Essential Questions: What do you mean Jesus rose from the dead?

the_resurrection_day_

Today is the day after Easter Sunday – the day that we celebrate Jesus being raised from the dead.  What do we mean that Jesus rose from the dead?  Exactly that.  Jesus died on Friday and on Sunday, he was alive again.  On Sunday, the tomb was empty.  Jesus had risen in body from the dead. (John 20:1-10)

Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. (John 20:6-7).

God had restored Jesus physically from the dead.  Jesus had a body.  He was not just a spirit.  The risen Jesus was seen by many people after his resurrection.  For example, John, chapter 20 lists three encounters.

Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).( John 20:14-16)

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,[b] Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19-20)

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”(John 20:26)

Paul’s letter first letter to the Corinthians also talks about several of the accounts.

Now perhaps the story of the resurrection seems too fanciful to be believable.  Paul also addresses these questions:

For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ must still be dead. And if he is still dead, then all our preaching is useless and your trust in God is empty, worthless, hopeless; and we apostles are all liars because we have said that God raised Christ from the grave, and of course that isn’t true if the dead do not come back to life again. If they don’t, then Christ is still dead, and you are very foolish to keep on trusting God to save you, and you are still under condemnation for your sins; in that case, all Christians who have died are lost! And if being a Christian is of value to us only now in this life, we are the most miserable of creatures. (1 Corinthians 15:13-19)

But, why should the resurrection be any different from any other part of our salvation story?  The bible is full of  stories which seem crazy.  Resurrection from the dead is no stranger than anything else God has done in the story of salvation.  How about the sea that was divided?  How about the story of the walls of Jericho which came down after being walked around seven times and yelled at?  How about the story of Daniel who spent the night sleeping with lions?  The list is long.  Take some time and look at some of these Old Testament stories.

As I see it, either we believe that Jesus was raised from the dead and people saw him, or we don’t.  However, I can’t see how you can believe some of the  other stories of the bible and not believe this one.  God does crazy.

As Paul puts it:

So what about these wise men, these scholars, these brilliant debaters of this world’s great affairs? God has made them all look foolish and shown their wisdom to be useless nonsense. For God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never find God through human brilliance, and then he stepped in and saved all those who believed his message, which the world calls foolish and silly. (1 Corinthians 1:20-21)

For believers in Christ, Easter celebrates the pivotal point in history when God restored our relationship to Him.  For non-believers, Easter is foolishness. (1 Corinthians 1:18).  If we are wrong in our belief, we have lost nothing.  BUT, if we are right, we have the ultimate secret to happiness and eternal life that the world so desperately is seeking.

What do you believe?

 

 

 

Advertisements

Holy Week: Arriving in Triumph

Today Is Palm Sunday, which marks the beginning of Holy Week. We will be posting more frequently as part of a special series to mark this.

If you are not familiar with the events of Palm Sunday, I would suggest that you have a look at Luke 19: 28-44. Otherwise, here are the key facts:

  • Jesus entered into the Jerusalem riding on a donkey from a mountain road, the apostles were with Him.
  • As he did this, he was greeted by an extremely large crowd of his followers
  • The crowd was extremely happy, waving palm branches and placing them on Jesus’s path (hence it being called Palm Sunday) and shouting praises to Him

For context, I think it it is appropriate to think of a victory parade of a sports team. Or, another example that I think is appropriate to the setting is the scene at the airport in Montreal when Didier Drogba arrived at the end of July 2015, a video of which is below. To be clear, I am NOT implying that an athlete or sports team should be viewed or treated as a god- that is idolatry.

So now that we have context, let us examine deeper issues.

First of all, there is the issue of what the crowds were shouting. While not present in the Luke passage, the other gospels state that one of the things that was shouted was “Hosanna”. Many people understand this to be a shout of praise similar to hallelujah, however I have also seen it being described as plea for salvation, which is something that only a Messiah can grant  These shouts of praise and the magnitude of the events clearly demonstrates that Jesus had been acknowledged as the one who would be crowned King.

