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The Unexpected Jesus You Need: Eric and Erikah Rivera

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
October 20, 2023 5:15 am

The Unexpected Jesus You Need: Eric and Erikah Rivera

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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October 20, 2023 5:15 am

Authors and speakers Eric and Erikah Rivera have wandered roads complicated, bleak, and uncertain. But in the worst of times, they've encountered an unexpected Jesus. Tap into a hope that just might surprise you.

We can have great failures that are followed by tons of shame and regret. We're just so disappointed with ourselves. Peter was there. We can say, “God is done with us now.” Do you know God didn't tell us that? We can make that conclusion for God because we just are so ashamed of what we've done. In that place, in that mess, Jesus shows up. --Eric Rivera

Show Notes and Resources

Connect with Eric Rivera on instagram:@drericrivera

Watch the Rivera's on the Awesome Marriage Podcast When God Meets Us Where We Are

Get Erik's book, Unexpected Jesus: How the Resurrected Christ Finds Us, Meets Us, Heals Us

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Hey, before we dive into today's episode, we want to invite you to an exclusive Art of Marriage preview event on November 1st.

Yep, you heard that right. Family Life is releasing an all-new version of our flagship marriage study, Art of Marriage. You will get previews of the sessions, exclusive marriage teachings, and hear from us as well as other teachers.

And you can sign up in the show notes or on slash coming soon. We hope you'll join us. You know, we can have great failures that are followed by tons of shame, regret. We're just so disappointed with ourselves. Peter was there. And we can say, God is done with us now.

Even though God didn't tell us that, we can make that conclusion for God because we just are so ashamed of what we've done. In that place, in that mess, Jesus shows up. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott. Your hosts are Dave and Anne Wilson. You can find us at

This is Family Life Today. We had been married 10 years, and I was pregnant with our youngest. I have no idea where you're going.

I know you don't. And I was on bed rest. Oh yeah.

That I remember. And I was 21 weeks. And so, I had two boys, and I would be on bed rest for the rest of my pregnancy.

And anyone with boys knows, with a two and a four-year-old, how difficult that would be. And Dave, you became Mr. Mom. Like, you helped me. You did everything. You were cleaning. Well, actually, I had a cleaner.

I'd never had one. Like, this is amazing. You could have said I cleaned.

I like that better. But you were helping with the boys all day long in Newark all evening long. And it was probably one of the scariest valleys that we were in because I came so close to losing this baby. And I remember in that time pleading with Jesus, pleading, like, Lord, please, please allow us to have this child.

I pray that you would hold on to him. And in that time, I remember feeling like I'm so glad that I have Jesus with me, but I was also so glad that you are my partner and that we were walking through it together. Because in life, we have no idea where it's going to go or what turn we might take that was so unexpected. And that leads us into where we're going today. We're going to talk about me, it sounds like. That's what I thought.

We're talking about a book called Unexpected Jesus. We have Eric and Erika Rivera with us today, who are speakers with Family Life. And you guys have been speaking at our conferences for how many years? Eight years.

About eight years. So, welcome back to Family Life. Thank you. Thank you. Someday you're going to look like us and you're going to be speaking 35 years. There you go. You know, I'm jealous of your hair and your beard, man. Man, you've got to go on. I wish you all could see them as a couple.

They're beautiful, not only physically, but spiritually. We've already been talking yesterday about you have three kids. You're a pastor, pastor's wife. Are you still homeschooling? I'm not.

You're not. How long did you do that? I did that for up until my daughter went to high school.

Okay. Two years ago, she entered high school and then all of them entered a traditional setting and I entered school as well. And so, I'm getting my master's in mental health. Erika, why mental health?

What made you go that route? You know, it's such a need. And as we are with couples and people, life, counseling, I see more equipping that I desire to be able to offer that to individuals.

And so, God opened up that door, just sensing that burden. And so, I kind of walked through it and said, okay, well, I would love to be able to get my master's and be able to officially help in this way. That's really pretty amazing. You can tell that Eric's super proud of you, too. I am. He is super proud.

He's doing a great job. And that I chose his alma mater. So, I'm at Trinity where he's teaching as well.

That's cool. Well, the subtitle of your book, How the Resurrected Christ Finds Us, Meets Us, Heals Us. And we ended yesterday, Erika, hearing your diagnosis of MS at the age of what? How old were you when you were diagnosed? Thirty-five.

So young. Yeah. And Eric, you're talking about in your book how after the resurrection, Jesus would meet one of his followers or a group of five and he would ask a question. Let me ask you, when you guys found out what the diagnosis was, did Jesus ask you a question? That's such a good question.

That is a great question. I don't know if I can remember it pinpointed like that, but in essence, it really was. I think in this regard, like, Jesus spoke to Mary Magdalene and he says to her, woman, why are you weeping? And in many ways, Eric, why are you weeping? And for Mary, her hope was in the fact, like, I'm actually resurrected. I defeated the grave. Is that the unexpected Jesus part? Absolutely.

Absolutely. She came to the tomb looking for a breathless body, a crucified corpse, but she found a living savior. And in our trials and what we're going through with Erika's diagnosis, in many ways, not to downplay the fear, the grief, but there was the reminder, I've defeated the grave. I'm alive. I'm the resurrected savior. Eric, why are you weeping? I'm in control.

I've got you guys. And that really is the comfort that we found in the midst of the journey. And so I'd say, yeah, that would be the question that was posed to me. Why are you weeping? Yeah, we had Paul Miller on probably about a year ago, and I think, you know, his writing. And he has a situation in his family that requires a man to lead and love in a powerful way.

And so we're going to play a clip from some things he said and love to hear you respond. The very first resurrection appearance of Jesus, Mary Magdalene has come back the second time. She's weeping. There's a couple angels in the tomb, and she's talking with them. If they know where the body is, Jill would be that way. Like, if she had something on her mind, she wouldn't care if she was talking to Moses, you know.

I like her. And then she turns around, and there's Jesus standing there just looking at her. He's been watching her whole conversation, and he's not said anything. And then he says to her, you know, why are you weeping?

What are you seeking? I mean, he's just cracked the code that has held all of creation in death. And he's looking at one person. He's attentive to one person. And he asks her questions. And then she says, you know, she thinks he's the gardener, and she says, you know where his body is. And that's when Jesus says, Mary, just his announcement that death has been destroyed, that hell has been broken, and that billions of people are going to come to faith, and there's going to be a new heavens and a new earth. And then he himself is the first piece of that resurrection is one word, it's her name. It's the name of a person. The way he leaves space so that she can enter that space so we can discover what Mary Magdalene is like, it's pure Jesus.

That's so good. Just a reminder of how personal Jesus is. I was thinking about the fact that he says, after he says, woman, why are you weeping?

Who do you seek or what do you seek? And I know that that can be my tendency to forget, because she's thinking Jesus is not alive. You know, that's what she's looking for, his body, not knowing yet or not experiencing yet. He's alive. And so even just that question, like, am I seeking Jesus to be alive and active in my life?

Am I seeking the fact that he wants to speak to me, have a relationship with me, for me to pursue him in that way? I love that. And the fact that Jesus now tells her, now go. She gets to be the first one to tell everyone that he's alive. Not only did he give her purpose, but she gets to be part of his plan of evangelism to the world.

And he calls her by name. And it's that moment. There's so many unexpected things that come into our life, right? But I want to expect that Jesus wants to be there. Jesus wants to meet me. Jesus wants to call me by name.

That's so beautiful. Well, I mean, when I hear it again, I remember the day Paul sat where you're sitting and shared that. I mean, we're almost all in tears.

Just the way he described the scene at the tomb, you can almost see it. But, you know, he's got a special needs daughter that as a dad, he has to lay his life down every single day. And it's never going to end.

It isn't like she's going to get to an age and be able to leave his home. And when you're going through, and you write about this, we talked about it in the last episode. When you're going through a valley, you don't need a dead savior. You know, and we don't have a dead savior. I don't know how people do it without a living resurrected Christ. But when you have an unexpected living resurrected Christ, there's a power and a hope and a perspective.

I could keep going word after word after word that is available to get us through those moments in an unexpected way that I don't think we can do without, right? That's sort of what you've had to live through as well. Well, Dave, I'm even recalling when I was bedridden with Cody, and you and the boys went to Christmas without me in Ohio. And so I'm all by myself on Christmas Day in my pajamas, you know, like, what am I doing? I did that on Thanksgiving. I made them leave because I wanted them to enjoy Thanksgiving, but I couldn't. Exactly. And I remember Jesus asked me, because I'm venting all of my frustrations, my fears, my hopes.

Where are you? And I heard one question in my heart was, Ann, can you trust me? Can you trust me? You know, and at first you want to say no, like, what are you doing? Do you know what's happening?

And I think that's why we need the word. Like the fact that you guys are standing together as a family quoting scripture and knowing what God says, as you said in the first episode, we have a choice of either drawing closer or pulling away. I'm drawing closer because he is my hope.

He is the resurrected King of Kings. And that's where our hope lies. Yeah. Amen. And I'm so grateful that in small ways, we built that up.

You know, it's really hard to have that in the moment if it's not something that you guys have been building your life upon. You know, we try to bless our kids with scripture at night before bed. And oftentimes it's the same one, the same one throughout the year. So that not only do they get it, but we get it. So you guys will do a scripture for the year. Yeah. So what we've had done is on their birthday, we would give them a verse and recite that verse every day for a year as best as possible. So each child has a different scripture.

Yeah. And then their next birthday, they get a different verse. And so we would do that. And the fun thing about it is that they would get a storehouse of great scripture that they're memorizing. And we're memorizing as well.

But now these are verses that they can draw upon when these difficult moments happen. Not if. Precisely.

When, yes. Well, I don't know who it is. I think it might have been Tony Evans that says you never pour a foundation in a storm. You know, obviously you don't see anybody when there's a storm out there pouring cement. They're like, they go home and they pour it.

And then when the storm comes, it's already poured. So you already had the foundation. And now you're doing it for your sons.

I mean, for your kids. Here's the foundation. Because storms are coming. Just don't know when, but you know, you can't build it then. It's like, oh, I got to find faith now. No, Jesus meets you in an unexpected way because you've already met him, right? Yeah, absolutely. And the thing is, you know, even when we have these foundations, it doesn't mean that the storm doesn't throw us off.

Yeah, that's good. You know, I think of these different folks whom Jesus reveals Himself to upon His resurrection. And they were those, many of them just had remarkable faith and they believed in Him. And that's why it was so hard when He died. They didn't know what to do with that.

They didn't have a category for that. That's why Mary wept at the tomb. It wasn't just because her friend died, although that was very tragic. But this is the man who had rescued her from her seven demons. This is the man that she had followed, right?

Yeah. And you look at all the other disciples. Yeah, they had the foundation and the storm was tough. And so, but God still met them there. And that is a sweet reminder because it doesn't mean that when we have a great foundation, we are now invincible in the midst of whatever storm. We still feel it.

We still feel the pain and challenges of them, but God is still there with us. Eric, take us to another question that Jesus asked. Yeah, I love when Jesus speaks to Peter.

He says, Do you love me? And what I love about this story, many of us appreciate Peter because we can relate to him. He's the foot-in-mouth kind of guy. He's the guy who's very zealous, very courageous.

He speaks up when others are afraid to. And he's also the guy who denies Jesus three times in Jesus' greatest moment of need. And Jesus had revealed Himself alive. Peter knew Jesus had resurrected. But it was as if Peter didn't know, though, if God was done with him. And we're told in the end of John that Jesus walks with Peter along the seashore, and that's when He says, Peter, do you love me? And that whole questioning of Jesus three times, asking Peter that, what I love about it, it's as if Peter was done with himself. And in that moment, Peter learned that God's not done with him, even though he was done with him. And to me, I love that question because, you know, we can have great failures that are followed by tons of shame, regret.

We're just so disappointed with ourselves. Peter was there. And we can say, God is done with us now. Even though God didn't tell us that, we can make that conclusion for God because we just are so ashamed of what we've done. And in that place, in that mess, Jesus shows up and says, you may be done, but I'm not done. But in order to get to that point, Jesus asks Peter, do you love me? Which I'm thinking, that's got to be heart-wrenching because this is the guy who just denied Jesus. Now he's saying, do you love me? And Peter's like, you know, I love you.

Jesus will feed my sheep and does this three times. And I'm thinking like, you know, Jesus, you could have just had them once. You know, this hurts, it's kind of painful, right?

You know, it's kind of twisting the knife in them. But I think what Jesus is doing is helping Peter understand, like, just as your shame and regret is deep, so is my restoration and my healing. At the end of that whole sequence, Jesus says, follow me. And that's what Peter learned the lesson, like, I'm forgiven, and he follows him. So I love that line of questioning that Jesus gives to Peter. Have you ever, either one of you ever had sort of that feeling Peter probably had, like you were describing, like I'm done? I've blown it to the point, your first chapters were all a mess, so you've messed up so bad you think, God might forgive me. But I've sort of crossed the line that I don't know if I can forgive myself and move on.

