Once again, happy Easter, everybody. Worship team. You guys killed. Not only did you kill, but we called it living and worship. But honestly, nobody has that in their living room.

It’s it’s all a lie. I just wanted to say my name is Tony. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m one of the ministers here on staff. And it’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since we last had people in the building for an Easter service. Our last Easter service at the building was April twenty fourth, twenty first I’m sorry of twenty nineteen. And things in that time looked quite different than they do today.

Like in twenty nineteen. If you were wearing a mask people would think there was something seriously wrong with you and then if you like, asked a hospitality team member if you can socially distance first, they would have no idea what that meant and then they would probably call the police and say there was a suspicious person at the building. That’s just the truth. Things are weird, aren’t they? Two years ago we had like twelve hundred people in the building for Easter and between the three, you know, every seat was filled and we have services and, you know, and you would sit next to any person, you know, as long as you can get a seat.

And here we are, you know, a couple of years later. And our three services are probably going to have four hundred people or so. Things are weird. You’re walking in and getting your temperature checked. You have preregistration and on and on and on. It’s even strange because there’s an air of suspicion in the air, isn’t there, around stuff. You might have thought to yourself as you walked in. Those people on stage are singing without a mask.

Are they allowed to do this? And I don’t know, maybe you’re right. I don’t know. But but the point is that there’s fear and concern in the air and things are weird, like like we’ve been so divided. Things I say some are specific, some are suspicious. But there’s others who are thinking that all this stuff is stupid. And I get that, too. I’m not making any specific point at all. I’m just saying is that for lack of a better word, things have been strange.

So much has been taken from us this past year has been filled with incalculable amounts of grief and immeasurable amounts of frustration and disappointment. And ultimately, that’s because this past season, the season that we’re in right now has been a season, has been a season. Yes. Playing music. This is not what I meant to do. If you if you’ve been part of the church for any length of time, you know that I’ve had so many problems with this clicker, it’s it’s been a season of: perfect.

Can you put the next slide? Yeah, waiting. Hasn’t it been have a season of waiting? Waiting. And what I just learned is that waiting is hard, especially and you can go to the next slide, especially when you’re waiting for good news. It’s interesting to me because this idea of waiting for good news is actually one of the major themes in the Bible, all over the place we see this concept in the scriptures, maybe not so not written this way, but that you see this idea that good news is on the way. You can change the slide.

Good news is on the way, you know, throughout the throughout the biblical text, we see people in seasons not too dissimilar from what we’re facing over the last 18 months. In fact, the characters of the Bible are so rich because their struggle is very similar to our struggle. They have to figure out how to navigate faith while they’re waiting on God to deliver something good. We see this throughout the Bible. But I want to show you one of the passages that as kind of an introduction to this lesson that has inspired me so much about the beauty of good news.

It’s in Isaiah chapter 52 verse seven. There’s this description of the way that I can feel. And I bet it’s the way that many of you have felt in this past season. And here’s the context. The people of Israel and Isaiah this time are going through turmoil. Their nation has been destroyed. They’re living in fear and in doubt and a lot of confusion. They’re waiting for a better world, something new to take shape. You know that feeling, don’t you?

But then in the middle of all the bad news, the Bible paints this beautiful picture. There’s a person looking out and they see this person running, they’re sitting at the city gates waiting for some news from the from the nation and waiting to hear a message, a herald to come and say something beautiful. And so what happens is there’s this description, this picture, I imagine, you know, the the Harold running and dust is billowing behind him as you sprinting with a message of hope.

And this is what Isaiah says about this messenger. How beautiful on the mountain are the feet of those who bring good news? Who proclaim peace. Who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, your God reigns as this people wait and watch and wonder. Isaiah describes the scene. Someone has finally come to bring good news. It’s news of liberty to those bound in fear. It’s good news for the weary and the heavy laden who are under the burden and the oppression of their own lives.

It’s good news to the Wanderers and to the frustrated. It’s good news to those who feel like they just need to shake off the dust of their own doubts and loose from the bones or lose themselves from the binds of their own disappointments. They’re waiting on good news. And here’s what I’ve learned in my whole life, is that good news is incredibly powerful, isn’t it? You get a call after you take that test and you’re worried for days, what is the doctor going to say?