When Jesus saw the city, he wept openly over it and went on to predict the tumult of the time to come, for He knew what was to come.

It is important to understand that the king that the people thought He was going to be was an earthly one, one who would come in, kick the Romans out of Jerusalem, send the Pharisees out into the wilderness, essentially to be the leader of a an earthly, political and military revolution….which as we know is not at all what happened.

As we know, Jesus was crowned King, except his crown was one of thorns and his throne was a cross….but this will be discussed further in other posts this week. What I want to simply highlight is the highs of Palm Sunday go someway towards understanding the context of the week, and in my opinion also makes it easier to understand the fear of the Twelve when the mobs came….THAT was not what they had in mind when they walked down the hill towards the cheering crowd in Jerusalem.

 

Essential Questions: Why the crucifixion?

I know that we haven’t gotten to Holy Week (the last week of Lent) yet, but I have decided to tackle the issue of the crucifixion today.  Often people wonder why Jesus had to die.  They question God’s action in sending his Son to die for sin.  Sometimes people see God as heartless or cruel for acting in this way.  As humans we have a hard time understanding why the crucifixion was necessary.  I won’t be so bold as to say I am going to explain it; but I do hope to give you some things to think about.  Perhaps you know all this information, but see what God has to say to you in it.  God is always speaking to us through the bible and helping us to grow in faith.

Jesus was executed like a common criminal.  In fact, he was hanging on a cross between two thieves (Matthew 27:38).  Jesus’ death was part of God’s plan to restore the relationship with humans.  Adam and Eve broke that relationship when they bought into the servant’s lie and did not believe God, essentially calling God a liar (Genesis 3:4-6).  Even in anger, God did not leave humanity hopeless.  Throughout the Old Testament, God tells His people about the plan; for example through the prophet Isaiah.

Yet it was our grief he bore, our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, for his own sins! But he was wounded and bruised for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace; he was lashed—and we were healed! We—every one of us—have strayed away like sheep! We,who left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet God laid on him the guilt and sins of every one of us!   (Isaiah 53:4-6 TLB (emphasis in original)).

The punishment for sin is death (Romans 6:23).  It is not just the cost of what we consider “big” sins, like murder.  It is the price of all sin.  Before Jesus’ death, an animal would be sacrificed.  It was symbolic in that all sin for the year was placed on that animal and the animal would die instead of the person.  Then Jesus came.  He took the place of the sacrificial animal and he took our place too.

29 The next day he (John the Baptist) saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1: 29 ESV)

Even Jesus said that he came “not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a random for may” (Matthew 20:28 ESV).

Perhaps you think that we should be able to fix our relationship by doing lots of good things.  We cannot do enough good work to  make up for our sin for two reasons. (1) We basically flawed so it is impossible for us to do that Romans 3:23. Frequently, we cannot do the good that we want to do as our sinful nature gets in the way (Romans 7:19-20). (2) Our idea of good is tainted.  It is not as good as God’s idea of what is good.

We’re all sin-infected, sin-contaminated.
    Our best efforts are grease-stained rags (Isaiah 64:6 MSG).

So we are left with God’s plan to fix our relationship.  The crucifixion and death of Jesus. Jesus died and we are saved from eternal separation from God (Romans 5:10-11). His blood was given instead of ours.  Blood gives life.  During a blood transfusion, someone else’s blood is provided to another patient to allow them to live.  In this case, Jesus’ blood gives us life.  

All these new things are from God who brought us back to himself through what Christ Jesus did. And God has given us the privilege of urging everyone to come into his favor and be reconciled to him. For God was in Christ, restoring the world to himself, no longer counting men’s sins against them but blotting them out. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. We are Christ’s ambassadors. God is using us to speak to you: we beg you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, receive the love he offers you—be reconciled to God. 21 For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness into us! (2 Corinthians 5:18-20 ESV)

In a simplistic way, it reminds me of a small child.  They lash out and hurt their parent.  They still want to be in a relationship with the parent.  They cannot fix what they have done.  They don’t know how or don’t have the capacity to do so.  It is left to the parent to fix it.  Without the parent taking the initiative, there is no way to save the relationship.  The same holds true with our relationship with God.  Essentially, we broke our relationship through our sin.  We cannot fix our relationship with God ourselves.  It is impossible for us to do what is required.  God loves us and wants to restore our relationship.  Since we cannot do it, God will do it for us.  He loves us enough that He will do whatever it takes.

In closing, I would urge you to take some time to read the story of the crucifixion yourself and see what God is revealing to you in it.  Even if you go to a church that reads it as part of the worship service, it is important to read through the bible story and see how it speaks to you personally.  Take some time to think about and pray through Matthew 27.  Without truly appreciating the crucifixion, it is hard to participate fully in the joy of Easter morning.

Essential Questions: Why Lent?

In certain Christian traditions, this is the season of Lent.  Lent is the 40 weekdays before Easter.  Lent officially ends on Holy Thursday, which is the day before Good Friday.  Good Friday is the day that we remember the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.

canstockphoto24063173

What does the word “Lent” mean?  Lent comes from an Anglo-Saxon words meaning “Spring” (lenct) or “March” (lenctentid).  The season of Lent occurs most often in March, so it seemed appropriate.  However, there are some years, like this one, where it starts in early February.

Why 40 days?  The number 40 has always had spiritual significance in the bible.  There are many illustrations of the importance of 40.  For example:

  • Moses was with God for 40 days and 40 nights when receiving the 10 commandments (Exodus 34:38).
  • Israel wandered the desert for 40 years after being rescued from Egypt before entering the promised land (Numbers 14:33-34).
  • Jesus fasted  in the desert for 40 days and nights before beginning his public ministry (Matt. 4:2).

What is the purpose of Lent for a believer of Christ?  The purpose of Lent is for a believer to realize that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”(Romans 3:23).  Jesus’ death and resurrection repair our relationship with God.  However, sometimes we don’t realize our sin and so we don’t realize our need for God.  (1 John 1:8).  Lent puts the focus on our sin so we can truly celebrate come Easter because of the great gift we have received.

What do we do during Lent?  

  • Stop doing something.  You may hear people talking about “giving up” something for Lent.  Kids often talk about giving up candy or chocolate.  It is a start, but it doesn’t actually get at the real reason for giving something up.  What you are really supposed to do is to give up something that is taking you away from Jesus and the way that he calls his believers to life.  The goal is to turn away from a particular sinful habit and, by the end of Lent no longer have that sin in your life.  You stop the sin not only for Lent, but beyond.
  • Stop eating for periods of time.  Jesus expected his followers to fast as he gave instructions on it (Matthew 6:16-18).  It is a way of reminding ourselves of our spiritual hunger for God.  It also reminds us that we can do nothing apart from Him who provides us with all good things (1 Tim 6:17).  It is so easy for us to forget that everything we have comes from God.  Fasting is also used as a way to get closer to God. (Acts 13:2-3)
  • Start doing something.   Lent is often a time when people try to start or re-start a spiritual discipline, such as reading the bible every day.  Spiritual practices are an important way to keep ourselves connected with God.  It is hard to be in a relationship with God if we do not maintain the connection.  As Lent is 40 days long, chances are you will have developed a good spiritual habit by the end of the period.
  • Pray more.  Prayer is an important spiritual discipline.  It is the conversation that we have with God – not just our laundry list of requests, but also listening to Him.  The more we pray, the closer we become to God.  Prayer is important as we face all sorts of situations (Ephesians 6:18).  It becomes more necessary at Lent as we try to discern the sin we are giving up and then, in resisting temptation.
  • Give away more.  As we grow closer to God and realize that all good things come from Him.  We give out of gratitude that our God cares for us and looks after us. We want to share ourselves and our things with others so they too can recognize the role of God in providing for them.

