2 Truths and a Lie: Easter Edition

The cross at Calvary sits between the crosses of the two criminals crucified with Jesus.

Resurrection Sunday is less than one week away, and while we’ll be celebrating the resurrection of our King Jesus, there are still so many who will be celebrating Easter as a fun spring holiday about egg hunts and Easter bunnies.

Now, I love the fun aspects of Easter (like egg hunts, special chocolates, and picnics), but Easter is, of course, not about those things in the same way Christmas is not about receiving gifts or simply gathering with family.

It’s all about Jesus.

Sadly, there are many who forget that. There are many who fail to recognize the significance of this holiday, perhaps because they have fallen away from serving God or because no one has reached them with the truth. There are many forms of “truth” roaming around, especially around religious holidays, and there are many lies that distract people from focusing on the truth.

Today, we’ll focus on one lie that the enemy tells to keep people from finding Jesus and two truths that disprove this lie.

The lie: the days of New Testament miracles and spiritual gifts are over.

This is called cessationism, which is the belief “that spiritual gifts ceased after the closing of the biblical canon” (Apostolic Study Bible). Of course, we know this is a lie due to the truths below.

1. Jesus Christ is alive, and so are supernatural gifts and miracles!

Jesus Christ was crucified but rose again and reigns today. If He is alive, and His power still exists, then so do the miracles, signs, and wonders that all stem from His power.

Through the Holy Ghost, we have the power to reach the lost, tread on serpents, discern spirits, prophesy, and interpret tongues among many other things (see Acts 1:8, Luke 10:19, and 1 Corinthians 12). The fact that God’s people can pray for the sick and they be healed and that God’s people can rebuke spirits and perform other miracles is the evidence of Christ’s reigning power and presence.

Jesus is still performing New Testament miracles through His people, which brings us to the second truth.

2. Jesus Christ is still raising people from the dead.

Yes, that means both physically and spiritually. A person can suffer two deaths: physical and spiritual, but the spiritual takes place before the physical. While a physical death does not necessarily resign a person to eternal death (hell), a spiritual death can lead to eternal death if left untreated.

But our God does not abandon the weary, the broken, or the spiritually dead.

When I was struggling with the darkest depression I had ever experienced, I worried I was lost. I worried that there was no way out of that seemingly endless pit because I couldn’t see it. A mix of various emotions consumed me—grief, bitterness, despair, hopelessness. I found myself in a dry wilderness where there was no life and no peace.

But God breathed new life into me.

Through a series of sermons, He began to speak life into me again. After studying certain Scriptures, I began to feel His love and mercy again. After calling out to Him on several occasions, I began to get closer to Him than I had been before, and He brought me out of darkness into His light.

He renewed me. He resurrected me.

If He did it for me, He can do it for you.

Those are the truths we must remember, especially as we celebrate His Resurrection.

Jesus Christ is still on the throne.

He is still healing the sick.

He is still mending broken souls.

He is still saving the lost.

He is still reviving the dead.

He is still moving, and He is not done.

For our God is alive!

Happy Easter, everyone! Thank God for His blood that He shed to cover our sins and give us the chance at eternal life with Him!

I pray you all have a wonderful time celebrating our risen King this Resurrection Sunday!

“And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said….”

Matthew 28:5-6a (KJV)

2 Lessons from the Lame Man and the Blind Man: Learning to Recognize Jesus in Your Life

Holding the Bible up to the sky.

What will it take for you to see God in your life?

In the book of John, we see two examples of Jesus healing two separate men—a lame man and a blind man—who both had opportunities to recognize Jesus as their God who had personally touched their lives. Only the blind man recognized God. As for the lame man, there is no record of his salvation, but there is record of his disobedience and lack of gratefulness. When we look at both accounts together, we can see from their differences how important it is to not only glorify and recognize God in our lives but to do whatever it takes so that we can see Him. There are at least two ways the lame man and the blind man differed.

1. They differed in their responses to their peers.

A man looks over the mountains, and a caption reads, "One thing I know: I was blind, now I see."

Both the lame man and the blind man were honest when answering the Jews’ questions about their healings, but the lame man cared more about the interests of his peers while the blind man was able to see through the Jews’ questioning and recognize their antagonistic motives.

“The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. The man departed, and told the Jews that is was Jesus, which had made him whole.”

John 5:10-15 (KJV)

“Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened? He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight. Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not….They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.”

John 9:10-12, 17 (KJV)

The now-healed lame man was at first unable to identify Jesus by name after he deferred blame to Him, but once he learned who it was who had healed him, he went back to the Jews to inform them that it was Jesus “which had made him whole.” The blind man appeared to care more about pleasing the Jews who were after Jesus than obeying Him. The healed blind man, however, knew Jesus by name and (inadequately) described Him as a prophet.

As they questioned him further, he discerned the Jews’ motives to catch Jesus and remained true to his testimony, refusing to be swayed by his interrogators. Pay attention to his response below:

“He answered, and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see….Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is. The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes….Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.”

John 9:25, 28-30, 32-33 (KJV)

The formerly blind man was now defending Jesus against the Pharisees’ accusation that Jesus was a sinner, discerning their attempts to disprove his story and smear Jesus. He pulled from his theological knowledge to expose the flaws in the Pharisees’ argument, confirming to them that if Jesus had been a sinner, He would not have been able to heal the blind man, proving that He was “of God.” The healed man’s bold and clever responses to the Pharisees resulted in them casting him out of the synagogue (ex: “They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out” [John 9:34, KJV]). Even though the healed man knew what might happen to him, he stood his ground against the Pharisees.

2. They differed in their responses to Jesus.

Jesus bends down and draws in the sand.

While both men initially obeyed Jesus’ instructions to be healed, the formerly lame man disobeyed Jesus later and failed to recognize who He is, whereas the formerly blind man responded to Jesus with both recognition and praise. Notice the blind man’s response to Jesus below:

“Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.”

John 9:35-38 (KJV)

The now-healed man recognized Jesus as Lord and worshipped Him, eager to believe. When Jesus told the formerly lame man not to sin anymore, the man turned right back around and tattle-taled on Jesus to the Jews.

One man recognized Jesus as Lord, and the other man failed to see who Jesus is, and his information to the Jews resulted in the Jews’ plan to persecute and kill Jesus.

From both of these accounts, we can glean at least two lessons:

1.) We must value God and the things he wants from us above all things, even if it costs us.

2.) We must not forget to give Him the glory for all He’s done for us.

The formerly blind man recognized and praised Jesus even after the Pharisees had excommunicated him from the synagogue for his defense of Jesus, but the formerly lame man did not recognize or believe on Him. He placed more value in pleasing the Pharisees. In fact, he showed no interest in obeying or praising Jesus whatsoever, perhaps proving he was the true blind man as were the Pharisees for lacking spiritual vision (see John 9:39-41).

A boy looks up at the sunset over the trees. A caption reads, "What will it take for you to see Jesus?"

What will it take for you to see God in your life and give Him the glory?

We may find ourselves going through the motions and doing what we’re told (as both men initially did when Jesus gave them instructions to be healed), but as we learn from the account of the lame man, we can still fall short of recognizing God at work in our lives.

Each day, we must look inside ourselves to ensure we are placing Jesus above all things in our lives. Getting closer to Jesus requires an attitude of willingness, devotion, dedication, and sacrifice. The kind of attitude that says, “No matter what it may cost me, I will stand by Jesus and testify of this truth.” The kind of attitude that makes us willing to remove anything that might keep us from recognizing Jesus. The kind of attitude that says, “I will do whatever it takes to follow and obey Him no matter what.”

If we want to see Jesus, we must devote ourselves to Him, give Him the glory, worship Him alone, and tell the world of His greatness.