And the phone rings and they say, hey, you’re all clear. The soul breathed a sigh of relief, doesn’t it? You’ve been trying for years to get pregnant and then you look down, you see those two red lines, and you can’t help but shout for joy. Heard back, you’ve been waiting and you got the job, your offer was accepted. The good news does something to the soul, doesn’t it? And maybe that’s the reason why good news is on the way is such a major theme of the Bible. And so today on Easter morning, I want to be a messenger for you. I want to have, quote unquote, beautiful feet. Maybe you’re familiar with the Christian faith and maybe you’re not. And you come with nothing. But but but whoever you are and however you come here today, what we’re going to talk about today, I want to take a look at the beginning and the end of the book of Mark.

You can go ahead and turn there with me if you have a Bible, if you don’t have a Bible, no big deal or be up on the screen. But we’re going to look at a couple of passages in the Book of Mark to kind of begin to unpack this idea that good news is on the way, but it’s not just on the way and in fact, is here. Mark, chapter one, verse one. This is what it says.

It says, The beginning of the good news about Jesus, the Messiah, the son of God. There’s a literary device in a lot of early writings called an [esipit] something like that. Basically, authors would put a summary of the entire book in the first line of the book, and they did that because papyrus in the old days was incredibly expensive. And so you had to kind of summarize, kind of give the author’s note at the very start.

So what you find in Mark chapter one, verse one is what all of Mark will be about. It will be about the beginning of the good news about Jesus, the Messiah, the son of God. And so if you can wrap your head around Mark Chapter one, you can wrap your head around the entire book of Mark. And I would also argue, if you can wrap your head around Mark, chapter one, verse one, you can also wrap your mind around the point of Easter.

So let’s take it word by word. The first thing we see and then I’d like to point out is that it’s good news. You may have a Bible that says gospel may say in the beginning, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. That word gospel there is translated euangelion and it basically means gospel. In the first century, it wasn’t actually a religious word at all. You may hear it now and think, man, I love that gospel music and you kind of related to church stuff.

But but but really, in the Roman Empire, gospel wasn’t a religious word at all. It was actually a political word used by the Roman government. euangelion was a royal announcement that would go out with a herald. It was the modern day equivalent of kind of a newspaper, but all it was, was good news. Imagine a newspaper like that. What a great newspaper that would be. The messages were usually about one of two things one, a king was born or put in power.

The second was that an army had just won a decisive battle. So it sounds something like this, you would see someone running into your village, you’d be the man in the city gates looking out, trying to to know if there was someone coming and then billowing behind them would be the smoke that they run with and they’re sprinting with a message from whomever. And it would say something like this, Cesar is king. And everyone would burst into cheers or he just defeated Octavian in the civil war or he brought peace and salvation.

And then the euangelion would end with something, according to many biblical scholars, with Caesar is Lord. That was the gospel of the first century. That was good news, but the thing you learned very quickly about good news is that good news is not necessarily good for everyone. Like, if you were suffering under Roman oppression, like the Jews in Mark’s day were, none of that would have been good news. How is it good news that the country that has destroyed your lives is continuing to reign?

How is it good news that another king has been slain? How is it good news that someone else is dying to your murderous ways? How is that any good news at all? Good news you find really is in the eye of the beholder, whether or not it’s any good at all and so Marks euangelion his gospel isn’t about Caesar or any earthly king or battle, for that matter. But he says the good news is a new type of king.

A new type of leader who has come on the scene and his name is Jesus. David Garland wrote this, he says, Gospel refers to the story about Jesus narrative in the text. It comprises of Jesus’s words, death and resurrection. As God directs intervention into history, it challenges an imperial cult propaganda catch that an imperial cult propaganda that promotes a message of good tidings and a new age of peace through the Roman Empire. The good news of the day was, hey, the empire is still reignning, it’s good, it’s peace.

It’s salvation, it’s awesome. And Mark goes that’s not good news at all. In fact, the gospel of Jesus redefined good news forever. See the book of Mark in many ways, is an attack on the propaganda of Rome and also an attack on the religious elite of Jesus’s day. Just think about it. The good news of Rome was King is sitting on the throne while the people live in abject poverty. The king is sitting on a throne has once again killed another nation, another people have been pillaged by the powerful.

And what’s the good news of Jesus? Well, here’s somebody who loves those who hate him. Who tells you to turn the other cheek, who speaks, who’s powerful enough to stand up against religious corruption, who so secure that he taught his his followers not to hate people, but love their neighbor as they love themselves? Mark is telling his audience, that’s good news. You want to hear good news? I got something totally different than what you grew up with.

