The easter season is a time for reflection on Jesus’s sacrifice, and the hope that we as believers find in Him. We hope that these three excerpts will encourage you during this easter season. Feel free to share these excerpts and accompanying graphics online or post to your blog or website.
- Love & Fear by Kerry and Chris Shook
- Finding Greatness in Our Smallness by Louie Giglio
- Prepare for the Best by Nick Vujicic
- Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
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What keeps us clinging to our own efforts instead of risking the greatness that God directs us toward? For many of us, its the loss of control. We think that if we really let go and allow God to catch and direct us, well end up spending our lives like a prison sentence, doing something we hate. But that couldnt be further from the truth! God has created each one of us to fulfill a purpose, and He has designed us uniquely to accomplish it. Hes planted eternity in our hearts along with seeds of greatness that can only grow through our willingness to serve.
What does letting go look like? From my experience, it often involves patience and looking for Gods hand in places we might not expect. God rarely conforms to our timetables or does things in a neat, linear way from our human and limited perspective. Sometimes we dont even realize what we were made to do, what really energizes and delights us, until were forced into it, kicking and screaming. Writer and theologian C. S. Lewis said that too often were like children who settle for playing in mud puddles when the beauty and immensity of the ocean are just a few feet away.
Our fear is probably the other huge obstacle that keeps us clinging to the monkey bars long after its time to move on. And fear can certainly paralyze us; we can easily become confined to a very narrow vision of our lives. Its almost as if we cant imagine how we could survive unless we get things the way we want them. Our perspective is limited and doesnt include possibilities that may seem improbable or even impossible when left to our own devices.
Weve all heard stories about celebrities and successful businesspeople who failed miserably early in their careers, only to wander accidentally into new ventures for which they were naturally suited. Henry Ford wasnt a good businessman (he went bankrupt five times), but he was a visionary engineer. Oprah was fired from her job as a television reporter before launching her now-successful show and far-reaching media empire. In fact, if we looked at the lives of every person, both historical and contemporary, whom we consider successful, we wouldnt find an absence of failure, fear, or pain. Instead we would find the common denominators of perseverance and purpose converging to motivate and inspire these achievers to move forward. They pushed through their fears, not only enduring failures, but learning from them.
The Bible tells us that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). It doesnt say that perfection casts out fear or that perfect love ensures our success the way we want it. When we know Gods love, the care and compassion of a loving Father who wants us to trust Him, then we can let go. His love is so much greater than our fears. When one of my children fails a math test or fails to obey curfew, I dont stop loving him or her. And depending on the circumstances and why and how they failed, it can be an incredible teaching moment.
Similarly, God loves to redeem our failures, to transform our mistakes whether rebellious or well intendedinto part of His plan and our ultimate purpose.
Adapted from One Month to Live by Kerry and Chris Shook with permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved.
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Finding Greatness in Our Smallness by Louie Giglio
You and I are tiny. Minuscule. Transient. Microscopic. A momentary and infinitesimal blip on the time line of the universe. A seemingly undetectable alliance of dust particles held together by the breath of God.
The sum of our days is like a vaporour accumulated efforts like dust in the wind. Among us, even the richest of the rich owns nothing. The strongest of the strong can be felled in one faltering heartbeat. We are fleeting mortals. Frail flesh. Little specks. Phantoms.
If this fact makes you a tad bit uncomfortable, youre not alone. Invariably, when I talk about the vastness of God and the cosmos, someone will say, Youre making me feel bad about myself and making me feel really, really small, as if thats the worst thing that could happen. But the point is not to make you feel small, rather to help you see and embrace the reality that you are small. Really, really small.
But thats not where the Story ends. Though we are transient dust particles in a universe that is expanding faster than the speed of light, the unexplainable mystery of mysteries is that you and I are loved and prized by the God of all creation.
Simply because He wanted to, He fashioned each of us in His own image, creating within us the capacity to know Him. And if that wasnt staggering enough, in spite of our foolishness and rebellious hearts, God has pursued us with relentless passion and patience, fully expressing to us His unfathomable love through the mercy and grace of the Cross of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Sure, just a glimpse of His glory instantly resizes us to microscopic proportions. But God is not trying to deflate us with a Milky Waysized put-down that erodes any sense of self and reduces us to a pointless existence. Just the opposite. When we see how tiny we are, our self-worth and our God-given worth can become one and the same as we are stunned with the reality that we have been made in His very likeness and invited to know Him personally.
I am not but He knows my name.
I am not but He has pursued me in His love.
I am not but I have been purchased and redeemed.
I am not but I have been invited into the Story.
I am not but I know the Creator of the universe.
I am not but I know I AM!
Let the depth and wonder of the words sink in.
I am not but I know I AM.
Thats the complete Storythe entire gospelthe whole truth about who you are. You are small, but you can be on a first-name basis with I AM. Youre beyond tiny, but if you are a believer in Jesus, every ounce of you has been bought and redeemed by Gods Son. You are a galactic nobodyin fact, 99.99999999999999999999999999999999 percent of the people on earth have never heard of most of us. But God knows everything about you and calls you His own.
What more could we possibly achieve on earth that is greater than what we already have? We are already friends of God. What greater prize or position could we hope to gain? What praise from human beings could eclipse the voice of I AM speaking to us by name?
Adapted from I Am Not But I Know I AM by Louie Giglio with permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved.
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Prepare for the Best by Nick Vujicic
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:1618
You may be skeptical that anything is possible by hanging on to hope. Or perhaps you have been brought down so low that finding the strength to crawl out of your despair seems impossible. There was a time when I felt exactly that way. I was absolutely convinced that my life would never be of value and that I would only be a burden to those I loved.
My parents were not prepared for a child without limbs when I was born, and as a result they were despondent. Who could blame them? Every mother and father tries to envision the future for the children they bring into the world. My parents had difficulty projecting what sort of future I would have, and as I grew older, so did I.
We all have at times seen our vision for our lives crash into a cruel reality like a speeding car into a brick wall. The particulars of your experience may be unique, but situations of despair are all too human. Teens often e-mail me stories of abuse and neglect ripping apart their families. Adults share stories in which drugs or alcohol or pornography have left them crippled. Some days it seems like half the people I talk to are dealing with cancer or some other life threatening medical condition.
How do you stay hopeful in such situations? You trust in God, remember that you are here for a reason, and dedicate yourself to fulfilling that purpose. Whatever challenge you are facing, you are blessed in ways that will help you find a way through it. Just think of my parents and of the hopelessness that they once faced.
The late Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., said, Everything that is done in the world is done by hope. I know for certain that as long as you draw breath, hope is available to you. You and I are only human. We cannot see into the future. Instead, we picture the possibilities for what might be. Only God knows how our lives will unfold. Hope is His gift to us, a window to look through.
Trust in Him, keep hope in your heart, and even when faced with the worst, do whatever you can to prepare yourself for the best! We cannot know the future He has planned for us.
Adapted from Limitless by Nick Vujicic with permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved.
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
Each Sunday following the sermon, the pastor gave an invitation to anyone wanting to receive Christ as their Savior and Lord. Each time he gave the opportunity to come forward, Angel felt her nerves tighten.
The still, quiet voice beckoned tenderly.
Come to me, beloved. Stand and come to me.
Warmth swept over her. This was the love shed been waiting for all her life. Yet she could not move. Oh, Michael, if only you were with me today. If only you were here to walk forward with me, maybe then Id have the courage.
Each Sunday, she closed her eyes, trying to gather her nerve to answer the calland each Sunday she failed to do it. She sat trembling, knowing she was unworthy, knowing that after all she had said against God, she had no right to be his child.
On the fourth Sunday, Susanna leaned close and whispered, You want to go forward, dont you? Youve wanted to for weeks.
Eyes stinging, throat closed tight, Angel nodded once and hung her head, her lips pressed together. She was afraid, so afraid she was shaking. What right had she to present herself to God and receive mercy? What right?
Ill walk with you, Susanna said and took her hand firmly.
It was the longest walk of Angels life as she went down the aisle and faced the pastor waiting at the end of it. He was smiling, his eyes shining. She thought of Michael and felt a rush of anguish. Oh, Michael, I wish you were here with me now. I wish you were here to see this. Will you ever know you struck the match and brought light into my darkness? Her heart filled with gratitude. Oh, God, he loves you so.
She didnt cry. She had years of practice containing her emotions, and she wouldnt give in to them now before all these people, not even with Susanna Axle at her side. She could feel the eyes of everyone in the church upon her, watching her every move, listening for any catch in her voice. She mustnt make a fool of herself.
Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God? the pastor asked her.
I believe, she said with grave dignity and closed her eyes briefly. Oh, God, forgive my unbelief. Make my faith larger than a mustard seed, Jesus. Let it grow. Please.
And do you give your life to Jesus now before these witnesses? If so, would you signify by saying I do?
Words meant for a wedding ceremony. A sad smile touched her lips. With Michael she had said Why not rather than I do; she had come to the end of her endurance and felt she had no choice. She felt that now. She had come to the end of her struggles, the end of her fight to survive on her own. She needed God. She wanted him. He had brought her out of her old
life when she had no faith. And now that she knew he really was there, he was holding out
his hand to her and making a proposal. Oh, Michael, this is what you wanted for me, isnt it? This is what you meant when you said someday Id have to make a choice.
Angel? the pastor said, perplexed. No one breathed or moved.
I do, she responded, smiling radiantly. I most assuredly do.
He laughed. Turning her toward the congregation, he said, This is Angel. A new sister in Christ. Welcome her.
And they did.
Adapted from Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers with permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved.