Saturday, April 22, 2017

Hearts on Fire

Hearts on fire should be the norm not the exception.  Jesus was the slaughtered lamb on Friday but the risen, Lion of Judah on Sunday.  Those three days didn't occur to give you mediocrity.  They happened that your heart may burn within you.  It's His mission.

Jesus is not waiting for you; He is walking with you.  He shows us this in Luke 24. The newly, risen Savior prioritizes a walk with unknown Cleopas and his friend.  Why would He do that? Doesn't He have more important things to do?  Jesus has discovered plenty of people who don't want to be with Him but never a person that He doesn't want to be with.  It's His mission.

Jesus' walk with you, if you receive it, sets your heart on fire.  You will change because of who He is and what He has done rather than because of who you are or what you have done.  Jesus opens us to a new way of believing and thinking and seeing that produces a heart on fire.  It's His mission.

It's the long walk with Jesus in life that keeps your heart on fire.  If Jesus were merely an event, or a brief emotion, or another religious program, the fire would burn out. Relationships are the most powerful, sustaining force on the planet.  It's no wonder God chose relationship, and all it's staying power, as the central way to show His love for us.  It's His mission.

We rarely know why things happen, but we always know Who is with us.  The comfort in that has sustained me on many occasions.  It is in those times that I have discovered an important principle, one modeled by Jesus in Luke 24.  The more I pursue the solution, the less I find it.  But the more I pursue Jesus, He brings about the solution.  Cleopas and his friend encountered this principle as well that day 2,000 years ago.  It's His mission.

Perhaps your heart is not on fire right now?  It can be.  Look beside you.  Jesus is walking with you.  As you open Scripture and allow Him to speak into your life, you will begin to feel the burning sensation spoken of in Luke 24.  Who you talk with and what you open will define you because it will ultimately produce action in you.  Jesus wants you to be with Him and to open what He has for you. Who you are becoming is His mission.

Ex nihilo (out of nothing),

R.J. Rhoden

Friday, April 14, 2017

An Empty Gift Has Never Felt So Good

Who opens a beautifully wrapped gift expecting the box to be empty?  Have you ever been anticipating an apology, and the words spoken are empty and meaningless? When a family member borrows your car and returns it on empty, how bad does that feel? Empty never feels like a gift, but there is one exception.  God gave us the gift of an empty tomb because if it had been occupied by a corpse, there would have been no gift.

The emptiness of the tomb fills us with the hope of eternal life.  It forever represents the conquering of death and future, celestial reunions with loved ones and friends.  In the case of Jesus, the empty tomb was a gift to all humanity.  It initially stirred feelings of confusion among the first discoverers, but those reactions quickly turned to joy.

The divine irony of Easter is that Jesus' death brings life, and His empty tomb brings fullness.  The echoing hallows of that grave, the grandest of gifts, keeps multiplying and producing other gifts that we are able to enjoy daily. An empty gift has never felt so good when it's connected to resurrection.

Empty is the new good when it comes to God's "foolish" plan to demonstrate His love for us. The echoes are still heard around the world.  The gift of the empty tomb has changed my life forever, and it can change yours as well.  Do something different this weekend.  Celebrate, believe in, and tell someone else about the Empty Gift.

Ex nihilo (out of nothing),

R.J. Rhoden

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Do Something Different This Week

Something different happened this week 2,000 years ago.  Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, a symbol of peace, triggering seven days that would change everything. The week was highlighted by three events:  a meal, a death, and an empty tomb.

At the meal Jesus gave us the elements of the Eucharist and washed His disciples feet. Remembrance and servanthood were the themes.  We are Called to never forget and to serve.  The noise of life has a way of robbing us of memories. We forget grateful moments, old friendships, impactful teachers from years ago, happy times, and, most importantly, Jesus' sacrifice.  Do something different this week.  Take some time to remember eternal influences on your life that are worth remembering.  Too often we spend our time dwelling on memories that are destructive rather than those that bring life.

Do something different this week.  Be a servant not a recipient.  Give don't receive. Grab a towel and wash feet.  There is something that comes alive in us when we get our hands messy with the needs of this world.  Jesus has commissioned us to be His ambassadors, making His appeal through us, not to keep us stuck on safe, comfortable pews but to serve.  He is the God on the move, and so it should be with us. Do something different this week.