Good news is not the powerful staying in power so they can continue to abuse those who are under them. Good news isn’t that we stay in the same system, the world that has caused so much pain. Good news isn’t that the hurting continue to be hurt or the broken stay broken or the sick remains sick or the abuser gets away. That’s not good news at all. See, this counterattack against the culture of the day is throughout the whole book.

But its implications, I would argue, really stay just as powerful to this day. And I want to talk about two reasons why, two reasons the good news of the gospel is actually good news. It’s right here in Mark, chapter one, verse one. I’ll hit them both really quickly. I’ll tie them to Easter and I’ll bring it all the way back around. That’s what I’m going to try to do. Let’s see what happens. Let’s talk about why the good news of Jesus is actually good news, there’s two reasons.

One is because he offers a new world. The second is because he offers a new way. The opening phrase of the gospel is in or the beginning of the good news. It’s interesting because the opening phrase of the Bible is in the beginning, and it’s when you translate when, how do I explain this? When the Old Testament was translated to Greek, there was this would be the exact same phrase they used, in the beginning, its original text, right, mark was saying right from the beginning, he’s trying to draw you in and tell you something that’s really unique, that the good news of Jesus takes us all the way back to the bad news of Eden.

These connections are really made throughout the whole Bible, and he’s a really fun one in Mark Chapter 10, verse one Jesus is baptizing getting baptized by John in the Jordan River and this is what it says. It says, Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the spirit descending on him like a dove. Here’s why this is so cool. And the Bible that Mark read is something called the Aramaic Tartegum. Genesis one one would have read something like this.

This comes from the Institute of Biblical and Scientific Studies. It would have read something like this in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth and the earth was uninhabitable and like a wasteland and the spirit of God flapped his wings over the waters like a dove. Isn’t that cool? So what is Mark saying? Remember that dove from the beginning? Remember the spirit that descended on the world? Well, guess what? It’s back. And this type of creation language is hinted to, alluded at echoed and even quoted throughout Mark’s gospel, why?

Well, as one scholar says, for Mark, the introduction of Jesus is no less monumental than the creation of the world’s. For Jesus, a new creation is at hand. Mark is telling us that in Jesus, there is a re creation happening. If you look at the entire scope of the Bible, it’s just so cool, you can see you can play out the storyline of the Bible in three ways creation decreation and then recreation.

In stage one creation, god made the whole world and everything was good and everything was in harmony and beautiful. And human beings, Adam and Eve were given the good world to rule. They were supposed to take up the potential of the world to make something beautiful. But you know, the story that is followed by de-creation, Adam and Eve turn away from God in the fall and turn instead to sin, and the sin was then let loose on all of the human race. Creations spiraled out of control from generation to generation to generation.

It just continued to spiral because of the sickness in our hearts. And we all feel this right? We see that there is just something wrong with this place. Why is there so much evil, why do people kill one another? Why do people exploit one another? Why? Well, it’s all because the world is no longer in sync with its creator. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be, something is out of whack, and it’s not just the world, but honestly there’s something wrong with you and me too, isn’t there?

Like, why we bent towards doing wrong things? There’s something wrong in the human condition. We’re born sort of like with a tilt towards evil that we have to constantly keep in check. So in Mark one mark is saying, hey, there’s a connection for us here. Jesus was giving birth to a new world. He was re creating the world for us. The world was coming to life again, a new world where someone loves the leper. A new world where someone cares for the poor and gives dignity to all a new world where the shame’s pushed back and the powers in check as one children’s Bible read, referencing my favorite book in Jesus, all the sad things come untrue.

J.R.R. Tolkien kinda it’s not really him, but it is his quote? Good news is coming. Good news is coming, a world is coming, a new world is coming, but that’s not all. You look back and mark chapter one, verse one it says the beginning of the good news about Jesus. And then he gives them two titles, the Messiah. Second title, Son of God. This may seem like not that big of a deal, but these two titles both have profound implications.

The first is that Christ, or as this Bible says, the Messiah means the anointed one. It’s the people who would leave the men lead the men and women of God back to its creator, who keep them, who would connect them back to the divine, the Messiah, the anointed one. It was the word for the person whose way we should follow to get back to the creator. But he’s given another title. It’s not just the Messiah.

