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Everything Beautiful Bible Reading Plan, Week 5

Spring is now here, with the natural beauty that is a part of this season beginning to brighten our world. As March comes to an end, and we bring this Everything Beautiful Bible Reading Plan to a close, let’s focus on preparing our hearts for the most important celebration of the Christian year, Easter.

Day 25: 1 Samuel 16:1-7

The same year I was born, the movie Easter Parade, starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire, came to the big screen. As a child, I recall, my focus at Easter had nothing to do with the true reason we celebrate this holiday. My focus was on outward appearance – usually on the frilly new dress and shiny dress shoes my mother bought for me to wear to church on Easter Sunday.

Today’s Scripture opens our eyes to the truth that people look at the outward appearance. As this was my focus on Easter as a child, it is a trait common to mankind. But our God is different. He looks at the heart. As we prepare for this week’s Easter celebration, let’s turn our focus onto what God is looking at, our hearts. Take time today to ask yourself, “What does God see when He looks at my heart?”

Day 26: Matthew 23:27-39

Am I more concerned with how I appear to people than I am with how I appear to God? People are easy to deceive. They believe what they see outwardly is a reflection of what is within the heart. Our good deeds look great on the outside. But God can see through our outward veneer into our hearts. And He is the One we are called to please.

Romans 2:13 tells us, “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Okay, we are to obey God’s law. There’s only one problem with that. As men and women with a sin nature, perfect obedience to God’s law is beyond our ability. Isaiah 64:6 says of our best attempts as living righteously: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”

‭‭But our loving and gracious God provided a way for this requirement to be met. He did so by sending His perfect Son to earth, to live as a man and to pay the penalty for our sin. Through Jesus’ life and death, He fulfilled God’s law. When we come to Him as our sin-bearer, accepting His sacrifice as our own and surrendering our lives to Him, He clothes us with the robe of righteousness – His own righteousness, which is now counted as ours. As 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”‭‭

Day 27: Psalm 72:12-18

As we prepare our hearts for the celebration of the resurrected Lord this Easter, let’s also remember Jesus will one day soon return for His own. Then He will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. And all nations will be blessed through Him.

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Day 28: Job 12:7-13

On Good Friday, we remember the day Jesus became our Passover Lamb. He was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. He is the One Who by taking the punishment for our sin brought us peace (‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭53:5‬ ‭NIV). He is Immanuel, God with us, and we are safe in His hands.

Day 29: Psalm 145:1-9

One of my favorite ways to start my daily quiet time is to focus on some of the character qualities of the great God we serve. It’s helps me to shift my focus off of the circumstances I’m walking through and enables me to see them from a new perspective.

Psalm 145 reveals that the Lord is great, that His greatness is beyond what our limited minds can comprehend. He is our majestic King. And perhaps my favorite, He is filled with unwavering love and compassion toward His people.

Day 30: Psalm 119:12-18

Lord, Your Word is my delight. Neglecting Your Word is like neglecting to eat, because it is the spiritual food that sustains me. My prayer each morning is that You will show me truth as I open my Bible my eyes will be opened to the exact things I need for this day. And I know of no thing more beautiful than God’s Holy Word. As our pastor said in a recent sermon, “Scripture is beautiful – and it is true.”

Day 31: Isaiah 60:1-9

Light – one of the themes of my blog and what our Lord Jesus Christ came to bring – is a beautiful way to close this month’s focus on beauty. Darkness hides beauty, while light exposes it. Let’s learn to walk in the light, as He is in the light.

And this brings this month’s study of Everything Beautiful to a close. On this Easter Sunday, I want to end with a song about our beautiful God, who gave His life for us and is now our resurrected Lord! Because He lives, we can live also.

 

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Jesus Christ, Risen Lord

During the Advent season, our focus as Christians is usually on the birth of Jesus Christ. But the Good News of Christmas is about more than His birth. Jesus came for a purpose, and that purpose can’t be separated from His coming. He came to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Because of His sacrificial death on the Cross, we can be forgiven.

