I Am Always With You
Pocket Full of Easter
Journey to The Cross
I Am Always With You
People often ask if I’m afraid to travel alone. I’ve been traveling alone for most of my professional life but there is something different about traveling on airplanes and staying in hotels as compared to driving cross country and staying in campgrounds. At times, it becomes unnerving.
As I travel, if I let my imagination run wild, I could be afraid of many things. Will I break down by the side of the road and have no one to help me? What about a fatal car accident? Will one of the people I talk with turn out to be an ax murderer? I know what to do about fears that are statistically improbable. I’m as careful as I know how to be but I don’t let such fears dominate my mind or stop me from following the voice of God.
Other fears, however, are more insidious and can even masquerade as the voice of reason or even the voice of God. When I hear the “Still Small Voice” whisper directions, another voice usually shouts, “YES BUT…”
• Yes but - what if my family needs me back home?
• Yes but -you will be wasting your time because nothing you say will be useful to anyone.
• Yes but – nothing you write will be worth the time it takes for anyone to read it.
• Yes but – you might not have enough money for the trip.
• Yes but – who do you think you are to be able to hear the voice of God?
I usually have to answer these fears one at a time with one word – the resurrection. When Jesus died, the disciples shrunk in terror of the same fate happening to them. They had walked and talked with Jesus but had lost faith in His power. Their fears and insecurities dominated their waking thoughts and haunted their dreams. When they saw the power of the resurrection, these human cowards became mighty warriors for God. Instead of living in the shadow of the cross, they now lived in the light of the resurrection. They may have been afraid but they joyfully fulfilled God’s call. When we understand the power of the resurrection, we can do all things through Christ.
Read John 11:25-26.
I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" NIV
• Listen to Jesus whisper, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
• Let yourself believe His words, “He who believes in me will live.”
• Ask God to help you understand the power of the resurrection.
• Ask God to help you claim the power of the resurrection in your life.
• Tell God your joys, fears, and needs. Praise Him in everything.
• Pray for knowledge of God’s will for you today and the power to carry that out.
• Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.
Morning Bible Study
The problem with doing the wrong thing is that it is not ever really over until we take responsibility and make amends. The loose ends of deceit and corruption haunt and choke us as we continually plot the cover-ups and desperately try to remember the details. So it was with the Chief Priests and Pharisees. Jesus was dead but they were still worried. Read Matthew 27:62-64.
The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. "Sir," they said, "we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again.' So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first." NIV
• Who did the Chief Priests and Pharisees go to?
• What did they call Jesus?
• What were they worried about?
Can’t you just imagine Pilate’s sigh when he saw them coming? He must have wondered if this would ever be over for him. As he had done before, he gave in to their demands. Read Matthew 27:5-66.
"Take a guard," Pilate answered. "Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how." So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard. NIV
• What orders did Pilate give?
It is laughable to think that mere guards were more powerful that God. Read Matthew 28:1-7.
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you."
• What happened at the tomb?
• How did the mighty Roman guards react?
• After the angel comforted the women, what did he say?
• What instructions did the angel give the women?
Have you ever wondered why Jesus appeared to women first? I’ve heard women offer humorous theories, but since I try not to participate in the sport of male bashing, I won’t repeat them. Have you ever been afraid yet filled with joy? Read what happened in Matthew 28:8-10.
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me." NIV
• Did the women follow the instructions of the angel of God?
• How did the women feel?
• How did Jesus comfort them?
• What were Jesus’ instructions?
• What did Jesus promise?
In Matthew 28:11-14, we get a glimpse into the minds and motives of the Chief Priests. Up until now, we could hope that while they erred greatly, at least they genuinely believed Jesus was a fraud. However, we find them still concerned with maintaining control, even in the face of proof. There can be no doubt that these greedy power mongers were trying to wrest control even from God. One wonders how big their God was if they thought they could maintain control.
While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, "You are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." NIV
• How did the Chief Priests and Elders insure the soldiers cooperation?
• What do you think they were concerned about?
Jesus appeared to many different people before His return to heaven. Just before He left earth, He left us with a commission. Read the famous Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20.
The Great Commission - Matt 28:16-20
Doubt and Obedience
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." NIV
• How did the disciples obey Jesus?
• Where does Jesus have authority?
• What is our command?
• What is our promise?
Suddenly the power of the resurrection transformed the shivering sniveling timid disciples. Read Mark 16:19-20.
After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. NIV
• Where did Jesus go after He gave the Great Commission?
• What did the disciples do?
• What did the Lord do as the disciples went out and preached?
How blessed the disciples were. They saw Jesus and they believed. Read Jesus’ promise to us in John 20:29.
Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." NIV
• Why are the disciples blessed?
• Who is more blessed than the disciples?
The Marys were terrified and yet joyful as they obeyed the words of God. I used to think that if I had enough faith, fear would go away but perhaps as we listen to and obey the quiet but surprising voice of God, going out in fear mingled with joy is the best we can hope for. If we claim the power of the resurrection, God will work with us and confirm our words with signs. As we witness the power of God, our fear dissipates and joy is made whole.
On my 2005 missionary journey, I was more nervous than usual. I was taking off in a camper that had already proven mechanically unreliable. We’d fixed every problem we knew of but I wondered how many more there were. Even if things worked as expected, would I be able to dump the holding tanks, lubricate the generator with oil, or get the camper leveled? I had more to lose if something happened to me because I had an infant grandson who I wanted to see grow up. I had specific dates for places I had to be, so I worried about logistics. As I prepared for the journey, on the scale that ranges from fearful to joyful, I was more on the fearful side.
On the Sunday before I left, my Sunday School teacher, Jim Gandy, had the class form a circle around me and pray for me. As I walked out of the classroom, my friend Charlene Allen, followed me and said, “I want to give you this bracelet. I love this bracelet but God told me to give it to you.” She took the tiny silver bracelet off her wrist and put it on mine. Engraved in raised letters were the words, “I am always with you.”
During the worship service, my church held a commissioning service for missionaries. As I stood up front with the other missionaries, I claimed that title for the first time in my life. I cried as the pastor somberly charged us with the Great Commission. As I listened to the words of his sermon on the Great Commission, I realized that the words on my bracelet were the promise given by Jesus at the end of the famous commissioning service. Humbly, I rubbed the raised letters of my bracelet. These words became the watchwords of the entire journey as I learned to claim the power of the resurrection.
I rubbed the bracelet again that afternoon when God sent a lonely confused mother who needed to hear about Jesus. God supplied the words I needed and I knew He would supply the signs that would later affirm those words to this woman.
I stroked those holy words every time my vehicle broke and I watched the power of God turn a frustrating situation into an opportunity to fulfill His commission.
I grasped these powerful words tightly as I prayed for wisdom and discernment when a frightening transient stalked my every step. God told me what to do to extricate myself from what I know was a potentially life threatening situation.
I claimed the power of these words for the man I challenged to ask the God he didn’t believe in to prove Himself. When this man agreed to take the challenge, I warned him that God would confirm these words with signs.
I trusted in the power of these words on the multiple times God called on me to speak with demon worshippers and those involved in the occult. I didn’t get up the nerve to emulate Jesus and actually speak to the demons in these people but I felt their presence. I ran into more people involved in the occult than on any other journey.
On my more human days, I let myself worry about or even judge the rebellious disobedience I witnessed in our great country but then I remembered grace. If I live in grace without judging what I witness and claim the power of the resurrection, I have hope for my country and the people I meet. If I remember that God is always with me, fear may whisper my name but the joy of the Lord is my shepherd.
Go through your day today, knowing that God is always with you. Claim the power of the resurrection in everything God calls you to do.