks like 1,000,000,000,000,000.

By comparison, The odds of being struck by lightning is 1 in 5,000; the odds of being bitten by a venomous snake in the U.S. is estimated at 1 in 37,500; attacked by a shark, 1 in 11.5 million and attacked by a bear, 1 in 2.1 million. Some say Dylan was a very unlucky guy. If I believed in luck (I don’t), I’d say Dylan was a very LUCKY guy.  He told a British reporter that he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But compare Dylan’s adventure to the odds of Easter. The Old Testament is full of prophecies concerning Jesus…his crucifixion (Isaiah 53:6, 10), his scourging (Isaiah 50:6), the piercing of his hands and feet (Psalm 22:16); the piercing of his side (Zechariah 12:10), the disfigurement of his appearance (Isaiah 52:14); that none of his bones were broken (Exodus 12:46), his burial place (Isaiah 53:9) and his resurrection (Psalm 30:3). The odds that all eight of these prophecies would be fulfilled by one man in the course of three days are 1 in 10 to the 17th power…100,000,000,000,000,000. Unlucky? No – supernatural.

There are 48 prophecies concerning Jesus’ life in the Old Testament – and the odds of all 48 prophecies being fulfilled by one man, Jesus, are 1 in 10 to the 157th power. Too many zeroes for me to type out. A 1 followed by 157 zeroes!

e52ac01a-3514-4f75-b4b6-e5aca107a96bJesus, Son of God, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, betrayed by his Judas, unjustly tried in a bogus court, scourged and crucified, buried in a borrowed tomb, but raised to life on Easter Sunday morning. He wasn’t a good man. He was God in flesh, sent to take our sins upon himself so that we would not have to bear them. It wasn’t luck or lack of luck. It was love.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 1 John 4:9

 

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Cross_Passion_Week

Jesus

Betrayed ruthlessly

Arrested unjustly

Abandoned callously

Tried illegally

Beaten brutally

Crucified unfairly

Buried anonymously

Arose victoriously

Jesus

Son of God

Light of the world

Lord of Lords

King of Kings

Messiah

Savior

Redeemer

Lover of my Soul

Jesus

Compassion continual

Truth unerring

Humility personified

Grace without limit

Mercy repeatedly

Power eminent

Peace unending

Joy overflowing

Love unconditional

Christ himself was like God in everything.
But he did not think that being equal with God was something to be used for his own benefit.
But he gave up his place with God and made himself nothing.
He was born as a man
and became like a servant.
And when he was living as a man,
he humbled himself and was fully obedient to God,
even when that caused his death—death on a cross.
So God raised him to the highest place.
God made his name greater than every other name
so that every knee will bow to the name of Jesus—
 everyone in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.
And everyone will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord
and bring glory to God the Father.
Philippians 2:6-11 (NCV)

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My heart is hurting today. So many friends are experiencing devastating events in their lives. Last year two of my closest friends battled through cancer diagnoses, clinging to God’s promises of healing and coming through victorious. Yet they continue to deal with the aftermath of that long year.

My dear high school classmate is facing another long road in her latest health challenge. And challenge is such a feeble word for what she is going through. She shared just a few of the trials she’s facing – extreme headaches, 4 hour MRIs, insurance company issues, doctors’ appointments in far off places, the uncertainty of medications…and I’m confident that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Yesterday I received news of another friend who revealed her leukemia diagnosis. Just two years ago her son died of an aneurysm…gone in an instance. Now this. Such heartbreaking news as she continues to work through her grief. But she is a faith-filled prayer powerhouse, trusting in the promises of God.

 

This morning I saw another friend post about an upcoming divorce and then another about a road side bomb in Afghanistan killing three Marines…when will it stop? What can I do? Where do I turn?

In yesterday’s blog I wrote about Psalm 121 – God is my Helper, my Guardian. But Lord, there is so much sadness, so much disease, so much heartbreak in this world. Sometimes it seems so overwhelming…and these things aren’t even happening to me!

Even so…

Let me share part of a Instagram post my friend wrote two days ago…”God has been so very faithful – in every single way – and I love Him more than I ever have before. He has never left me, never betrayed me, abandoned me. What would I have done if it wasn’t for Jesus?”

Again – I’m reminded – Jesus loves me. Jesus loves you. Jesus died because of that great love. He endured the ultimate betrayal and abandonment. He was sinless, yet took on my sin. He sacrificed everything for me. He will never leave me. He will never forsake me. He is my Healer, my Strength, my Rock, my Provider. He is where I go when I have no one to turn to. He walks with me in every storm. He goes before me into every battle. He listens to me cry out in despair, and comforts me in my sorrow. He rejoices with me in victories and dances over me with joy. He has written my name on the palms of His hands.

The bad news will never stop. Our fallen world will always encounter disease and tragedy. But I do not have to succumb to grief and sorrow and hopelessness.

I have hope. My friends have hope. His name is Jesus.

His Name is Jesus 30 x 22 LG

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We all need help. No matter how self-sufficient we are, everyone needs a hand now and then. Well, probably more than now and then, but some of us are stubborn and wait until a crisis hits before we cry out.

“Help!”

The lyrics to the Beatles hit record from 1965 rolls through head occasionally (yes – I’m that old) “Help! I need somebody! Help! Not just anybody! Help! I know I need someone! Help!

In the everyday mundane routines of life, who do you go to for help? Are you overwhelmed with a non-stop schedule?  Frustrated by choices others have made? Worried about a health issue? Wondering if you’re doing this parenting thing right? Ever need a kind or encouraging word on a bad day? Having difficulty navigating your grief? Ever just need a big hug? YES – all of this has been me and though I try so hard to be the helper, not the “helpee,” I can’t do it alone. I am constantly in need of someone who can help me!