In His dying breath, Jesus modeled His greatest expression of peace.  He pleaded forgiveness for the very ones killing and mocking Him.  It's one thing to forgive those close to you.  It's another level of love to forgive those trying to destroy you.  In Jesus' moment of anguish, nails, and blood, as He took on the sins of the world, He spoke peace and love.  Do something different this week.  In your own place of pain, extend peace and love to those near, even the tough ones that don't deserve it. Forgiving those that have hurt you will bring a freedom and joy that is immeasurable. It will be your finest hour.  Do something different this week.

And finally, God gave us the gift of the empty tomb.  Jesus conquered death allowing us to proclaim with Scripture, "Where, O Death, is your sting?"  Life, free from the fear of death, is a new kind of living that words fail to adequately describe. It allows us to walk with confidence during the "light and momentary troubles of this world."  The gift of the empty tomb empowers us to not only do something different this week but to begin seeing life through the lens of eternity.  One small, different choice this week can launch you into the plans created for you before the creation of the world.

So why not do something different this week?

Ex nihilo (out of nothing),

R.J. Rhoden

Saturday, April 8, 2017

God's Perfect Plans: It's Never Too Late

It's never too late.  Let me say it again, "It's never too late!"  Satan works tirelessly to convince you it is.  That crafty one knows the power and boldness that is yours if you stop believing the lie and start walking in God's truth. Thankfully, God knows your potential even better.  He created you, never gives up on you, and works circles around Satan's efforts to derail you.

As a pastor I often hear people, with sincere transparency, say to me, "I just feel like maybe its too late for me.  I wouldn't blame God if He has given up on me."  My heart aches when I hear those words.  Though I know and affirm the real feelings behind them, I have an even greater passion for God's capacity to never give up on us.

God created perfect plans for your life before the creation of the world.  The question is not:  Has He really done that for me?  But rather:  Will I walk in those perfect plans?  It would be great if God walked them out for us but He does not.  His joy is in preparing them and then seeing us enjoy them.  I wonder how many plans we have missed simply because we weren't willing to enter?

In the magnificent grace of God He has a way of helping us overcome regrets.  He is the God that creates and delivers hope for us today.  Can you hear Him whispering in your soul?  "It's never too late.  It's never too late.  I have perfect plans for you." If you purge the clutter and noise of your life, you will hear His still, small voice.

One little warning:  Your idea of a perfect plan is never God's idea of a perfect plan. Circumstances, people, events, realities, and timing is for Him to orchestrate.  Many have failed to arrive at the conclusion of His plan because it didn't look or feel like they thought it would.  Don't stop simply because it unfolds differently.  You might be only 5 minutes away from it all making sense.

I am personally grateful for God's perfect plans and the comfort of knowing it's never too late. My prayer for you today is full of hope. It's full of understanding.  It's full of excitment to see how God is going to release in you the potential He intended all along.  Take a big step of courage today:  Believe that it's never too late.

Ex nihilo (out of nothing),

R.J. Rhoden

Saturday, April 1, 2017

5 Words That Will Change Your Life

Into Death In Order That

Death brings life.  The grape must die to produce wine.  The grain must die to make bread.  A parent must put to death selfish needs to care for the needs of a child.  The reality of death bringing about life is around us every day.

It's no wonder the same principle is found in Jesus.  His death brought life and not just any life but life eternally abundant.  Life in Jesus also brings with it a meal of remembrance and a bath.  The meal reminds our grateful hearts of His death.  The bath testifies to the newness of life we are experiencing in Him.

Newness of life must be preceded by death.  Those five powerful words, found in Romans 6:4, -Into Death In Order That - are the key.  They are simple to write and read but take great courage to embrace and trust.  Many get stuck someone between death and life.  As they stand, one foot in death and one in life, they find themselves immobile and neutralized.  In that position the lukewarmness spoken by God in Revelation becomes a reality of discouragement, doubt, and despair.

Go into death in order that life may take a hold of you.  Die to the ways of this world so that the ways of the Word can change you.  It's not magic; it won't make you perfect.  None of us are.  However, it will change how you think, perceive, analyze, communicate, dream and live.  In short, it will align your life with its original, divine blueprint.

Tonight at Celebration Church & Outreach Ministry I will be teaching more on this promise of new life.  At the conclusion of the service we will also be celebrating water baptisms.  Join us at 6pm at The Big House at 5501 Midlothian Turnpike.  Watch online through Fb Live or our YouTube channel.

You are only 5 words away from changing your life forever.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden