Labels

Showing posts with label Easter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Easter. Show all posts

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Thomas says Happy Easter!


Thomas says Happy Easter
It has been a while since posting in this blog. Like most of the people I have a busy life.  My hours are consumed with work, family, and other interests. Work and family are common to most of us. It’s the “other interests” that can vary widely from person to person. Those other interests are the things that help to define us. We are what we do, or what we invest our time in, or what we are into. 
Since making Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior with a simple prayer in response to a radio message, one in which I listened to only with the intent to mock by the way (Ha, Ha, the jokes on me. Right, God?), my other interests have changed.  Since placing my faith in Christ alone, one of my major interests is reading and studying the Bible.  It is an interest that I am passionate about and which receives daily attention. 
Yesterday’s Bible reading of John 20 highlighted the interaction of the resurrected Jesus and the apostle, Thomas.  For those who don’t know, my middle name is Thomas.  I go as MT Clark on Facebook and that partially explains why I do.  Ironically, I think I have a lot in common with Thomas.  Thomas is known as “the doubting Apostle”.  Here is what I read yesterday:
John 20:24-25 (NKJV)
24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.
25 The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord." So he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."
Just to give you some context, the preceding 23 verses of John 20 tell the story of Christs resurrection and how it was witnessed by other disciples.  They told Thomas about it, but he wasn’t buying it. Even though he lived and traveled with these other disciples for three and a half years, he didn’t trust what they said.  Not only that but he made an extreme demand for proof: probing the crucifixion wounds.  Who does that?!!  Well as extreme as that request was, we find out that Jesus would oblige him.  
John 20:26-27 (NKJV)
26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, "Peace to you!"
27 Then He said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing."
            So, eight days later, with everyone talking about how Jesus came back from the dead, Thomas remained unmoved.  Had Thomas been American he would be from Missouri because unless he saw it, he wouldn’t believe.  Thankfully, Christ loved him enough to prove He was who He said he was and, as my experiences in my relationship with Him would confirm, He even used his own words to convict Thomas.   The proof presented, Thomas proclaims the truth:
John 20:28 (NKJV)
28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!"
 
Jesus’s response is to Thomas is to us as much as it is to Thomas. 
John 20:29 (NKJV)
29 Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

Jesus Himself admitted that the resurrection was hard to accept but for those of us who didn’t have the benefit of see the resurrected body of Christ, we can rest in the assurance that we are blessed.  Through our faith in Jesus we are given a life that is free of sin and death. Our faith in Jesus gives us eternal life on the other side of death and the actual power to turn from our sinful ways if we ask Him to help us and trust in Him. 

Due to this exchange in John 20, Thomas is forever associated with doubt.  David Jerimiah addressed this issue in the Jeremiah Study Bible and I had to share his insights. 

“Often called “doubting Thomas” for his questions. We can learn much from this man and his encounter with Jesus.

1.       Jesus did not rebuke Thomas for his questions: He simply answered them. While we may not receive answers from God so quickly, a sincere and loving relationship with Jesus allows His followers to seek Him out with their questions.
2.      Thomas went on to serve God. He preached Jesus in India and was killed by a spear in his back.  The church is there today because of this man who asked a question.

Doubter? Not really. Believer who asked a question and then bore much fruit?  Absolutely.

Christianity ultimately comes down to something more than theological questions.  In the end it is all about a Person, not a proposition. 

The questions are the beginning of the journey, but the answers come finally in experience- in reaching out to touch, and to be touched ourselves, by those nail scarred hands. Jesus meets His followers where they are.”   
I was a doubter. I knew who Jesus was and heard the stories of His life, but I doubted their truth and I didn’t see how they applied to me.  I understood that Jesus died for our sins, but I thought that I had to be a “good person” to be accepted by Him.  I knew my heart and I knew I had desires and feelings that were far from holy so because of my sin I felt hopeless to be “a good person” so rather seek the Lord’s help to change I decided that there was no God and thus I didn’t need to change. I thought I was intelligent and religion was a creation of man, made to control the feeble minded. 

   I spent most of my life searching for meaning, identity, and purpose.  After atheism, hedonism, and materialism came up empty, I rejected it all to try to find inner peace and wisdom on my own not realizing that by doing so I became my own god: “I am on the path to enlightenment where my efforts at my practice will result in perfect knowledge, wisdom, and escape from all realms of suffering.” 

I was on this idealized path when I heard a simple gospel message on the radio back in 2010.  I heard the truth of gospel of Jesus Christ as if for the first time and I quickly accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.  I had a hunger to verify my faith and started investigating Christianity with the skepticism of a Thomas.  While I couldn’t probe the wounds of Christ, I wanted to know that I hadn’t blindly turned my life over to a fairy tale.  I joined a Bible preaching church, listened to countless teachings, and have read books on Christianity, theology, and apologetics.  I joined a Bible college and received a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies. Beyond this academic research, I applied the teaching from the Bible to my life, causing me to go into recovery for my lifelong habit of consuming mass quantities of alcohol.  Within all of this, I have come to know beyond all doubts that God is real, Jesus is the Savior, and the Holy Spirit is active in our world today. 
The Lord understands if you doubt the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but it is on you to thoroughly investigate the question of Jesus Christ.  I, like many others can tell you, that if you seek God, or truth, you will find Jesus Christ. 
·         To those who know Christ, I wish you a Happy Resurrection Sunday and, if you insist, I will even wish you a Happy Easter.  I encourage you to know Him more and to take hold of the new life that He has promised you, now. 

·         To those who don’t know Christ, I invite you to begin asking the questions that will begin the journey, that I pray, will lead you to the kingdom of God and eternal life.  
God bless you all!




Sunday, April 16, 2017

His Grace is Enough: Resurrection Sunday 2017



His grace is enough.  

When I heard the gospel message that saved me back in 2010, I couldn't believe it. 

In my denomination I knew Jesus died on the cross to pay for the world's sin but the teaching and preaching I heard never taught me that the work that Jesus on the cross was enough to cover all my personal sins.  I was convinced that I was a sinner. They were good at teaching that.  I thought I had to be good to get in Heaven and I knew that I wasn't good so I followed my own selfish desires and forgot about the God who was powerless to do anything but send me to hell.  It was a hard dark road for a long time.  

But then I heard that Jesus did in fact die for my sin, sins past, present, and even future.  I was relieved and immediately said the prayer that saved me.  

His grace was enough!  

After I got saved I resolved to follow the Lord as much as possible even though I was still a drunk and sinner.  I started to read the Bible and saw that Christians were not supposed to get drunk... I was confused.  I thought I was forgiven.  

Well I was and God's grace would cover my sins til the day I died but I Am God's child now.  The Holy Spirit was in me and the same old drunkenness and sin wasn't as much fun. I felt I was doing wrong!  I drank for 25+ years and never had a desire to quit.  But  now I did.   Even though I knew God wanted better things for me I thought it was impossible to change. In 2015, my church started a Recovery ministry, I knew it was for me. I signed up and the rest is history. I'm over Two years sober today.  

When I saw that God was willing to do the impossible in my life, I said "What's next?"

Now I'm close to completing a book I have been writing based on the preaching of a local pastor.  God has healed me in more than one way. I'm out of debt. Life is good.  I am living the new life that is promised to believers in the Bible, a life of hope and victory over sin and death. 

On this Resurrection Sunday, I just want to thank God for what he is doing in my life and I want all who should read this to know that God loves you and He is willing to do the impossible in your life too.

Believe and Christ and follow Him.  


Friday, March 25, 2016

NEW LIFE: ONE YEAR SOBER


March 22, 2015 was the day I woke up hung over, prayerfully, for the last time.  I had entered the Celebrate recovery program at Rock Solid Church in Hudson NY two weeks prior and had been excited at the prospect of cleaning up my life but circumstances had put me in an environment where I thought the pressure to not drink was too much, so I didn’t even try.

I wish I could say that the last time I went drinking was an epic party to end all parties but it wasn’t.  Don’t misunderstand me.  I didn’t say I didn’t have fun.  There was live music, nice people, lots jokes, and laughs.  There were also drugs, desperation, dysfunction, and the signs of 30 years of indulgence in the faces of those in attendance.  The ravages of alcohol and drugs and the emptiness of trying to recreate moments of youthful exuberance were all around me.   Even in the moment, I saw this wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing, or even wanted to do anymore, as a Christian.  The morning after my hangover wasn’t that bad but my soul ached that I had broken my fellowship with Christ.  I repented that morning, asking God to forgive me for walking back into the darkness and to help me not to go back ever again.

God is good to forgive us our sins if we ask (1 John 1:9) and even though I failed, I felt that God had answered my prayer.  I went to the next Recovery meeting confessing my failure expecting criticism but finding acceptance.  I left with a determination not to fall again and to surrender my life daily to God. 

God has been faithful.  I haven’t fallen.  I had never conceived of the possibility of living without alcohol for a year.  Some of you, who read this, may not either.  However, if you trust in God, pray to Him to help you, and continually turn to Him to lead you; He will set you free.

I have completed the Celebrate Recovery program and now lead worship at our meetings (NOW with live mic and electric guitar! WHAT?!?!?) .    I have begun teaching, on occasion, because I have been there, I get it, and I know what is possible if you put yourself into it.   If you are in the Hudson area on Thursday nights, we meet at 6:30 pm at Rock Solid Church. 

More importantly, I stand as a sign post pointing to the one that can save you, heal you, and free you: Jesus Christ.  It’s great to get sober but He can do so much more.  He has revealed to me that getting sober was only the beginning of a new life in partnership with him.  With Christ, I have earned an Associate’s degree in Biblical studies, conquered the fear of public speaking, and gone on mission to Africa.  In my journey, I have gained continuing revelation of truth and my purpose in life.  He has revealed to me the errors in my thinking and changed my priorities to be a faithful follower, husband and father.  

I don’t know what issues, problems, hang ups, or concerns you may have.  But I know this: Christ cares about you. He loves you. And He can give you new life.  This Sunday we celebrate His Resurrection: the proof that He is the Son of God and everything He said is the truth.  This Sunday can be the day you can start a journey that ends in joy and eternal life.  I invite you to celebrate His Resurrection this Sunday at Rock Solid Church; services are at 8:30 & 11 am.  For information about our church go to: http://rocksolidchurch.net/.

I wish all who read this all the best and I pray that you let Christ be the one to lead you in this life and beyond in His eternal Kingdom.  God Bless You!