3 Things That Remind Us of The True Meaning of Christmas as We Celebrate

Christmas is almost here, and 2020 is almost over. I’ve been savoring as much of this holiday season as I can because this crazy year has inspired me to stop taking the little joys in life for granted. Crowded malls, ice skating rinks, and Christmas light shows didn’t draw me in prior to 2020, but now, I’m itching to experience new adventures with close friends and family. I suppose you might say I used to let my own life and various things get in the way of those “little joys” in much the same way I allowed the tests and trials we’ve endured this year to distract me, momentarily, from the joy of living for Jesus in a tumultuous age.

But isn’t this the way our human mind often works? We get busy, we get stressed, and we get distracted. We often allow the external world and internal pressures and plans to absorb our attention and sway our emotions.

How often—amidst holiday planning, Christmas shopping, decorating, and baking—have you allowed yourself this season to stop and think about the importance of why we celebrate Christmas? How often have you meditated on the fact that our God, who didn’t need to leave His Throne in Heaven, came down to us, wrapped Himself in flesh, lived among us on this earth, raised disciples, performed miracles, and endured persecution and rejection only to die an excruciating death on the Cross to save us from our sins before raising Himself from the tomb so that we don’t have to pay the eternal price for our own mistakes? Sure, many of us may have heard this message preached and have read it in the Gospels one thousand times, especially this time of year, but how often do we really allow ourselves to take time out and thank God that He came for us?

Life gets busy. We’ve got relatives coming over for Christmas, or we have to visit relatives’ houses, or we have to help plan or participate in a Christmas play, or we have to do all of these things and manage to keep our stress levels down so we, too, can enjoy Christmas day. The hustle and bustle often causes many to dread the holidays and long for Christmas to be over before it’s even begun, but we cannot allow the commercialization of Christmas to wear down our spirits and dampen our enthusiasm for celebrating the birth of our Savior. We cannot allow the true meaning of Christmas to become lost amidst all the planning, baking, gift-opening, gatherings, activities, and cute decorations. And so, to help you keep your mind focused on the real reason why we celebrate Christmas for the remainder of this week as you gather with loved ones near or far, here are three things you can spot around you that symbolize aspects of the true story of Christmas:

1. The Christmas Tree Topper

On top of our Christmas tree is a bright star that we purchased from Walmart a few years ago. We replaced our 20-year-old angel topper that I remember from my childhood. It was a beautiful angel–small and clothed in a simple white robe. It had blonde curls and a tiny halo, and its hands were pressed together and its eyes closed like it was praying. I have many memories of getting this angel out with the Christmas décor every year and seeing it lit atop the tree, looking as though it were silently meditating on the birth of our King as it glowed a soft yellow light. Now, our star topper glows with an even softer yellow light than our angel did, but nearly every time I look at it, I think of this line from an old Christmas song: “A star, a star, dancing in the night with a tail as big as a kite.”

This line is, of course, from the song “Do You Hear What I Hear,” which is from the perspective of various elements or participants in the Christmas story, but it calls to mind how the star in the east guided the wise men to Jesus. Perhaps as you look at your star or angel topper this year, it will remind you to draw near to our King and worship Him for His Glory.

(9) “When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

(10) When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”

~Matthew 2:9-10 (KJV)

2. The Gifts Under The Tree

Under our Christmas tree are gifts for each member of our family that we open each Christmas morning. In a house of introverts, our gift-opening is very calm and relaxing. I have the job of turning on our Christmas Pandora radio station on the screen for background music and pulling out the gifts from under the tree. My sister directs the correct gifts to each recipient, and then we wait as our parents open theirs first. Then, my sister and I open our stockings and other presents, and as we all gradually open our gifts, we smile, chuckle, offer gratitude, and make sure the cats don’t chew on the wrapping paper.

But we don’t give out gifts for our own enjoyment only. The tradition of gift-giving is to commemorate how the wise men brought gifts to the child-King Jesus.

“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” ~Matthew 2:11 (KJV)

Perhaps the gifts under your Christmas tree are in gold wrapping paper or have gold bows taped to the top of each gift like ours do. Perhaps as each of us unwrap our gifts this year and watch loved ones open theirs, the gold paper and bows will remind us of the treasures the wise men gave to Jesus. Perhaps the gifts will remind us how Jesus gave His life for us. And perhaps they’ll remind us how we should offer up ourselves and our worship as our gift to Him.

3. The Nativity Scene

We’ve had the same nativity, or manger, scene for as long as I can remember, and it’s as well put together as it was when I was a child. In my own room, I have a manger scene and pictures depicting this scene as well. In both rooms, this scene is at the center of all other Christmas decorations. It wouldn’t seem fitting to place a tree or some other decoration in the center and leave the manger scene to the side. The manger scene depicts the birth of our King with other figures from the story of His birth gazing down at our Savior. It’s a mesmerizing scene to behold, reminding us of the miracle of our great God putting Himself in one tiny body as a newborn baby to live on earth and become our resurrected King. The manger scene captures the awe of that moment when His Creation, both man and nature, beheld the glory of our Messiah.

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

~Luke 2:10-14 (KJV)

As you open gifts, devour Christmas dinner and festive desserts, and chat with loved ones this week, all you have to do to stay focused on Him is look around and spot the symbols that represent the birth of our King. You can pass around gifts and remember the gifts the wise men brought to Jesus. You can gaze at your lit tree and meditate on the star of Bethlehem or the angels glorifying the newborn King. You can glance over at the nativity scene and visualize the night our long-prophesied Messiah was born, the evidence of hope and light in the darkness for His people then and for us even now.

Our hope is in Jesus, whose miraculous birth we must not allow the distractions of this world to overshadow. Jesus is the reason for the season.

Breathe Pray Repeat will be on a brief break until this coming Monday as I celebrate our King Jesus with my family. Merry Christmas to all BPR readers and subscribers! I appreciate all of you and hope you have a wonderful Christmas celebration with loved ones.

~Caitlin Hale

Our True Value

30% off sales galore
On toys and clothes from every store!
Hurry to get them before they’re all gone
When the Black Friday shoppers battle at dawn!

Shopping carts clash and fights become petty;
You buy all the things but run out of money.

~a poem by yours truly. Quite Shakespearean, don’t you think?

•••••

Black Friday has commenced once again, and I may have bought fuzzy socks on sale, but even I have to remind myself every year that “things” are not why we’re here. If we’re not careful, we can become obsessed with buying and acquiring all the things we think we want–shoes, appliances, boats, new hunting gear, or whatever we’ve set our sights on. Before we know it, materialism has consumed our pocketbook and corrupted our sense of value. Many consumers wind up finding their happiness in the things they acquire as though they’ve won trophies and have elevated their own social status.

But we do tend to equate a person’s value with the things they own or the amount of money they have. If a person has a bigger house, better car, or money for elaborate vacations every year, we think they’re more important or special than us. They mean more because they’re “worth” more. However, our value is not found in things but in our salvation and in Christ. This material, physical, tangible world will not remain forever, and sometimes we must remind ourselves not to make idols of the things we may possess.

(19) “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
(20) But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:”

~Matthew 6:19-20, KJV

Although shopping in itself is not an evil thing and neither is money, it is the love of money that is the root of all evil. Instead of finding our value in the things we can’t take with us to Heaven, we must remember that to God we are all worth saving in spite of what we may or may not have. The poor man is as special and valuable to God as the rich man. Our home is in Heaven and our worth is in Christ. So, while all the things we may have are okay and are often gifts from God, they are not what determines our value in life.

I love clothes and shoes and hats like many girls, but I know that whether I’m wearing that expensive, pretty, new dress that is all the rave or not, my worth does not change to God. I know that we should all instead strive to remind ourselves this time of year to remember what’s truly important and why we’re celebrating this season. We celebrate Christmas not for the things we can buy but to commemorate the birth of the One who thought we were worth saving. Jesus came to save the poor, the lost, the broken, the lonely, the hurting. He is our treasure, and Heaven is our goal.

“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”

~Colossians 3:2 (KJV)