You ever been there? I think when we look at our Christian life, we realize we don't run a straight line all the time. And we have our failures. We've been, we've lacked faith. We've been afraid to speak up.

We've made decisions we shouldn't have made. And it's easy to say, I think God's probably done with me now. Have you had anyone in your congregation, like, I'm unusable, like, God must be done with me. Have you had those stories? Yeah, absolutely.

Yeah. I know Eric shares a few of them in the book, but just thinking specifically of a woman who just really felt exactly that as she came to our community and felt like, I don't know how God can do it for me. And it was the message of Mary Magdalene who lived a really difficult life. And she, that was her, that was her thing. She said, well, if God can do it, if Jesus can do it for Magdalena, then he can do it for me. And that was the, that was the day she put her faith in Christ.

And I get emotional thinking about it because she's walking with the Lord and she, I think I'm going to head out to a missions trip because we planted a church here in Florida, but from our congregation. And I just see what a beautiful thing that happens when we, when we give God just a little opportunity in our life that I believe you even just a little bit. You give God your yes. Yeah. Yes. I'll take a step. A step.

Yeah. If Jesus can do it for her, maybe he can do it for me. And that was the door to purpose in her life and freedom. And it's been a journey and it hasn't, it surely hasn't come without its, its trials for her.

And yet she has something that she would have never had before. Eternity. Yeah. Hope. Yeah. Peace. Yeah, it's interesting. One of your chapters, I was just looking at chapter five, during times of powerlessness, Jesus carries us. I don't know if that's what she feels, but when you said that, I'm like, oh, I've been there. You know, where it's like, I don't know if I can, I can finish, I can do this.

And the unexpected Jesus shows up and says, I got you. Yeah. Right? Absolutely.

Yeah. In that chapter, I talk about how the seven disciples are out at sea fishing after, after the resurrection. And, and many people wonder, are they fishing because they've given up on their faith or, and at the end of the day, they're out fishing and they catch nothing. So whatever got them to the sea, the result was they didn't catch a thing. And, and Jesus, again, with his questions, he says, children, did, did you catch anything?

Again, the question, and again, the kind of salt in the wound kind of question, like, you know very well they didn't catch a thing. But again, Jesus basically telling them, you know, apart from me, you can do nothing. And that, that is the lesson we learn. You know, apart from Christ, we can do nothing.

And yet with Him, we have all we need. We have salvation in Christ through His death and resurrection, forgiveness of sins, the power of the Holy Spirit now who indwells us. I love how He meets them in their powerlessness, meets us in our own and reminds us that in Him we can do all things. And that's a, that's a place of great hope. I've really enjoyed, I know some people don't and some people do, but I've really enjoyed watching The Chosen. Yeah, because now we know what Jesus really, we've got video.

Talk about Peter, I know what he looks like. One of the things that I've appreciated of how they've displayed the differences in the disciples and how they weren't the top of the top. And so I appreciate that. And that's what you're saying, like, these guys were just regular people like us, but they were empowered by the Holy Spirit in acts like us.

And so those 12 guys change the entire world by the power of God living in them. Amen. Amen to that.

Yeah, I don't know if you would agree and I'm probably wrong. I think the most underestimated thing in the Christian walk is the power of the resurrected Christ in a believer. The fact that He, the one we're talking about, He lives right here, this temple, the human soul is His residence. And we walk around every day with the power of God in us and we are defeated. You know, I'm not saying that, you know, like you said, we're still a mess and we're still going to make mistakes and we're still going to fall and we're going to continue to fall. But I think we underestimate the living God of the universe walks into every room with us.

I mean, even if you're sitting, listening right now and you're like, my marriage has no hope. It has hope because of Christ, not because of you or not because of her, because that's why I stood on that chair we talked about last time. I'm trying to say, do you understand? I don't think we understand. He does carry us. And there's a different life we could be living if we understood He is longing to give us resurrection power in every situation.

A hundred percent. I firmly believe that as well, Dave. You think of Peter, who denies Jesus three times, fills with so much shame and regret. And 40 days later, you know, after Pentecost, when that comes, he's preaching the gospel to thousands.

Boldly saying, you crucified Jesus. And you're thinking like, where was this Peter on Good Friday, you know? Well, that Peter is not one who hadn't seen a resurrected Jesus, nor was that a Peter who had been empowered by the Spirit. But now as one who is an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ, the power of Christ dwelling within him, the power of the Spirit, he is courageous and bold.

And we can read that and say, that's good for Peter. And yet we are post-resurrection believers. We're post-Pentecost believers. The Spirit of God and resurrected Christ is a reality for us.

And so absolutely, whatever room we walk into, we go with the power of God and we go with the hope of a resurrected Savior who meets us in our mess. And that's a game changer. I'm a walker. I walk a lot because good exercise.

Let me tell you, I got to add this. I walk with her sometimes and I can't keep up. She's like a speeder.

I'm like, can we just scroll? I'm not a stroller. I'm a quick walker. But in that time, I connect with God through nature. When I see his creation, I connect with him. And I often think like, this God that created the heavens and the earth, the beauty and the majesty of oceans and mountains and the fall.

You guys know Chicago, the fall is majestic. That same power in a word created the earth lives in me. And it just changes things when I feel so like nothing can be done, nothing can change.

It's such a good reminder. Yeah. So I would just say, and it's what you said through this whole book, wherever you are right now, you could be in a mountain, you could be in a valley, your marriage could be thriving, it could be struggling.

Your son or daughter may have just walked away. There is an unexpected Jesus that wants to surprise you, right? With his power, with his peace, with his strength, whatever it is you need, he is literally standing outside that empty tomb saying, I'm right here and actually saying, I'm in you and you can trust me and I can walk with you, in you, through you to the future you're longing for.

Yeah. And can I add, we don't get to dictate the terms on which Jesus meets us. And what I mean is like, when we're in a difficult place, we can say, God, if you showed up right now, right here in this way, that would be great. And he just doesn't always do that.

And that can be really discouraging. I think of Thomas, right? Jesus revealed himself to all the disciples and Thomas is out buying milk or something. He comes back and they're like, you won't believe what you missed. We saw Jesus and Thomas is like, you're kidding, right?

No, I'm not believing you. And I think I read them like, Jesus, why not bring Thomas along? You know, just show up, say, Hey, I'm here, Thomas. And because that's not the way Thomas needed to know, he needed to find out.

We're told eight days later, Jesus reveals himself to Thomas. And so I think when we think about our doubt or our grief or our shame or our messes of all sorts, Jesus may not show up the way we want him to always at that moment. But it doesn't mean he is disinterested in us. He, in fact, knows what we need. He's committed to revealing himself to us and he's going to do so in a way that he knows is best for us because he loves us.

And so he may say, hold on, be patient, but do know he says so because he loves you and he's working something beautiful out in your heart. So, Eric, I mean, that's perfect way to end. What's our responsibility?

We're not putting any terms on Jesus. What's our job? We'll hear how Eric responds on what our responsibility is in all of this in just a second. But first, Jesus will show up, maybe not in the way you want him to, but always in the way you need him to.

I love that. I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Eric and Erica Rivera on Family Life Today. The Reveras have written a book called Unexpected Jesus, How the Resurrected Christ Finds Us, Meets Us and Heals Us. You can get a copy of their book at, or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329.

Again, that number is 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. Earlier this week, we had on one of our favorite guests, Paul Miller, to talk about the importance of prayer, both in the family and in the church. He's written a book called A Praying Church, Becoming a People of Hope in a Discouraging World.

And we certainly do sometimes feel like we're living in a discouraging world. Well, Paul's book is going to be our gift to you when you partner with us financially. So you can go online to or give us a call with your donation at 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. And feel free to drop us something in the mail if you'd like.

Our address is Family Life, 100 Lake Hart Drive, Orlando, Florida, 32832. Okay, let's hear how Eric responds to what our responsibility is when life is in the valley. Our job is to say, Lord, have your way with me. It's just to say, you know, my hands are open. God, I don't understand. And this is how I prayed in those moments. I don't understand.

I don't know why. I'm even a little upset. But Lord, I'm holding on to you.

Like Eric said, I'm holding on to what I know to be true, even if what I'm feeling right now isn't there. So God, have your way. I'm yours. And he's so kind. He loves us.

He'll meet us there. Well, I hope you have a great weekend. I hope you get a chance to worship Jesus together with your family and your local church. I want to ask you to pray for the Weekend to Remember Marriage event that's happening starting today. And it's going through Sunday in Destin, Florida. And you know, there's over 40 Weekend to Remember events across the country that are still happening between fall and spring, and there's still time to find a location near you. So you can go to and find all the information you'll need. On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor-supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-20 07:22:14 / 2023-10-20 07:34:31 / 12

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