But if we stop here when sharing the Gospel, we are missing the equally important second fact that is also a part of the Good News. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus is not still on the Cross. He was buried in a borrowed tomb, but His body is not still in the tomb. He arose from the dead. He is alive forevermore!

So why is it so important that we believe Jesus is the Risen Lord? The resurrection of Jesus Christ is proof that He is who He claimed to be and that He accomplished what He came to accomplish. ‬‬

Some reasons why the resurrection of Jesus Christ is important:

  • The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a declaration that Jesus is the Son of God, as He claimed to be.

“(Jesus Christ) was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,”  Romans‬ ‭1:4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  • The resurrection of Jesus Christ means that we are justified or declared righteous before God.

It will be counted (as righteousness) to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Romans‬ ‭4:24-25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  • The resurrection of Jesus Christ is our assurance that our sins have been forgiven.

For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” ‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭15:16-17‬ ‭NKJV

  • The resurrection of Jesus Christ is proof that He defeated death.

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.” Romans‬ ‭6:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  • The resurrection of Jesus Christ is our promise that those who know Him as Savior and Lord will also be raised from the dead.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:20-22‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  • The resurrection of Jesus Christ is our assurance that we who have placed our faith in Him will one day stand in His presence.

knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I am eternally grateful thank Jesus Christ paid the penalty for my sins through His sacrificial death on Calvary’s Cross. But I am also grateful that He is no longer dead. He is my RISEN LORD, and I hope He is your RISEN LORD also.

Jesus, the Son of Man

Of all the names of Jesus Christ given in Scripture, this is the one He used most often for Himself. Why is that? I believe the reason is two-fold:

  • Jesus was identifying with the people He had come to minister to. A son of a man is a man, and while Jesus was God He was also a man. Jesus was truly a human being, God in human flesh.
  • But more importantly, this name of Jesus was given in the book of Daniel as one of the titles for the coming Messiah, a fact that the Jewish people would have been aware of.

I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.” Daniel‬ ‭7:13-14‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

By identifying Himself as the Son of Man, Jesus was saying He was the fulfillment of this prophecy. This still future event will take place when Jesus returns to earth, to set up His eternal kingdom.

“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.” Revelation 1:7 NKJV

‭Jesus, I’m so grateful that this life is not all we have to look forward to. Your Word is clear. You will be returning to set up Your eternal kingdom. And because I have accepted Your provision of salvation by grace through faith, The penalty for my sins has been paid and I will be a part of that kingdom. Thank You, Lord, for this glorious truth.

I Am the Resurrection and the Life

 

During the Christmas season, our focus is usually on the manger not the cross, but it’s important that we not lose sight of why Jesus came. Today’s name of Jesus reminds us of the fact that He died in our place to pay the penalty for our sins. But He is no longer on the cross – or even in the tomb. He is alive!

Let’s take a look at the setting where Jesus spoke these words about Himself. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, we learn of the special relationship Jesus had with Mary and Martha. Jesus loved Mary and Martha and had stayed in their home in the village of Bethany. The passage in John 11 that includes this name of Jesus tells us Lazarus was also a friend of Jesus and His disciples.

So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.’…  ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep’”  John‬ ‭11:3, 11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

But in spite of receiving word from Mary and Martha about Lazarus’ illness, Jesus did not immediately go to him. Since Jesus always did what He knew to be the will of the Father, this was apparently by God’s leading. Jesus’ words to the disciples in John 11:14-15 explain at least one purpose behind the delay.

So then he told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.‘”

‭Verse 17 tells us what happened during the purposeful delay.

“On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.”

When Martha hears Jesus has arrived, she greets Him with some solemn words (verses 21-22).

“’Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’”

This is the setting in which these well known words were spoken.

Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?‘”John‬ ‭11:23-26‬ ‭NIV‬‬

When Jesus spoke to Martha that day, He was telling her that a miracle was about to take place. Her beloved brother would be raised from the dead. But the meaning of these words goes beyond that. In essence, Jesus was saying, “The whole power to restore, impart and maintain life resides in Me.”