This blog is just a brief overview of Lent.  If you are interested in more of the history of  Lent, you could check out this website.  If you want to take on one or more of the Lenten behaviours above, I would encourage you to do so.  It is not too late, even though we are partway through Lent.  God will honour your efforts.  Whatever you decide to do, take some time to examine your life so that you understand your great need of Jesus.  It will make Easter a more joyous time.

 

No Longer Slaves of Fear (Sin)

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for thes words that you’ve instilled on my heart. May they bring light to Your word. In Jesus’ name Amen.

I can’t take credit for the title of this blog post. It is a title of a song by Brian Johnson. The ENTIRE song has been on my heart since I first heard it at the end of January. It’s got great harmonies and a super great message that stems from Romans 8:14-16

For those led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

You’re probably thinking, great song and passage, but how does this tie into the season of Lent. Well, that’s a good thought! Lent is a time of reflection and a time to kindle/re-kindle your relationship with God. Think about it. Jesus was in the desert for 40 days being tempted by Satan. Satan thought he had the upper hand, but let’s face it, God did through Jesus. (And God being in Heaven means he does have the upper hand over Satan. ;))

Satan shows that Greed and Gluttony and Pride are what Jesus should consume or take on. He even quotes Scripture! Jesus has SO MUCH SELF-CONTROL here! More importantly, Jesus recognizes that he was sent to overcome temptation and by extension to free us from being slaves to our sin.

I am a Child of God

Sin sounds like an ugly word. It is also ugly in nature. It is usually what keeps us from getting closer to to Jesus. Jesus never succumbed to Satan’s temptations. He died for us so that we can be set free from our temptations, our sins. 

Being a slave to sin means you keep succumbing to temptations even when you know they’re wrong. Then you feel guilty for not stopping. It’s a little like when your mom has baked a fresh batch if cookies and they smell DELICIOUS!!! *mouth drools* Your mom tells you, “These are for AFTER dinner. They need to cool.” How can she not let me eat just one, you think to yourself. When she’s out of the kitchen, you sneak in and eat a cookie!!!!! You may have burnt you’re mouth if they’re still warm. (In which case you may have learned your lesson.) Or you may want another one. And then you eat one more. And another. And yet another. And then there are no cookies left and you’ve spoiled your dinner! As a result, your mom tells you “We’ll discuss your actions after dinner.” Anyway, since you won’t be eating dinner because of too many cookies, you go to your room and think about what you could have done differently or how you can ask for forgiveness. Mom comes into your room to discuss your actions. You’re sorry and she forgives you and still loves you. Kind how Jesus loves as we are but that we need to ask Him to cleanse our hearts and get rid of the yuckiness that is our sins.

Let’s rewind to when Mom says, “These are for AFTER dinner. These need to cool.” The thought of, How can she not let me eat just one, comes to your head. You go to grab a cookie, but now, a conflicting voice says, “No! Don’t do it!!!!” You retreat and go do your homework while dinner gets ready. That is the Holy Spirit acting as your good conscience; further, it is your SELF-CONTROL kicking in! Woot!!

You me, us! We are all children of God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17) That was a long story! Hopefully it shed some light on no longer being a slave to sin, but being a child of God. 🙂 Remember: You, me, us! We are all children of God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).

Sacrifice – What does it look like?

Today Luke Bayly brings us Part 2 of his thoughs on Sacrifice 

Hey all,

This is the second part of my blog post about sacrifice in a life lived for God. Last week, we talked about the meaning and purpose of sacrifice by looking at a passage in the book of Romans. In this part, we’ll look at where in our lives we should expect to have to make sacrifices in order to serve God.

 

Sacrifice in Jesus’s life and the apostle’s lives often looked dramatic—living a life of poverty, leaving home and family to following Jesus, martyrdom—and God does, sometimes, call on Christians to make similar sacrifices to these. But recall from last week that our sacrifice is spiritual—the important stuff is going on inside our heart, whether or not it is very visible outside. God may call us to make sacrifices that no one else, aside from you and God, will even recognize as a sacrifice. Oftentimes, this simply means “doing the right thing”. Following are four categories of common situations where doing the right thing pretty much equates to making a sacrifice.

 

Stifling our pride

When we place our self-worth in what other people think of us instead of what God thinks of us, we are tempted to make decisions that draw attention to ourselves at the expense of others, or do things that deliberately put others down in order to save face. For example, there can be heated moments where we feel like we need to one-up our adversary in some conflict. Holding back, instead, and trying to deescalate the argument or deciding to disengage…in the moment, that requires real sacrifice. It may not be very noticed. Maybe it’ll look to others like we’ve lost and our adversary has won. But doing so is an act of love and service to God and to our adversary, and you can be sure God notices it.

 

Being honest

This category is pretty self-explanatory. Perhaps we want to evade a punishment by hiding our wrongdoing, or perhaps we’re tempted to exploit an opportunity in a way that unfairly benefits us. To be honest and take a hit for it is an act of love and service to God and to all other people, and you can be sure God notices it.

 

Giving up an idol

There will always be things of this world that enthral us—things that are good, more often than not—and we want to experience more of them; invest more of our life into them. But when our love for these things conflicts with our focus on God and service to Him, they have become an idol—a false God in our life. Idols in our life will bend our hearts away from God, and always leave us emptier inside. Turning away from our idols is an act of love and service to God and to ourselves, and you can be sure God notices it.

 

Putting time and effort into serving God

At the risk of stating the obvious—giving of our time and energy to serve God and His kingdom, often without monetary recompense, can be taxing. Oh, and speaking of taxes, God often needs our money, too. Perhaps this seems unfair—if God is all-powerful, why on earth does He need…money? And what service can we possibly do for Him that He couldn’t do better, himself? But recall from last week that the ultimate result of all our sacrifices is that we understand more of God’s will and who God is…and that is what He wants for us. Putting time and effort into serving God is, by definition, an act of love and service to God, and you can be sure that God notices and rejoices in it.

Essential Questions:  Take your spiritual temperature

In the Essential Questions posts, we have been talking about the ideas faith and repentance.  Once you have chosen to repent and believe in Jesus, God will continue to grow your faith and show you the ways in your life that need to be changed.   It is a step by step process.   

In the next few posts, we will be examining what God wants to give us when we respond to Him.  But before we move on, I want you to examine where you are in your own faith journey.  At the beginning of a new year, it is the time when many people take stock of their life.  I want your to take stock of your spiritual life.   

How have your responded to God in 2015?

Have you already repented and turned to God?  What does that look like in your life? 

Are you still questioning the good news? 

What are you wanting from God to increase your faith?  Frequently we want some proof from God that he is there and active before we are willing to stick our neck out.  

Do you have enough faith to turn your life toward Jesus and seek him in all areas of your life? 

Are you ready to be part of a spiritual family?  If you are a member of a spiritual family, how involved are you?  Are you a casual observer?  Are you seeking your identity through your involvement or are you somewhere in between?

Do you find time to rest and just be with God?

What are your spiritual goals this year?  Take a few moments and think about how you would like to further your spiritual journey this year.  In the new year, people come up with all sorts of goals as to their physical health, financial wealth or relationships.  As we begin 2016, what are your goals for your relationship with God?  Do you want more faith?  Do you want to follow God in more areas of your life?  Do you want to read the bible more?  Mediate more?  Pray more?  The list is endless.  Don’t we owe our eternal souls as much time and reflection on our spiritual goals as on the goals we have for other areas of our lives?  (If not more….)

These are just some of the questions that we can reflect on. Perhaps others come to your mind.  Take some time and let God lead you down the path of reflection.   

Write down what comes to your mind as you reflect on 2015.  Write down your goals for 2016.  Writing things down allows you to go back and see how far your have come; how much God has transformed you.  It will prevent your goals from getting lost among the cares of this world, which is frequently the most common enemy of growing our relationship with God.

After you have developed your goals and wrote them down, pray about them.  Give them to God.  Give Him all the cares and temptations and dreams that you have.  And each week find some time to go back and note how God is leading you in each of your goals (write that down too!).  By 2017, you will be amazed at what God has given you.