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Living Out of the Tomb

By Chris Baxter

He is risen! We are called to "out of the tomb" living. What does this look like for the follower of Christ?

On Easter Sunday morning, we as believers celebrated THE monumental day of our Christian faith. We woke up with joy, we sang songs of praise, we ate great food, we fellowshipped, we acknowledged our Savior to each other, and we felt hope in our unified proclamation.

And then... we went back to sleep.

On Monday morning as I rolled sleepily out of bed to start another week, I had this quiet thought concerning our day-before-festivities, "What does it mean to live 'out of the tomb'?"

For one, it means we can walk (and even run!) freely in Christ because of His amazing grace.

Let's recall the simplicity of the gospel: Jesus died for us, was buried for us, and rose again for us. He took our sins on his body, was buried with these sins, and then wonder-fully left these sins behind. He himself said, "it is finished!"

Why then do we keep some of sin's grave clothes wrapped around us as we "exit the tomb" with our Savior? Some entangling strips come to mind: unfounded fear, unnecessary worry, stiff-necked pride, wavering doubt, tight-fisted control, spit-fire words, bitter jealousy, unloving spirit, insatiable lust, meddlesome gossip. Yuck. Are any of these attitudes still wrapped around your shoulders like a stinky burial cloth? These things were meant to be left behind. The gift of freedom is for all; however, it's a one-time choice (salvation), but also a daily practice (sanctification) to believe and receive his offer.

Today, ask yourself, "What do I need to leave 'in the tomb'?''

Take the stench off. Fold it up and put it away forever. Of course, we cannot be sinless, and of course we will always struggle, but it's time to grow more aware and be more desirous of the glory-filled person Jesus longs for us to be.

He lives!

He lives... in you!

He lives in you... out of the tomb!

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

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Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Two Words can Change Everything

By Chris Baxter

I was talking to a young friend of mine about our common struggle; it's called the "fear factor." Sometimes this unchecked emotion can be immobilizing, or it can even make you run in the opposite direction from where you know you are supposed to be headed. As we were discussing some of life's overwhelming decisions that certainly do come down our paths, I told her that I've learned, especially in difficult, doubting, or daunting times, to live by these two words: in Christ. The simple whisper to my soul of the words "in Christ" motivates me to take the next step, to say the next word, to write the next post, to move the next mountain.

As believers, we all struggle with something, but we don't have to be overcome by it, losing our true selves in the fight. Let's remember just who it is that abides in us! When we do, everything can change:

In Christ, fear changes to confidence.

In Christ, confusion changes to peace.

In Christ, doubt changes to faith.

In Christ, no self worth changes to full purpose.

In Christ, weakness changes to strength.

In Christ, selfish living changes to selfless giving.

In Christ, discouragement changes to hope.

I could go on and on. When each of these fleshly tendencies mentioned above are invaded by the life of Christ, his powerful glory fills our weak flesh. Your drab mindset and gray heartbeat change to a radiance that doesn't belong to you, yet is graciously given to you... in abundance.

In Christ we become fully alive!

What about you? What unchecked emotion needs to be swallowed up in Christ? Let his Spirit overcome your fear, your dismay, your confusion, your self worth...

Faith first; your feelings will follow. Keep stepping forward in Christ.

The truth is, when you live by these two words, not only will you benefit from this choice-change, others will want what you have; they will desire ...Christ in them.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves. 2 Corinthians 4:7

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Thursday, March 11, 2021

Pray like Hannah

By Chris Baxter

Do you want to pray more, but just need some guidance in learning how? Forty Day Journey of Prayer can help assist you. "Pray like Hannah" is a sample page from this devotional.

Do you want to enrich your prayer life but just need some guidance to do so? I have written a devotional called Forty Day Journey of Prayer to help. Each day is meant to both encourage you in God's word and also reveal God's heart concerning his desire to hear your unique voice. Below is a sample day from the devotional in which we see Hannah pouring her soul out to the Lord...

Day 16

 As for Hannah, she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard. So Eli thought she was drunk…But Hannah replied, “No, my lord, I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the Lord.” 1 Samuel 1:13-15

For the full story, please read 1 Samuel 1:1-20.

The story of Hannah is most likely a familiar one to all of us. She was married to Elkanah, but was unable to bear children. She longed for a baby, and waited and waited for one to come, but to no avail. So, she prayed.

Was this fervent praying that we read about in the above passage the first time Hannah had prayed over her heart’s desire? No, I don’t believe it was. Scripture says that year after year she was provoked by Peninnah, who was Elkanah’s second wife. (Imagine that situation!). This woman was able to bear children, and taunted Hannah tirelessly. Hannah had lived in this distressing environment fora long, long time. I would bet that all that time, she prayed fervently for a child.

After reading and thinking about this passage, pondering what to write, I heard the gentle whisper, Pray like Hannah. I thought of that simple sentence and realized just how powerful it was. Let’s look and visualize how she prayed:

She, greatly distressed, prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. (1 Samuel 1:10)

She was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving… (1 Samuel 1:13).

(Hannah said), “I have poured out my soul before the Lord.” (1 Samuel 1:15)

What if we all prayed like Hannah? Can we? One thing it requires is time. Hannah went up to the house of the Lord (v. 7). We too must make a deliberate choice to set aside time and go to the Lord. Also, Hannah was vulnerable. She wept before the Lord, pouring out her distress and her desire. She was so involved in her praying, she forgot everything around her. Unashamed and unhindered, she prayed.

This morning, once again, I felt the gentle nudging, pray like Hannah. In the quiet darkness, I stood up--not sure why; I just did. I recited my prayer list in my mind, but at the same time, I poured it out from my heart. I talked to theLord about all the things that I had committed to Him. I just kept talking with a small whisper. Lifting up my hands, I kept pouring it all out. The beautiful thing is, I know I was heard. Peace flooded in.

I cannot fully understand the mystery of prayer, but I can understand the command to doit. I will never be able to explain the reason for the “no’s”, the “wait’s”, or the “yes’s”, but I can trust His sovereign plan to answer in His right way, and in His right time. For Hannah, after years of a seeming “no”, the cry of her heart became a “yes”. Let this encourage you.

In your journal write down the name Sovereign Lord, and then write your prayer list underneath. Today, find some time and space to pray like Hannah. Take your list before the One who hears and honors your heartfelt, soul-bearing cries. Don’t give up. If He commands us to pray, there is a reason for it.

For further reading and journaling write down any words that encourage you: Exodus2:23-25; Psalm 142:1-2

Dear Lord,

ThankYou for listening to us! Hear our cries, O Lord. We lift up all our requests toYou in earnest knowing that we have been heard. We trust You to work. We thankYou for Your peace. Amen

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Monday, February 15, 2021

GIVE: Tips in dealing with Seasonal Depression

By Chris Baxter

A couple of weeks ago, on a cold dreary day, I was cocooned in a blanket on my couch for my usual Saturday afternoon nap. With college football on in the background and my little dog nestled at my feet, I couldn't help but feel the oncoming winter, not outside my home, but inside my soul. As I lay there, I was talking to God about it, saying, "O God, here it comes...that old familiar gloom that I'm going to wrestle, off and on, for the next several months. Please GIVE me something to help me move forward in this season."

Wrapped in my blanket, he unfolded a plan.

Before I go further, I want to empathize with all of you who deal with depression of some kind. And also, I want to ask for grace from those of you who do not. A way to explain a depressed spirit is to compare it to a rainy day. When it's raining outside, one cannot say, "It's not raining." Likewise, someone who is dealing with depression, is indeed depressed. To say, "Get over it", is defeating on many levels.

We may not get over it, but with God's strength, we can function in it. Just like opening an umbrella, putting on a rain jacket, and stepping into galoshes all help shield us from physical rain, these steps below can help you and me when the gloom creeps in.