Psalm 121 tells me about God, who is my Someone all the time. When I’m desperate for help, He is always there. When I’m grief-stricken and cannot see through my tears, He sees me. When I’m worried about finances, He provides. He’s my Healer when I’m sick. When I can’t see a way out of the trouble, He provides a path for my feet. He lights up the way, and I follow Him out of trouble and into the light. He never sleeps, and I can never catch Him off guard. He shields me from danger, no matter what time of day or night.

Do you need help today? Are you feel overwhelmed with grief and sorrow, or feeling helpless and hopeless? Do you just need to be noticed? God sees you. He is your Guardian, your Helper.

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I look up to the mountains—
    does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble;
    the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
    never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord himself watches over you!
    The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm
    and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
    both now and forever. 

 

Psalm 121 (NLT)

 

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I have the privilege of conducting the kids’ sermon each Sunday at our church. We have some amazing kids who seem to enjoy coming up front for “their” time. Since I try to keep the message about 5 to 8 minutes long, it’s important for it to be simple, easy to understand and applicable to the kids’ lives. And the first Sunday of each month, I have the kids (and adults) memorize a Bible verse.

Today we memorized Philippians 4:4…”Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”

Rejoice scripture

Short and simple, right? The verse itself is short, but the message is deep. The writer of the book of Philippians was the Apostle Paul, and he was composing this letter to the church in Philippi while sitting in prison. He had been unjustly imprisoned, accused by his enemies, and falsely charged. But even so, he was telling other believers to “Rejoice!”

I told the kids the definition of “rejoice” is to feel or show great joy or delight. How could Paul rejoice while sitting in prison, with good reason to feel despondent? Because Paul knew he wasn’t rejoicing in his outward circumstances, he was rejoicing…finding great joy and delight…in God. He knew that no matter what happened to him physically, Jesus was always with him.

My study Bible note on this verse says “It’s easy to get discouraged about unpleasant circumstances or to take unimportant events too seriously.” But we need to remember where to place our hope and trust…in the God who will never leave you or forsake you, who is your rock and refuge, a very present help in times of trouble. Rejoice in that!

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Shameless blog post today. I just returned home from church where I heard another great sermon…a sermon that encouraged me and left me with practical steps I can use in my every day life. I’m blessed to be able to hear these great sermons every week…and soon you will be able to watch and listen also. Soon these sermons will be online and available to anyone with an internet connection. Many of you know that my favorite preacher is my own husband, Don McGarvey, pastor at Troy Mills Christian Church.

Don’s finished up a three-part sermon series on Being the Church. Just as a little tease for what is to come I’m going to offer some of my notes from the outline of today’s sermon: Being Built Up.

Living_Stones“Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:4-5

Jesus Christ is the foundation, the Chief Cornerstone of the Church. Each one of us are “living stones,” designed to build up the Church wherever we are. We are all a part of the Body of Christ. No one person is more important than another. With Jesus Christ as the head of the Church, each member is free to be who God has purposed for us to be. I won’t include every aspect of the sermon but Don included a list of what we, as believers, should bring to the church each week:

(1) Love

We are called to love each other, not judge, not gossip. Love.

Love_1_John_4_12

(2) Encourage

Building up someone is one of the most important tasks any one of us can do for another believer.

 “but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 3:13

(3) “Spur”

We could use the word “prod” or “incite.”

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,” Hebrews 10:24

(4) Serve

SOF_Galatians-5-13No longer do we care only about ourselves, but as members of God’s Church, we need to serve one another selflessly.

“For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13

(5) Honor 

Putting someone above yourself – give deference to others.

“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;” Romans 12:10

(6) Instruct

We can all learn from one another. What has God been speaking to you about from His Word? Sharing the insights of the Word with each other grows the Body of Christ!

“Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.” Romans 15:14

(7) Kind and compassionate – Ephesians 5:32

Ephesians_5_32And do all this with kindness and compassion. Our world needs to see the love, kindness and compassion of the Body of Christ. Not judgment or self-righteousness.

Can’t wait until you have opportunity to see these sermons for yourself. If you are a believer in Jesus, you are a member of the Church…let’s build it up!

 

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I may have taken on more than I should. Lent is traditionally a time to let go of some things so you have more time to spend meditating or thinking about the final days leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Normally I pick something  hard to let go of…and that is certainly the case this year. I have decided to fast caffeine until Easter. That’s 46 days if you’re counting. I am. And I just took a pill for the headache that has already started.

No_Caffeine

But not only have I decided to give up caffeine, I have taken on a few other disciplines. I’m participating in a 40-day Bible study with other women from our church on the Final Days of Jesus. It’s basically a daily endeavor incorporating prayer, praise, Scripture study, reflection and sabbath. I’ve also decided to send out a encouraging card to someone every day…40 cards. And, of course, I said I’d blog every day. My normal routine continues so the plates are spinning but I’m not looking for a medal for “Greatest Christian Woman Ever.” I just want to explore some new ways of experiencing Lent – both with new people and with renewed focus on Jesus.

While many decorate their homes with bunnies and eggs, most Christians contemplate Easter’s true message – the love our Savior Jesus had for each of us…so much love He sacrificed Himself to save us from the wages of our sin. Good Friday is the day of Christ’s death but Easter is a celebration of the resurrection of the Son of God!

And this is the last you’ll hear of my caffeine fast.

“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Joel 2:12

 

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