Today, I am grateful that Jesus died for my sins. But I’m also grateful that He is my Resurrected Lord. If you don’t know Him as your sin-bearer and Living Lord, don’t let Christmas pass without coming to Him for salvation. Confess you are a sinner, believe in His finished work on the cross, receive His forgiveness, and surrender your life to Him as Lord. Your eternity depends on this decision, and Christmas is the perfect time to make it.

Dealing With Vocal Cord Paralysis

I love being able to go to church and sing praises to the Lord. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a trained musician and my singing is little more than making “a joyful noise” to the Lord, but singing has always been a real joy in my life. Until this past Sunday.

Easter Sunday, I was grateful to finally be able to attend one of the worship services at our church. This was my first time actually being in a worship service since having extensive neck surgery last July. My husband and I have been going to our Sunday School class, but he was concerned that going to both that and the worship service would be too tiring for me. Then on Easter, Sunday School classes were cancelled and we decided to go to one of the worship services. I was doing fine until I tried to sing.

During my neck surgery, the nerve in my right vocal cord was damaged, and as a result my right vocal cord is now paralyzed. This has caused numerous problems with coughing, projecting my voice and even swallowing, but it seems to be gradually getting better so I was surprised at what happened when I tried to join in the singing. I could get out a few words and then my voice would crack and I couldn’t continue. It quickly became obvious that I would not be doing much singing. So my worship became silent, in my heart.

WHAT IS VOCAL CORD PARALYSIS AND WHAT CAUSES IT? 

Vocal cords are flexible bands of muscle tissue that sit at the entrance to your trachea. You have two vocal cords, which come together and vibrate to make sound when you speak (or sing!). According to Mayo Clinic, vocal cord paralysis occurs when something happens to disrupt the nerve impulses from reaching your voice box (larynx).

One of the main risks factors for vocal cord paralysis is undergoing throat or chest surgery, either from the surgery itself or from prolonged use of a breathing tube during the surgery. I knew of this risk prior to my neck surgery, but my neck was in such bad condition that the pain was debilitating and not doing the surgery came with an even bigger risk, complete paralysis from the neck down. So after much prayer, we made the decision to go ahead with the surgery. In spite of the complications I’ve experienced, I don’t regret this decision. 

Other causes of vocal cord paralysis include certain neurological diseases including Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, viral infections involving the larynx, tumors of the neck, chest or skull, and blunt neck or chest trauma.

SYMPTOMS OF VOCAL CORD PARALYSIS

Shortly after my surgery, I suspected one of my vocal cords had been damaged, because of a chronic cough and hoarseness when I tried to talk. Since then, I’ve learned that several other symptoms I had – and a few I didn’t have – are characteristic of vocal cord paralysis. They fall into three main groups:

  1. Voice changes, including a breathy quality to the voice, prolonged hoarseness, loss of vocal pitch (especially difficulty with high notes when singing), and loss of volume.
  2. Airway problems, such as shortness of breath with exertion, noisy breathing, and ineffective cough.
  3. Swallowing problems, causing choking or coughing when swallowing food, drink, or even saliva, and food sticking in throat.

DIAGNOSIS OF VOCAL CORD PARALYSIS 

My paralyzed vocal cord was diagnosed by my otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor), using a test called a videostrobolaryngoscopy. This uses a special scope that contains a tiny camera at its end, which the doctor inserted through one of my nostrils. By observing the lack of movement on the connected monitor, he was able to determine that my right vocal cord was totally paralyzed. Another test frequently used to diagnose this problem is a laryngoscopy, which uses a mirror or a thin, flexible tube (known as a laryngoscope or endoscope) to observe the vocal cords. Other tests include electromyography of the larynx, and if the cause is not known, sometimes blood work,  X-rays, MRI or CT scans.