Here is the unfolding that took place as I lay listening to the Lord. Its outline is the acronym GIVE:

G--Give yourself grace, one day at a time. Do what you can do that day. Also "G" stands for these things: Get sleep--so important! Get dressed--I mean that spiritually first. Spend time with the Lord every morning and let him speak truth into your heart. God's word is my life-line. I need him to reroute my thinking EVERY morning. Also, Get dressed physically. Wash your face. Brush your teeth. Simply freshen up. Get out of your PJs (even if you're putting on other comfy clothes). Here are your options: Get up or Give in. Choose to get up, and with grace, inch forward.

I--Initiate. Physically, do something productive. One day it may be as small as clearing the kitchen sink of dirty dishes; another day it may be to write a book! Again, grace for each new day. Also, Initiate relationally. Send one text that asks someone how they are doing or how you can pray for them. Or, make a phone call. Or, meet someone face to face. Think about somebody else rather than yourself. Get "willfully lost in the rain" by praying for dozens of people you know and love. Your choices are: Initiate... or isolate. Today, choose to Initiate.

V--claim Victory "in the rain". The grey clouds may not stop rolling in and spilling out, but you can choose to be victorious as it pours. This is where my faith in Christ becomes my stronghold. HE is with me always as my closest Companion. I am never alone. He is light and love inside of me through his Spirit. His grace and strength move me forward no matter how I feel. In the rain, I can and I will rejoice. Victory in it, or victim of it. Ask the Lord to help you choose the former.

E--This is very practical: Eat well, Exercise regularly, Enjoy a wholesome hobby. Quite frankly, I really don't like eating healthy foods, ugh. I'm trying to develop a taste for broccoli and other green things, but chips and chocolate will always be my favorites. In the aging process however, I'm much more aware of the adverse effects of unhealthy eating. Therefore, I'm inching forward in the nutrition department. Concerning, Exercise, just do it, says Nike. Pick something; anything is better than nothing. I walk with a friend and we pray together; this has been transformational for me in numerous ways and I highly recommend it to everyone. And then, Enjoy. What do you love to do? Make room for this activity (or non-activity; for example, I enjoy my Saturday afternoon nap, "watching" football with my husband.) Eat well, Exercise, Enjoy or... escape into unhealthy alternatives. Again, ask God to help you choose the former.

On that cold dreary day in November, I rolled over inside of my cozy blanket on the couch and thanked God for his detailed Counseling session. (To think, it was free!) And then a little later, I decided it was time to get up. I went to the kitchen and cleared the sink of the dirty dishes...claiming absolute victory, in the rain.

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Thursday, November 12, 2020

An RN's Testimony of God's Faithfulness

By Chris Baxter

As some of you know, my daughter Emmy, is an RN on the Covid floor at Vanderbilt hospital. Today I want to share a post that she wrote for Soul Sisters Ministry concerning her "word for 2020" which is "faithful." May you be inspired and encouraged:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful”  Hebrews 10:23

When asked to write a post about 2020 my first reaction was, “Really? I’m not totally sure you want to hear what I have to say about it haha!”. But the more I thought on it, the more I realized how cathartic for myself writing this post would be; and more importantly, a huge testament to God’s character.

I would first like to share a journal entry I wrote at the end of December 2019. At this time, I was already struggling with the intensity of my very first job as a nurse on a Cardiac Medicine Stepdown Unit at Vanderbilt. I was only about three months in, but I already felt the emotional and physical toll this field can take on someone. This is what I wrote:

“Ruth and Esther…women of faith! They did not have easy lives, so why do I expect one? What is it about human nature that shies away from hard work. We crave easy, we crave no stress, no pressure. But without pressure, how would God mold us? Ruth and Esther pressed into the molding. They listened to the counsel of those around them, older than them, wiser than them. I long for that in my life Jesus. To be a woman of faith is to obey you even when it is scary, when it’s hard. I’m so resistant to change Jesus, I pray I would not be resistant to your voice. Jesus, help me not to allow fear to guide my actions”.

After writing this entry, I began reading through and studying the books of Ruth and Esther. Looking back now, I can see so clearly how the Lord was faithfully preparing my heart for the year to come.

2020 has been a big year for me, I got married as well as dove headlong into my first year of nursing! Mid March was when things really turned upside down. Amidst wedding planning and night shift, I was told that my unit would be going from the Cardiac Medicine floor to the Covid floor…yikes! This was a scary time. And to be honest with you, it still is. Each day that I go in to work, I walk in not knowing what kind of condition my patients will be in. Some days it seems as if people are healing, making a quick recovery; other days I have individuals whose hands I’m holding as they take their final breaths.

Through it all I can hear the Lord saying to me as He once said to Esther, “For such a time as this.” Each day I choose to go into work with the confidence that this is where the Lord is calling me right now. Without his faithfulness through this year, I would have given up so many times. His presence alone is what has sustained me. Everyday, with every patient, he renews in me a desire to bring to them His tender love and healing.

God has also been faithful to me through my new husband. What a joyful gift he gave me in him! Up until one week before our set date, we were unsure if we were going to be able to have a wedding haha! But because of God and his faithfulness, we were able to have the most beautiful weekend surrounded by friends and family as they celebrated our union together. Over and over again, God has shown me his faithfulness through Kyle and how well he loves me.

Lastly, I want to share a song that has become very special to me this year, a great reminder of God’s faithful goodness! It’s called The Goodness of God, here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvSuGyJQ6oM

Dear Jesus,I pray that each day you would open my eyes to see how you are being/have been faithful to me. I pray that I would trust you even when it’s hard, and that I would be confident that you will equip me with your strength. Thank you for making me brave even when I feel as if I am not. Thank you for your goodness.

Amen

For further reading: Esther 4:14; Ruth 2; Lamentations 3: 21-23

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Monday, November 2, 2020

The Glorious Fall

By Chris Baxter

I grew up in the deep southern woods of Mississippi--lots and lots of pine trees towered over our home. So when I moved "way up here" in Tennessee, the colorful fall season took me by surprise. Year after year, I am mesmerized by the radiant reds, the fiery oranges, and the brilliant golds that are bursting from the trees and bushes--incredible, breath-taking beauty.

I'm sure I am not the first to correlate God's seasons with His love story:

Fall represents His dying for us on the cross.

Winter represents His burial, enclosed in a death that we will never have to endure.

Spring represents His resurrection... a newness of life for all who believe.

And Summer represents the growth and abundance of this new life.

So, here we are again in the seasonal cycle; the glorious fall surrounds us. It's hard to believe these brilliant leaves on the trees are actually dying. But isn't that exactly what happened at the cross? Listen to Jesus' words to His Father, just before He was taken into custody:

"Father, it's time. Display the bright splendor of Your Son so the Son in turn may show Your bright splendor." (msg, John 17:1)

Two thousand years ago, the King of Glory hung on a tree, dying. His fiery passion for the world He loved held Him there, not the nails. His perfect crimson blood was willingly shed for you and me. And as our Savior's life was drained from Him, it was the most tragically beautiful gift to behold. Before the darkness of "winter" encroached, the Light of the World triumphantly cried out, "It is finished." Indeed, it was awe-full.

Today, this day, when I see the radiance all around me and watch these colorful trees of the field clapping their hands, I know why they're applauding. I want to join them in honor of the King that gave His life a ransom for many. And I too, just as the trees are teaching us in this season, want to die to myself so Christ can live radiantly inside and outside of me, drawing many to His marvelous light.

Yes, as I look all around me, I will praise Him, and thank Him, and worship Him... for His glorious Fall.

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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Daily Prayer

Luring

And Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight--why the bush does not burn up." Exodus 3:3

Dear Lord,

Turn our heads to see your holiness. Pull our hearts towards your glory. Make us curious enough to walk towards you and willing enough to respond to all that you have in mind. Call us, challenge us, change us. Amen.