It’s also the title of the Son of God. The son of God is language often used by the Roman Cesar. It started with Augustus who claimed to be the son of God, and it was such a popular phrase that a typical Roman coin in Marks day would have Caesar’s face on one side and the opposite side, a Latin phrase which meant son of God. What is Mark saying? You know, the religious elite, those who think they are like the Messiah?

And you know the way of the Cesar? Both their ways are no more. Instead, there’s someone else who is in control now. What a powerful statement that is just from the very beginning of Mark’s gospel, and this was a dangerous good news. Treasonous in fact. It’s no wonder Jesus was executed by the religious elite and the Roman government as a criminal. And all the apostles minus one were executed. And millions of Jesus followers throughout the year have been put to death.

People who would say Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, this euangelion wasn’t just a religious cliche. It’s a statement saying something real about the way that we think about what’s appropriate in life. It’s a statement about whose culture we will follow. It’s a statement that should bring us to kind of some sort of intensity about the idea that the old order of things, that the old way of things is not a good way to live, that we actually must sort of organize our steps and the way we live by something greater than the Caesar or the culture or the religious elite.

It’s a statement that saying that the real true bridge between heaven and earth, the mediator between God and man and the one we should allow to order our steps is not Caesar, but it’s Jesus. See, Mark for the rest of the book will continue to push in these two ideas that a new way is coming. I’m sorry, a new world is coming and a new way is coming. And again, these two storylines run all the way through Mark, but it’s in Mark chapter 16 at Easter where the storyline reached the dramatic climax. This is Easter morning, the first Easter morning in Mark chapter 16, verse one, I’m going to read it to you. And as I read it to you, just take notice of the the response of the women. When the sabbath was over Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James and Solome, brought spices so that they might go and anoint Jesus’s body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb.

They’re expecting to find a dead body, and as they get there, they’re going to anoint the dead body of Jesus. Certainly, they had hoped that he would be something greater, but it turned out that he wasn’t, at least in their mind. He was a great teacher. He was a great rabbi, but he really wasn’t who he claimed to be in the least that we can do is go anoint the body. Go connect with the body says, but when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which is very large, had been rolled away and as they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

Don’t be alarmed, he said, you’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He has risen he is not here . See the place where they laid him. But go tell the disciples and Peter he is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you. Now, this should be a moment of celebration. What? You know like they’re like yeah, like there’s super pumped and they start sprinting back to the disciples to interact and this should be a moment of salvation, of super super celebration.

But notice the words trembling and bewildered. The women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone because they were afraid. Now. If they had believed that when Jesus said or if they understood, when Jesus said he was going to rise from the dead, they actually believed it was going to happen or they knew it was going to happen. This moment would have been a moment of celebration. But instead, it’s a moment, bewilderment and trembling, they’re afraid.

Those are the words used to describe Mary and these women. The women are scared to death on the first Easter morning. Why? Here’s where we get to the good stuff. The short answer is because for centuries they were waiting. They had heard through the scriptures and to the teachers that good news was on the way. The new world is on the way, the recreation was on the way, they believe that one day the creator God was going to fix the world.

They believe that that a new heaven and a new earth would be birth, that sometimes they believe that recreation was going to happen one day at the end of history, right. When God makes everything right when he comes back and he restores all things when he makes it right. But they expected it. But at Easter, nobody was expecting that one day would become today. You can put it this way, the resurrection means that Jesus dragged the future into the present.

And opened up a new world. And a new way right in the middle of this one. M.T. Wright says when Jesus rose from the dead on Easter morning, he rose as the beginning of a new world that Israel’s God had always intended to make. That is the first and most important thing to know about the meaning of Easter. The world that God always intended to create in the future he did in the middle of history. Easter is the start of a movement away from the old order of life into something brand new where men and women could begin to see heaven and earth sort of like kiss one another.

But living out the teachings of Jesus and when we get right, when we get it right, it’s like opening up a portal to heaven in the middle of the world. How cool is that? The gospel is saying you’ve been waiting for good news, but good news is come. It’s not on the way, there’s no more wandering, there’s no more trying to figure out what’s the best way to live and how do I figure out how to restore the world?

There’s no more of that it’s here. Easter is a celebration, that recreation is at hand. The resurrection is the inauguration of that idea. You know, you may look and think it was thousands of years ago, though, and the world is still destroyed and it was a different language and they wore different clothes, you know, or whatever. And think, what does this have to do with me? It has everything to do with you. Here’s the end of Mark’s gospel, verse 15, he that’s Jesus said to them, this is after he rose from the dead after they already interacted.