TREATMENT AND PROGNOSIS FOR VOCAL CORD PARALYSIS

According to the doctor who diagnosed my vocal cord paralysis, this is a condition that sometimes corrects itself. Nerve damage, the underlying cause, often is reversed with time. Therefore, most doctors wait for a year or more before considering any treatment. My ENT said even if the damaged vocal cord doesn’t heal, sometimes the healthy one will move over and result in a reduction of symptoms. If this doesn’t happen, voice therapy is often prescribed. If your vocal cord paralysis symptoms don’t fully or at least partially recover on their own, there are also several surgical options available.

It has now been nine months since my neck surgery and four and a half months since my diagnosis with a paralyzed right vocal cord. Overall, the symptoms are mangeable and seem to be gradually improving. So I’m coping fairly well with this problem. I’m still hopeful that the damaged nerve will eventually heal and my voice, airway, and swallowing problems will be past. But right now they require using caution and being sure I’m sitting upright when eating or drinking and being careful to not strain my voice. And, as I learned last Sunday, singing may be on my DO NOT ATTEMPT list for a while still. But something positive came out of this Easter Sunday exeperience. 

I’ve loved Ephesians 5: 18-19 for many years, but suddenly these verses took on new meaning. I was reminded that true worship is more than singing. It takes place in the heart, and I had a delightful time of worshiping the Lord on Easter Sunday, even if I couldn’t sing.
       

#Five Minute Friday: Sing

I love being able to go to church and sing praises to the Lord. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a trained musician and my singing is little more than making “a joyful noise” to the Lord, but singing has always been a real joy in my life. Until Easter Sunday.

Easter Sunday, I was grateful to finally be able to attend one of the worship services at our church. This was my first time actually being in a service since having extensive neck surgery last July. My husband and I have been going to our Sunday School class, but he felt going to both that and the worship service would be too tiring for me. But on Easter, Sunday School classes were cancelled and we decided to go to one of the worship services. I was doing fine until I tried to sing.

During my neck surgery, the nerve in my right vocal cord was damaged, and as a result it is now paralyzed. This has caused numerous problems with coughing, projecting my voice and even swallowing, but it seems to be getting better so I was surprised at what happened when I tried to join in the worship time. I could get out a few words and then my voice would crack and I couldn’t continue. It quickly became obvious that I would not be doing much singing. So my worship became silent, in my heart.

I’ve loved Ephesians 5: 18-19 for many years, but suddenly these verses took on new meaning. Because of my paralyzed vocal cord, I can not currently sing. But true worship is more than singing. It takes place in the heart, and I had a delightful time of worshiping the Lord on Easter Sunday, even if I couldn’t sing.

The Significance of the Empty Tomb

I love the view near the main entrance to the sanctuary of our church. Two symbols stand out: the cross and the empty tomb. A quick reminder of the two central truths of our faith to everyone who enters!


As we celebrate Easter, and especially on this Good Friday, the emphais is on the cross. As Christians, we understand the importance of the cross; without it, we would still be lost in our sins. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, the penalty for our sin was paid in full, and a way was made for us to receive forgiveness and a relationship with our Creator God. 

But how many of us really understand the significance of the empty tomb? Sure, we know it proves that Jesus is no longer dead,  We serve a resurrected Lord! But why is that important?

The empty tomb:

  • Proves that Jesus’ death on the cross was enough, that the penalty of our sins has been paid in full.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬)
  • Rendered Satan powerless. “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,” (Hebrews‬ ‭2:14‬ ‭NASB‬‬)
  • Sets those who believe in Jesus Christ free from the fear of death. “and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” (‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭2:15‬ ‭NASB‬‬)
  • Gives us hope for the final victory over sin, death and Satan.  “For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:25-26 (NASB); “and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation‬ ‭21:4‬ ‭NASB‬‬)

The cross and the empty tomb are the foundation of the Christian life.  As the recently released Christian movie The Case for Christ so clearly communicates, our belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is of primary importance. The cross and the empty tomb together show that Jesus’ suffering was was not in vain.  Or in the words of Bible teacher Kay Arthur: