I pray you are doing well! My family and I are praying for you! I was asked to prepare a blog post as it relates to our Easter theme of exploring the kingdom of God. I hope these reflections encourage you in the Lord.
The coronavirus has massively altered significant aspects of the world these last few weeks, including our lives in Southern California. Nevertheless, during difficult times, God wants us to remember Him! He wants us to seek Him (Psalm 34:10), to sing praises to Him (Psalm 96:1), and to meditate on Scripture (Psalm 1:2). Remember, Jesus said that we live by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
Knowing this, I would love to share two verses with you, to focus our eyes on Jesus:
Matthew writes, “Jesuswas going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:35-36).
Matthew’s Gospel is his eyewitness account telling the Jewish people that Jesus was the promised Messiah! These verses say so much about Christ.
First, we see that Jesus was proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom everywhere He went. The “gospel” (τὸ εὐαγγέλιον) means “good news” (concerning Christ, forgiveness, the way of salvation, and eternal life), and “of the kingdom” (τῆς βασιλείας) means the eternal rule of the everlasting kingdom of God. Can you imagine Jesus telling people that their sins could be forgiven, that the kingdom of heaven was in their very midst, that He was the way, the truth, and the life and no one could come to the Father but through Him? What a radical proclamation!
Second, Jesus healed everydisease and every sickness. Notice that Jesus wasn’t working on a vaccine and He wasn’t waiting on FDA approval for a life-saving medication. He simply went out and healed viruses, cancers, incurable sicknesses, infections, and the like. Praise the Lord! Do you know that He heals today?! But remember that Jesus’ ultimate focus was not on miracles, but to preach the Gospel of the kingdom (Luke 4:43), to die on the cross to take away our sins (1 John 3:5), and to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).
Third, when He saw the people distressed and dispirited without a shepherd, He had compassion on them! Why? Because He loved them!
Today, Jesus still wants the same good news to be shared! He still wants to heal! He still has compassion on the distressed, dispirited, and the lost! He loves you! He regards our helpless estate because He shed His own blood for our souls! My precious brothers and sisters, keep your eyes on Jesus! There are so many souls who don’t know about the risen Christ, the significance of the cross, and the power of the resurrection. Would you consider proclaiming the good news of the kingdom to the people around you? When the time is right, consider being an ambassador for Christ in a way you never tried before. Maybe you could start a YouTube channel during this time or post a video on Facebook sharing your faith or a song you wrote. Or simply invite a friend or family member to watch the Easter service online. May God lead you to do amazing things for His glory!
Ask the Lord to fill you even more with the Holy Spirit, then step out in faith, and see what God will do!
How did people’s lives change when Jesus died and the veil of the temple was torn in two (Mark 15:38)? The Israelites in Jesus’ day were caught up in hate: hating the Roman occupation, hating tax collectors and fighting every human sin that we face today. God’s prescription for the Jews until that time was animal blood sacrifices to cover their sins.
That’s a startling concept for us today.
I’ve never lived under a requirement calling for such sacrifices for my sins. In fact, until my early 20’s I just ignored my sins.
For us now, the veil is gone; we have direct access to God because of the sacrifice on the cross by Jesus. Our sins are forgiven once and for all. The old requirement for regular blood sacrifices was paid, completed, perfected and eliminated, once and for all, by God’s own Son.
From Good Friday until now, everyone—Jews and Gentiles alike—are offered the choice to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that he died for our sins. If we repent and transfer our trust from our own “estate” to a “living trust” in Christ alone, then we begin a new life of reciprocal love of God: a love that brings joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22).
We know we’re not naturally like that, but by God’s grace we have the Holy Spirit to give us this fruitful, abundant life, relieved of the bondage of sin.
After the veil was torn, each of us has full access to God. John 16:7-15 explains the coming of the Holy Spirit, who is “the Helper” to all who will consider drawing closer to God and looking beyond the veil. “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.” “He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”“…He will guide you into all truth.”
With the Holy Spirit in our life, it’s like having an internal navigation system that constantly points us to Christ and the fullness of life and freedom that only He can offer.
But will we listen?
In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. I came that you may have life and have it abundantly.” Is Satan, the thief, distracting you with riches, comfort or entertainment that crowd out the blessings of God? Are we letting him steer us in a wrong direction?
Or now that the veil is gone, do we get our direction from God through his Spirit toward obedience and serving in his kingdom? My experience is that a life of abundance comes as we realize our security in knowing we have eternal life (John 6:47), as we bring the whole tithe to God (Mal. 3:10), as we seek to be a disciple of Christ and then make disciples, as we teach obedience to following God (Matt 28:19) and, led by the Spirit, we spread the joy of peace and security in resting in the certainty of his love.
With the veil gone, we more clearly see God’s love and provision in his Word. We have the gifts of the Spirit to empower us in ministry, knowing for sure we are obedient to his will. This Easter season, set your morning GPS to draw close to God, stay the course, and He will be close to you.
Your health and safety, and that of our community, is a top priority to me and the leadership of our church. To that end, we are following California Department of Public Health guidelines and suspending all CCMV gatherings for the next few weeks through April 19th. This includes all weekend worship services, children, youth and adult events, and all home group gatherings. We will update you about Easter as the time draws near.
This is a significant and unprecedented step to take, but we believe a necessary one as we strive to care for and protect our church community. According to the California Department of Public Health, “The timely implementation of aggressive strategies that create social distance and those that reduce close contact of people not regularly together, including limiting gatherings, has proven effective in prior pandemics at delaying rates of transmission and reducing illness and death.”
Now for some good news! A pre-recording of our weekly service will be available here on our website each Sunday morning. In addition to the sermon and worship music, discussion questions will be available for any that would like to further interact with others about the message.
Please make yourself familiar with our website. This will be the place to receive accurate information regarding our church. We will be updating it with content for you to engage with regularly.
Here are a few other things to be aware of:
If you have a need or desire to speak a pastor, you can call the church office at (949) 951-9678 and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
If you need to speak with someone after office hours, you can use the chat feature on our website and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Home Group questions will be provided on our website if you want to gather together please do it via a conference call, Facetime or Skype.
This time is an excellent time for an outreach opportunity. Consider meeting your neighbors and printing your name and phone number on a piece of paper and hand it out to them. Personally, deliver your contact information to them and let them know that you will be praying for the Lord’s protection over them and their families. Let them know, too, that if they need anything they can contact you.
Remember that now is not a time to fear, but to be bold in trust and wisdom as we reach out in Jesus’ name.
Psalm 16:8 says, “I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”
The staff and I will miss seeing you over the next three Sundays, but know you and your families are in my prayers. If you need anything, do not hesitate to contact anyone on staff.
Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
The upside-down nature of the kingdom of God didn’t start with Jesus. It’s always been a core element of the people of God. In Israel’s story, we see this in the inauguration of their nation at Sinai.
Imagine you are an Israelite after the Exodus and Red Sea miracle. You have witnessed your God display His power on the gods of Egypt and the human empire of Egypt. Then in the early days of the wilderness, you see how He can provide life (bread and water) in a desolate place. Following this, a leadership structure was established. Putting it all together, you have power, resources, and leadership; the key components to starting an empire. You come to Sinai to get commissioned, expecting to hear how you’re going to use these things to be the new Egypt, the new transcendent power with God as King. Instead you hear something completely different.
You are to be a kingdom of priests. Not a kingdom of power, or a kingdom of resources, or a kingdom of kings, but a kingdom of priests. In essence, a kingdom of servants. Priests by design represent the people to God, and God to the people. They are the embodiment of who God is while mediating who the people are to God to keep everyone in relationship together through a sacrificial system. This is the nature of who Israel was to be. They were meant to be an ‘on-display people’ of what it was like to be in relationship with God, thus drawing the nations to God.
This dynamic becomes the initial seeds of the kingdom of God that Jesus came proclaiming. It was never about power, resources, or leadership, but of being priests, now not bound by ethnicity or land borders, but going everywhere through the Spirit so that those filled with the Spirit would go to the nations and draw people to the living God.
“He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.” Proverbs 14:31
In Proverbs, Solomon put together two thoughts to make a complete picture: God our Maker is honored or mocked depending on how we treat others. The proverb says we honor God when we extend grace to the needy. Jesus taught His disciples, “When you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous,” Luke 14:13-14.
When Israel was taken into captivity by the surrounding nations of Assyria and Babylon, they were the people who were considered to be poor, crippled, lame and blind in the eyes of the nations. Israel lost her independence, her economy, and her land. It was almost 400 years for the Israelites in Assyria before they would return to Israel and about 70 years for those in Babylon. How dependent they found themselves on the nations in which they dwelt. More importantly, they learned to repent and remember their dependence is on God alone. Though many had turned from the Lord, there was still a remnant of believers. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego are such examples. Ezekiel preached to the captives. Nehemiah led the first group of Israelites back to Jerusalem.
All the while, a young woman named Esther had been raised to the position of Queen in the Persian Empire. When a plot to annihilate the Jews was uncovered, Esther was initially afraid to help out; but she sought the Lord, received wise counsel (“Who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14), and ultimately delivered protection for her people throughout the empire. The celebration of Purim, which honors God’s faithfulness through the life of Esther, is still held in Israel today as a remembrance of God’s provision for His outcast people.
As Christians, we can likewise honor the Lord by celebrating His faithfulness to us as we look for ways to use the means He has given to us to help others, especially the poor, crippled, lame, and blind among us. After all, that’s what God does for us. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” Romans 5:8.
This week as Purim is celebrated, we have the opportunity to remember the outcasts. In Syria, there are over a million displaced people trapped between warring Turkey, Russia, Iran, and Syria. One headline writer calls it “Syria’s worst humanitarian catastrophe in its 9-year civil war.” This week as we seek to honor our Maker, we will do well to remember the admonition of Solomon: He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.” May we rile against the evil perpetrated by others by actively helping the needy on Earth. By this can we honor our Maker and make the great name of Jesus known throughout the world until He returns!
Our friends at Partners Relief and Development have people in Syria helping provide needed food and medical relief. To learn more about the war in Syria and how you can help by prayer and donations, visit Partners Relief and Development. You can also contribute to a special collection we are taking here for the ministry of Partners in this afflicted region of Syria. You can make a check payable to CCMV and write “Syria relief” in the memo line, or you can give through the church app by selecting “Syria relief.”