Now he’s telling them to move forward. He’s telling them, hey, this is what you need to do, go into the world and preach that good news. The gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. Jesus back from the dead tells his followers, go tell people. What are you going to tell people or simply go tell people, go make disciples, go be the beautiful feet of good news, teach anybody who will listen that there is a new way to live?

You can escape from The Truman Show. You can hit the hatch. You can leave this corrupt world behind. You can get out of the rat race and out of the hamster wheel, you can escape from the lies the world tells you and the lies your soul, your inner sort of self evil self tells you, your flesh tells you. You don’t have to only value what you achieve your whole life doesn’t have to be about how pretty you look and what car you drive.

You can actually escape the matrix. You can escape from the tyranny of social media and the 24 hour news cycle, you can escape from the constant pull of the patterns of the world. You don’t have to live in this divided culture anymore. You can live in a world with other people trying to restore God’s good world. You can actually hit the eject button and get out of this nonsense that we’re in right now. You can find a hatch and be free from this world.

Look, what I’m trying to tell you is that every one of us look at the world and go, there’s a problem here and all of us think, I wish there was a better way. And Jesus 2000 years ago is like there is. There is. How do you do it? You embrace the way of Jesus. A way where your life is not focused on how much you can get. A way, where we’re not focused on how good you look. But a way where you’re life is focused on being like his, you cast your anxieties onto him.

We take your burden and your fears and your pain and throw it on him. And he teaches you how to carry it. And then in exchange, he gives you life. The Bible says that is truly life. So I asked you, have you escaped the ways of the world? If not, you can. The Easter story could be yours. How do you do that? Well, here’s a if you’re new here, here’s the introduction, come practice the way of Jesus with us.

I’m serious, like come alongside the church and maybe you’ve been disconnected for a while, you know, the pandemic has left you all confused by your own faith or whatever you’re watching online and you’ve been and you’re not sure about anything and and you’ve been disconnected from the church. I’m inviting you back. Just come practice the way of Jesus with us. Come alongside this church. First, just come week after week or watch week after week. Sit, learn, worship, and then learn yourself to read your Bible deeply and carefully.

Have someone else in your life as a mentor helping you practice what Jesus did. Live with this in mind. What would Jesus do if he were you? And when you decide after you realize that his way is significantly better than any other where there’s ever been and you realize that you can actually escape this corrupt, disgusting world. After you realize that then make a decision if you need to to get baptized. In another place paul writes that baptism is a metaphor for death.

You die to your sin your past and your shame. Then comes the burial where you go underwater and then resurrection, where you’re raised to life with a new lif in God, some of you today, that’s your next step. You can do that. You can step into the waters. You can repent. You can put your faith in Jesus. But I know that’s only like half of us here. The other half of us have been Christians for a long time.

And some of you are doing super great, you know, getting ready for brunch. Springs in the air. You’re wearing pastels, you know what I’m saying. Tomorrow candy is half off. Can you believe that? And and you just you just need to enjoy your Easter. You know, amen like just celebrate. It’s awesome. But there’s others of you that no matter what you’re wearing, you’re not doing well. You’re suffering life is really challenging now, and maybe it’s because you were one who had once escaped the world, but it’s just sucked you all the way back.

It’s fine sounding arguments, and it’s a beautiful lies just coerced you back into its midst. I’m just asking you to you can escape as well and I remind you that good news is not someday. Good news is here today. And like that child’s Bible says, Jesus can make all the sad things come untrue. Jesus can do what the cynic in you and the cynic in me says is impossible and you don’t have to wait anymore because it’s here. You can live like him. Stop just coming, stop just attending stop just reading and actually begin to do what he says.

So what are you waiting for? The tomb is empty. Jesus is alive. Good news is bursting at the seams. A new way is calling. And a new world is here for us to occupy. I want to end my lesson with a couple of testimonies. Hey, my name is Andrew. Oops, it’s going to be on the screen. And I listen a couple of testimonies. These are two people who have made the decision to kind of hit the escape hatch of the world.

I just want you to hear their stories, and I bet this is yours if it’s if you’re a disciple. This is just an encouragement. But if you’re trying to figure it out, this would be something maybe your life can be a little bit like theirs. And I’ll come back and pray for communion.

Hey, my name is Andrew Fuentes, and I was converted here in the church on May 18, 2011, and this is my testimony. I think a lot of people have a similar experience in life, and so my my experience reaches back to a time in my life when I’m in my mid 20s and you kind of think that you’re on top of the world.

But at the same time, there are questions, there are thoughts that kind of creep into your mind as you start thinking about life and you start thinking about more than just some of the basica the elementary sort of trivial things that have kind of kept you going for so long. You really want to answer some of the deep questions. And I think a lot of people find themselves in that same place. And so I was wondering what is the thing for me?

What is going to make my life meaningful? Is, is this this decent job that I’ve got and, you know, seemingly, you know, good friends and, you know, family and everything. Is this what life is all about? There seemed like there was something missing. There was something more that I that I could get from life or that life had to offer me. And so I started asking myself some of these meaningful questions. And I knew that there was something almost on a devotional level that I could do.

What was I supposed to teach children math? You know, as a tutor? What was I supposed to be, you know, volunteering on on Saturdays or something like that? I even considered the idea of being a priest. I had considered this entire spectrum. And all of the consequences or all of the effects of any of these decisions were somewhat of an afterthought as I started asking myself some of these really deep questions.

And I don’t know why it is that somebody chooses to to do something and not do something at different times. What is it that causes somebody to to say yes to an invitation or to decline an invitation? And it’s it’s this this question, this this this strange question that I have for myself sometimes. Why do I say yes to Aynesworth Grant when he came to me and he asked me if I wanted to maybe get together, you know, to have some lunch.

And at the time, the two of us were working in the same industry and I think, you know, maybe selfishly, it was something that I wanted perhaps to to get more business from him. And, you know, I think that he wanted me to become a Christian. And to to make a long story short, we got together and we started having these these deep conversations over a series of lunches and something stuck out from his interaction with me.

And it was his vulnerability. He was telling me about the worst parts of himself, all of the things that that he that he used to be, all of these these things that one man would not confess to another man in the world. And I couldn’t believe that somebody was being so vulnerable because usually it’s about putting on the very, very best face, the very best set of clothes, that presenting the very best image. And he was telling me about his most vulnerable pieces.

And what he always talked about is he always brought it back to this idea of Jesus Christ. He always brought it back to the idea of the scripture. And he always had this invitation for me to take something from that and to think about Jesus or the word of God. And eventually he asked me to study the Bible. And I think that it called back to that question, you know, why did I say yes to this? You know, was it this search for something more meaningful?

I didn’t know exactly what it was, but I said yes. And we started opening up the scriptures. And when I started reading the Bible. And thinking that this wasn’t just a story, this wasn’t just some nice thing for people to read to make themselves feel better, but instead that this was written for me. To read, to do, to understand, my life started to change. It went from this kind of far off, hard to understand book to realizing This is a story that actually took place and that this is something that was intended for me to read and do, and there were people in the world that actually intended to read this and live like Christ. My life started to change. And it changed so much that I started questioning, you know, where I was in life and what things I wanted to do, it started changing the things that I thought were important in life, and I started changing just the trajectory that my life was going to take.

And I could see what meaningful things were waiting for me because of this life that I knew that God wanted me to live. And so I fast forward through so much, so much just incredible, beautiful growth, leaving behind old things and leaving behind, you know, the sin of a past life and looking forward to this transformed life that Jesus wanted me to live in. There’s so much there that I wish that I could say. But it all kind of culminates on this one night where I realized that me deciding for the rest of my life, me making a decision in that moment for the rest of my life to follow Jesus was within my grasp and that I had left so much, so many opportunities in the recent past that I had just left them.

Why in the world had I not made that decision yet? And I knew. In that night, I knew that night that I wanted to become a Christian, that I wanted to be baptized that night. And, you know, I went outside and I called a few people that I really wanted to be there and it actually brought me to tears, you know what their responses were. I don’t think that they really understood what I now understood. And they they didn’t want to be there with me.

And I was within just an inch of not making that decision. And I decided that I wanted to pray and I wanted God to remind me for the rest of my life why it was that I was making the decision that I was making that night. And I’ll never forget the place right in front of this pond. It was peaceful. It was quiet. It was super late at night. And God has never failed ever to remind me about why it was that I was making that decision and I remember Jesus in the hardest moments of my life.

I remember Christ when I don’t want to do things and I remember Christ after I do those things. And I’m so glad that I’ve done those things. And God has reminded me time after time after time. About why I have made the decision to follow Jesus, and it was that night, May 18th, 2011, I got baptized just before midnight and my life has never been the same. I look back on these last 10 years and there’s absolutely nothing that I would trade for the life, the life that I lead right now.

I am I could not have made a better decision. And I’m so happy that that I’ve spent these 10 years in Broward and that I’ve given and I’ve been given to. You know, Jesus tells us that we won’t fail to receive a hundred times more. And that’s really what I’ve received is one hundred times more than what I would have had otherwise. And. I just hope that that my story hopefully can can touch the lives of others who might find them in a similar place.

Hello, I’m Vanessa Cruz and I became a Christian on April twenty seventeen, and I wanted to share with you the moment that God created a new world for me. So I was born and raised in Miami. I grew up in a Brazilian-Columbian household, super loud, super colorful. We had a huge family. I remember all the parties, the pool parties, the beach parties. It was such a great time. And I think from the outside looking in, I’d always looked great.

I remember asking my cousin, like, what are words that you would use to describe me growing up? She said I was expressive, and confident, sassy and quirky. And I remember being someone with so many feelings and so many thoughts and just openly talking about it. And around middle school, there are people in my life who I really felt were always saying something like always had something to say. And I think I started kind of doubting, like my opinions or my thoughts, like am I a good daughter or am I good friend, a good sister.

And that’s kind of like when the thought of am I good enough? Started creeping in and I couldn’t shake that. And as a little girl, I started seeing, like, my confidence kind of go down and down. And it affected me because I was so fearful, like, I just want everyone to like me. And I remember it like this heavy feeling of like, how can I keep up with every trend or how can I just be good enough?

And I think the standard of my life was always going up. It always felt like it was going up and I just couldn’t reach it. And I, I remember entering high school and it was just like this feeling hit me of I’m miserable. Like, I’m exhausted and I’m not happy, like I can’t get anything right and I really realized that I needed something different. And I was like, I don’t know I don’t know where to go to or who to go to, but this feeling of, like, always chasing approval kind of wore me out.

So one day I went on Instagram and I found this Christian club at FIU. And I had a lot of hesitancy, but I decided, like, let me just try it out, because I knew at that point that the way I was living my life was not working. And so I went and I remember meeting these women who were so confident in God and the way they carried themselves. And so I started reading the Bible. I started learning about Jesus and it was honestly amazing, like I fell in love with God and his character, I never met anyone like him. And I think just kind of stopping and realizing that this is what I want to be like a man who is this confident, a man who is like this loving and kind. And it was the easiest decision I ever made to make Jesus Lord. And so I remember April 27 getting baptized. In the past four years, I’ve seen God turn me from a woman who’s controlled by fear and insecurity to a woman that’s guided by Jesus and love and grace, like my confidence being on something secure, like his word versus super shaky and like unsure. Or I remember being in school not knowing what I wanted to do and then learning about how I can make an impact and I can actually change and help people like see Jesus and now doing ministry and interning for the Broward church like I’ve seen God turn what I thought was like nothing into something so big and so beautiful.

Amen, we’re going to pray for communion. Every every week we take bread that represents Jesus’s body and the blood, a little bit of juice represents his blood, and we do it as a reminder of his sacrifice.

And today, as we’re taking it, I pray that our hearts and our minds will be focused not so much on the bad news of Friday, but the good news of Sunday morning. And the good news is here that your life, you can hit the eject button and that you can get out of this rat race of the world and you can choose Jesus one more time if you’ve already chosen him or choose him for the very first time. So let’s go to God in prayer.

Father, we are so blessed and grateful to know you by name. We thank you that you have given us something just profound in the gospel, something that that that writes every wrong, something that makes the sad things come untrue. I pray, Lord, that that our hearts and our minds will not be drawn to the patterns of the world, but instead will be drawn to a new way, a way out of this system and towards something God are towards towards heaven, really, I pray, or that we together as a community will be able to have heaven touch Broward County a little bit God. That we can see heaven come down below Lord and and be a part of what we’re doing here. We praise you. Thank you for Jesus. We celebrate your resurrection today. We celebrate the fact that the death has been swallowed up in victory and we celebrate that there is no more defeat in the darkness or in the grave because you have won and you have been victorious. We praise your holy name. Thank you for this morning in Jesus name.Amen.