Get up from the pews!

If you saw someone crying outside of your local grocery store or shopping center, what would you do?  Would you stop, empathize, and encourage her or him, or would you walk by as if you didn’t see her or him crying?  What would you do if one of your co-workers, close friends, or classmates shared her or his burdens with you?  Would you minister to her or him, or would you just invite her or him to church, hoping your pastor would have a word to ease the pain?

Recently, I’ve grown to realize that the greatest work of the church is outside of the church.  We can get so addicted to the Sunday morning experience that we forget about God’s ability Monday through Saturday.  You don’t have to be in church for God to move; He can move wherever He finds a willing vessel.  This is the message Jesus shared with His disciples before returning to Heaven.  He told them, “… go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19, New Living Translation).  In other words, Jesus reminded them that His power is not limited by location; He can move everywhere!

This recharge is a challenge for us to get up from the pews and out into the world.  Your job, community, school, web site, Facebook or MySpace profile, favorite restaurant or mall are all potential sanctuaries.  Be available, for I’m a witness, God can reach someone through you!

God bless …

Free your mind!

Yesterday morning, I had an interesting conversation with one of my co-workers.  He has multiple jobs, one of which ends literally minutes before he reports to work at UNC.  I inquired, “Don’t you get tired?”  He chuckled and replied, “No.”  Then, he said something that stuck with me the rest of the day: “I have more energy now than I did when I was in the military.  I guess it was mental.”  Simply stated, my co-worker had so much on mind, while in the military, that it made him tired.

I don’t know about you, but I know how detrimental a congested mind can be!  You can have so much on your mind that it can make you tired, aggravated, anxious, depressed, and irritable.  You can have so much on your mind that you feel as bound as Jesus was while lying in the tomb.  Peter’s discovery on Easter morning, however, is an empowering footnote from God: the linen wrappings and napkin that held Jesus had let Him go.  In other words, “no weapon turned against you will succeed” (Isaiah 54:17, New Living Translation).  God’s power can unravel the tangled web inside your mind, too.

This recharge is a simple reminder – you don’t have to carry the burden in your mind.  God can handle that exam, job interview, child, co-worker, or uncertainty that occupies your mind.  Just accept His invitation, and He’ll set you free: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, New Living Translation).

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! (Isaiah 26:3, New Living Translation)

Get up from misuse!

What would you do if you saw someone using a hammer to write?  After you stopped laughing, you’d probably intervene, for a hammer is not a writing utensil.  Now, here’s another question for you.  What would you do if you heard someone arguing, complaining, or gossiping?  Would you consider this misuse of “equipment” and intervene?  Or, would you pick up where the person left off and add your “two cents?”

I don’t know about you, but I’m guilty of mouth misuse every now and then.  Just think about the precious words we waste each day complaining about our jobs or arguing with people who really don’t matter.  Even worse, the words we waste seldom change the situation.  In the text cited above, however, Mary Magdalene reminds us of gainful employment for our mouths – spreading the good news about Jesus.  And, the Gospel will change things!  No wonder Jesus told the disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone” (Mark 16:15, New Living Translation).

This recharge is a simple reminder: “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences” (Proverbs 18:21, New Living Translation).  Therefore, get up from misuse – use your mouth wisely, not wastefully.  Share the good news about our risen Savior, Jesus Christ!

… For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way (James 3:2, New Living Translation).

Get up from disappointment!

In eighth grade, I decided to try out for my school’s basketball team.  I was so excited because the coach asked me to try out as I concluded the seventh grade.  I remember giving my all during tryouts, enthusiastically completing each drill, scoring as often as I could during scrimmages, and even envisioning my body in the team jersey.  I just knew I’d make the team, but I didn’t make it through the first cut.  I was devastated; it hurt so bad that I cried.  I hated that feeling so much that I vowed to never try out for basketball again.

This memory reminded me of how devastating and immobilizing disappointment can be.  If you’re not careful, disappointment can suspend your pursuit of excellence.  The disciples featured in this text were the epitome of ambition, but when Jesus died, all of their motivation vanished.  They were so disappointed that they left ministry for a mediocre coping mechanism – fishing.  To add insult to injury, the coping strategy wasn’t effective; though they fished all night, they didn’t catch anything.  Just when they reached the depths of disappointment, Jesus, our awesome Savior, came to the rescue.  He returned in the glory of the resurrection, proving that it’s not over until God says so!

This recharge is dedicated to those who have been devastated by disappointments.  One failure does not make you a failure, and one unfavorable outcome does not mean everything will end unfavorably.  Remember, the power to ascend lives in you; get up from disappointment!

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13, New Living Translation)

Get up from low expectations!

Wednesday night, my cousin asked me to pray that she’d make at least a B on her test.  I agreed, but as I prepared to pray, I reconsidered her request.  I thought about one of my favorite scriptures: “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).  If God can surpass our requests and thoughts, why not put Him to the test?  Why not put faith in action and ask for an A?

This prayer request made me reflect on my own vulnerabilities: at times, I’m guilty of low expectations.  Sometimes, I even have categories for my requests: some things God can do, and others, He can’t.  I’m a lot like Peter in the text cited above.  Though He’d seen Jesus heal the sick, walk on water, and raise the dead, resurrection seemed impossible.  He just couldn’t imagine anyone recovering from a brutal death like Jesus experienced.

The empty tomb, however, is an eternal reminder that God can do anything!  Jesus said it Himself, “… Everything is possible with God” (Mark 10:27, New Living Translation).  Since God can do everything, let’s get up from low expectations.  Just FYI – He can handle whatever you’ve concluded He can’t!

… Try it!  Put me to the test! (Malachi 3:10, New Living Translation)

Get up from hysteria!

Remember when gas prices exceeded $4 last year?  I’ll admit it: I had an extremely challenging situation around this time.  My gas tank was almost completely empty, and I desperately needed to refill.  Ironically, every gas station was out of gas or packed with cars also needing to refill.  Long story short, I panicked; I started thinking, “What will I do if my gas runs out before I reach a gas station?”  This experience was so ironic because I had just found comfort in Psalm 37:18-19 a few days before: “Day by day the Lord takes care of the innocent, and they will receive an inheritance that lasts forever.  They will not be disgraced in hard times; even in famine they will have more than enough.”

Isn’t it interesting how near our polar emotions, fear and faith, really are?  I don’t know about you, but it seems like it’s most difficult to trust God when I really need to trust Him.  Often, I feel like Mary Magdalene: though she had heard Jesus was alive (from the angels), something wouldn’t let her believe it.  Although He was standing right in front of her, Mary believed Jesus was the gardener.  Thankfully, however, Jesus never lets fear swallow our faith.  Jesus came to Mary Magdalene’s rescue, just like He rescued me when I thought I’d run out of gas!  He fulfilled the Word she received from the angels, for He cannot lie!

This recharge is specifically for those who are enduring the tug-o-war between fear and faith.  You’ve heard God’s voice, believe He’s given you creativity and vision, yet you still have insecurities.  It’s time to get up from hysteria, and trust God to do what He promised.  Remember, His reputation is too perfect to mess it up now!

It is the same with my word.  I send it out, and it always produces fruit.  It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it (Isaiah 55:11, New Living Translation).

Get up from the grave!

One of my favorite pastimes was watching professional wrestling (and yes, I know it’s fake).  I particularly admired Hulk Hogan, and more specifically, his resiliency.  During each of his matches, Hogan endured a sequence where his opponent had the advantage.  But just when it looked like defeat was certain, Hogan would emerge from the depths of hopelessness.  Hearing the “millions of Hulkamaniacs” cheering inspired him to recover and redeem his championship!

Although I admired Hulk Hogan, I’ve learned that he’s only a candle compared to God’s Son – Jesus, the master of resiliency.  One day, Jesus wrestled Satan for the “World Power Championship,” but Satan didn’t fight fair.  He recruited death and the grave as tag team partners in a singles match.  I’m sure that Satan and his hosts enjoyed a lavish celebration on Friday and Saturday, when it looked like victory was certain.  But early, Sunday morning, Jesus heard His Father saying, “Rise, Son, and reclaim your championship!”  That day, Jesus became the “World Power Champion,” for He said, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18, New Living Translation).

The good news is that we can rise from our “graves,” too.  The writer of Hebrews said that we have fans in heaven, cheering us on, and Jesus is among them.  Let’s get up from our harbor of hopelessness and live in resurrection authority.  Get up!

… And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives (Romans 6:4, New Living Translation).

Get up from pride!

Last night, I received some compliments about the people I employ.  The compliments highlighted their diligence, friendliness, and respectfulness.  I replied by expressing my excitement about hiring and explaining how meticulous I am in recruiting the best staff possible.  In retrospect, however, I realized I robbed God of the glory He deserves.  Really, I can’t take credit for my employees, for He enables me to hire great people.  If He withdrew life from me, I couldn’t do anything; I’d be like a ship without a sail.

Truthfully, none of us have a case for boasting.  All of us have strayed like sheep, and if it wasn’t for Christ, we’d be lost and beyond rescue.  We’re just like Barabbas (a man featured in this text): our sins qualified us for death, but Christ took our place.  We should have been punished for our mistakes, but Christ was our propitiation.  We live because He loved us that much!

In this Easter season, let’s get up from pride.  Instead of basking in your merit and reputation, share the real reason why you’re alive and well.  It’s not because of your intelligence or ability to seize golden opportunities, “for in him we live and move and exist …” (Acts 17:28, New Living Translation).

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.  Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.  But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:6-8, New Living Translation).

Get up from anger!

Anger is a powerful emotion, especially when it’s linked to something someone did to you.  I personally know the power of anger – it can inspire creativity like no other emotion.  Anger will make you roll your eyes, use one-finger sign language, and speak sentences that the greatest poets couldn’t arrange.  One of my acquaintances was so angry at someone that he said, “If I saw him on fire on the side of the road, I wouldn’t stop to help him.”  Truly, anger is powerful emotion.

Although anger is very influential, Jesus proves that it is not omnipotent.  In this excerpt from the crucifixion story, Jesus had every reason to be angry.  As He hung on the cross, He heard the people He came to save mocking Him.  He saw the soldiers, who He gave strength to fight, gambling for His clothes.  He heard a thief, who lived as long as he did because of His grace, baiting Him to save him and Himself.  But instead of getting mad and throwing a temper-tantrum, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”  And since He was conversing with His Father, then that means He was praying.  In other words, this scene is an illustrative sermon of one Jesus’ most famous teachings, “… love your enemies!  Pray for those who persecute you!” (Matthew 5:44, New Living Translation)

A quote from Tyler Perry’s “Madea Goes to Jail” features a powerful quote about forgiveness: “Forgiveness is not for them (those who offend us); it’s for you.”  And it’s true, forgiveness is for us, for Jesus said, “… if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15, New Living Translation).  I don’t know about you, but I’m too mistake-prone to live without God’s forgiveness!  Let’s get up from anger by forgiving those who offend us; Jesus did it, and so can we!

Get up from obscurity!

Without question, my favorite superhero is Superman.  Something about his ability to fly really captivates me.  I’m even more impressed by his response to crises.  He’s Clark Kent – a news reporter – most of the day, but as soon as trouble arises, he reveals his true identity.  Something about seeing others in trouble will not let him be the cool, calm, and collect Clark Kent.

Today’s passage shows that Jesus also responds to crises.  In this text, Mary Magdalene was in a crisis – she thought someone had stolen Jesus’ body.  She was so distraught, so discouraged, that she didn’t recognize Jesus!  But just like the SUPER-MAN He is, Jesus wouldn’t let this crisis cripple her.  In her moment of distress, Jesus revealed Himself as the resurrected Savior.  This revelation reinstated her faith, and she ran and told the disciples the good news!

Hopelessness and despair abound in our world, and people are looking for a light at the end of the tunnel.  Just like Jesus, it’s time for us to stand up and be counted.  Dust off your testimony and knowledge of scripture, and start sharing the good news about Jesus!  Get up from obscurity (hiding your identity), and remind people that Jesus is still able, and available, to meet their needs!

For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are (Romans 8:19, New Living Translation)