Resurrection

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October 6

Tuesday, October 6th, 2020

I believe if there is one thing which could change the course of our faith-derail it even-it would be the validity of the resurrection of Jesus.  If someone could somehow prove it never happened everything falls apart. I just finished reading I Cor. 15 in One Faithful Life by John MacArthur. In his commentary he gives Paul’s 6 disastrous consequences if there were no resurrection. Here they are:

  1. Preaching Christ would be senseless. (v.14)
  2. Faith in Christ would be useless. (v.14)
  3. All the witnesses and preachers of the resurrection would be liars.  (v.15)
  4. No one would be redeemed from sin. (v.17)
  5. All former believers would have perished. (v.18)
  6. Christians would be the most pitiable people on earth. (v.19)

As you can see quite a bit of weight lands on the resurrection. Quite a bit of truth is dependent on the resurrection. When you think about it, that explains why so much effort has been put in by skeptics to somehow disprove its validity.

And that is good news for us! We stand on truth.  If the resurrection were not true they would not be trying so hard to find loopholes and use flimsy excuses. Standing on truth is a good place and solid place to plant our feet.

“Father, thank you for the resurrection. It is the hope of all mankind. It is the rock of all Christ-followers.”

August 27

Thursday, August 27th, 2020

Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill has always been an interesting one to me. You can find it in Acts 17: 16-34. Paul is in Athens, the religious center of Greece. In fact, as you walk with Paul and listen to him, it is easy to come to the conclusion that Athens was the home of virtually every god known to man. In 17:16 it says, “Paul’s…spirit was provoked as he saw the city was full of idols.” In verse 22 it says he begins his sermon with “I perceive in every way you are very religious.” I’d say those are dead giveaways! 🙂

As Paul reasoned with the people, the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were curious (they loved engaging with others for the purpose of learning and discourse), but some were hostile. Why? Because he preached Jesus and His resurrection.  He didn’t “preach” health and wealth. He didn’t “preach” a glory cloud will fall. He didn’t “preach” God wants to bring a miracle to your life. No. He preached Jesus and His resurrection.

They wanted to hear more, but it was more of a defense of what he believed. The Areopagus was a court named for the hill on which it once met. His defense is interesting.

  • He alludes to their multiple gods.  They were “very religious.”
  • He zeroes in on the altar To An Unknown God. They were “spiritual;” they believed in the supernatural. Sort of like many in our day. They believe in something; they just aren’t sure what or who.
  • He teaches with purpose.  Take note of it: The God who made the world (the one they classified as unknown); He doesn’t live in temples; He gives life, breath, and all things; He has made us all equal (one blood); He has put in all of us a need for Him and a desire to seek.
  • He presents the appeal. Now is the time. God has overlooked our rebellion but no more.

Such a far cry  from the mere pablum of our day. No hype. No promise of wealth. No “God wants His kingdom here now.” No “think better of yourself because you are worth it.” Just Jesus and our need for Him. Just Jesus and our need to repent. Just Jesus- and it was all cemented not by our agreement-but by His resurrection. And like today the response was mixed. Yes, as expected there was hostility. But that day Paul’s honesty in preaching brought some into the kingdom and raised the curiosity of others.   

“Father, my mandate is to preach Jesus and Him crucified and resurrected. Help me not to waver from that mandate.”

July 9

Thursday, July 9th, 2020

I’d like to continue with the thought from yesterday’s devotion (July 8). What to do about the risen Christ?

A number of theories (“proofs”)  have been put forth concerning the empty tomb.

  • Jesus just swooned on the cross. He passed out from all the torture; was put in the tomb; revived in a cold, damp tomb; then had the strength to push the stone away.  I suspect somewhere in there He also had to over power the guards. Seriously? The more one thinks of that the more ridiculous it sounds.
  • The ladies went to the wrong tomb. Does that sound as silly to you as it does to me, especially given the fact that both Matthew and Mark tell us they were there when they laid Jesus in the tomb AND they even prepared the body with spices and oils. (Luke 23)

There are other theories-just as silly- but I think one of the most incredulous was actually given during that time: the disciples came and stole the body. Matthew 29 records that lie. But what is absolutely “insane” is how it went down:

  • The guards report the body is gone.
  • The guards were bribed by the religious leaders to tell the lie of the stolen body.
  • The guards accept the bribe and spread the lie.
  • The religious leaders promise protection (if Pilate should hear word of it) to the guards.

One big question: if the guards were asleep, how did they know the disciples stole the body? As Biff says to George McFly (Back to the Future 1), “Hello! Think McFly! Think!” Think people. Think! Does not that lousy excuse for the reason sound more more unbelievable as you think about it?  And here is another question: what about those soldiers? To live with that lie over your head and to know you betrayed your army?  To be black-balled in the eyes of your fellow soldiers? No thanks.

Seems to me it takes more “faith” to believe a lie than to believe the truth that Jesus rose from the dead.

“Father, the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead piles up, especially when one considers how ridiculous the theories sound.  I state again how I will stake all I have on the resurrected Christ.”

July 8

Wednesday, July 8th, 2020

One of the truths of Scripture which is a non-negotiable is the physical resurrection of Christ from the dead. One of the heresies which has never seemed to go away is Jesus did not physically raise from the dead but his spirit did.

To believe the latter you must deny the former. This is not one of those either/or propositions. This truth came home to me as I read the accounts of that Sunday morning. The Sabbath was over and 3 ladies (Mary Magdalene; Mary, His mother; and Salome) made their way to the tomb. They discussed how they were going to move the stone but, of course, it was not an issue when they got there. “He is not here; He is risen.” James and John find an empty tomb. But the best exchange IMHO is His exchange with Mary Magdalene in John 20. Probably driven back to the tomb by her grief, she encountered Jesus. Thinking He was the gardener, Mary asked where they laid Him. You gotta wonder why she didn’t recognize Jesus. I mean, she had been a follower of His for much of His ministry.  She was one of the women who took care of His and the disciples physical needs (food and shelter).  But we aren’t told why she didn’t. Speculation: her tears clouded her eyes (that does happen you know? I’m married and have two daughters). 🙂  It could have been because the last time was ugly and He was beyond recognition. And maybe it was a supernatural thing (like the two on the road to Emmaus). That really isn’t important. But when she did recognize Him? WOW!! She hung onto Him. The word is clung to Him. The last thing she wanted to do is to let Him go again.  But keep in mind you don’t cling to ghosts or apparitions; figments of your imagination; or dreams. She clung to Jesus. But she had to let go.

I’d like to reference the holding on and letting go, but my point today is the physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It is unquestionable. It cannot be seen as unimportant. Christianity literally rises and falls on its surety. No bodily resurrection = no faith. Bodily resurrection = solid rock.

“Father, Jesus rose. He is alive. Not a ghost or a figment of the imagination. Without doubt one of, if not THE most essential truths of all. To this truth I cling.”

He’s Alive!

Sunday, April 12th, 2020

Today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. It is not quite the Resurrection Sunday celebration we were anticipating that’s for sure.  The past few years we have had one service at a local venue (Abram Farm) that allowed us to be all together as one church family. This year was already going to be different due to the company that normally did our sound having to beg off this year. So, in spite of the graciousness of Bill & Suzie Abram, the owners of the venue, we were going to have two services at our building.

Then COVID-19 happened. Suddenly, we went from Abram Farm to our church building to a virtual celebration. But there is a great lesson here! The grave could not contain Him. What in the world would make us think a virus could? So we celebrate anyway. Virtually.

More could be said. But I’m not going to belabor the point. So I say, “Celebrate! Jesus is alive in our hearts. He is alive in our worship. He is alive seated at the right hand of His Father. Celebrate!”  I’d like ask you to listen to an old song. In my mind, one of the best Easter songs you don’t even know by my favorite Christian group of all time.

 

December 4

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Christmas vs Easter.

Celebratory vs Solemn.

That’s often the way we look at Christmas and Easter. Christmas Eve vs Good Friday. The tree vs the Cross. Not until Easter morning-Resurrection Sunday-does the 40 days leading up to it become a celebration.

In my mind it is not a case of either/or.  It is a case of both/and. In God’s grand scheme Christmas is not more celebratory than Easter. Sure Christmas is a time of celebration-nowadays dating back to the day after Thanksgiving (and now creeping closer to Halloween). And Easter tends to be more of a one day of celebration.

But if you really think about it, without Christmas Easter makes no sense. And without Easter Christmas is only an introduction but has no conclusion. Taken separately Christmas speaks of a birth; Easter speaks of a death & resurrection. Seen together we see Someone born; we see Someone die; we see Someone born to die.

We often hear during this time of the year the slogan “Wise men still seek Him.” True. But not just Christmas. Wise men worship the child who was born and the man who would die.

“Father, I thank you for the story of Christmas. I thank you for the story of Easter. And I thank you they make more sense and have more meaning when seen together.”

November 5

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019

My title for this devotion is What Was vs What Is.

It is inescapable. In reality, it has been since before Halloween. What is that? Christmas is coming. Surely you’ve noticed the displays in the stores. Pretty soon we’ll see Uncle Sam in a sleigh pulled by 8 tiny rabbits. Sort of ridiculous if you ask me. (But no one has). Christmas decorations, trees, etc out before October is even over. It is definitely a reminder of our consumeristic society.

But it should also serve as a reminder of a greater truth: What was and what is.

The Christmas story is a story of what was vs what is. The story doesn’t start in a stable in Bethlehem. It actually starts in the Garden. Having known only the beauty of sweet fellowship with Adam and Eve, God came to the Garden wanting to meet with them as He always did. For the first time, Adam and Eve are hiding. The effects of sin-their sin- has already manifested itself. What was will never be again. What was sweet, pure and lovely will now forever be tainted with ugliness, mistrust, and a penchant for hiding from God. That bond what once was is forever broken. No longer do Adam and Eve long for and look forward to walking with God in the cool of the day. Now they hide. I hide. Sin has done its dirty work and has forever put a gap between me and God.

But that’s also why I celebrate Christmas. God has bridged that gap between us by His Son’s birth, death and resurrection. Praise God what was is not and does not last. Christmas is the celebration of God’s desire to have fellowship with me. With you. A tragedy is turned into a triumph. A forever broken relationship is mended by a Man- God’s Son. Born in a manger.

“Father, what was- perfect peace- will never be again. But what can be is a life with You. Thank you for Jesus- His birth, His death, and His resurrection.”

July 24

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Facts that Hear vs Facts that Act.

Sounds like a strange title doesn’t it? It’s almost like, “What is Bill smoking?: Nothing. Never have. So my mind is not a jumbled mess. 🙂

Let me put it this way: Have you ever heard something that sounded good, had facts to back it, BUT required a little too much exercise of faith to pull it off? Allow me to explain: On December 17, 1903 the Wright brothers made history by flying. They defied the law of gravity. But did you know the idea wasn’t theirs? Year before some mathematicians and scientists figured out flight was possible but nobody was willing to take them up on it. Until the Wright brothers. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Alexander Campbell, the founder of what is called the Restoration Movement, once said, “Faith is belief in testimony.” He further said, “Faith is belief in testimony of credible witnesses.” Think on that some. What changed the apostles was not the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, but their witness of the Resurrected Christ. And it was that belief that transformed them and therefore gave them credibility with the people who listened. The apostles had to act upon the fact of the Resurrection. It was not enough just to hear the story. They saw the risen Christ. Then allowed that fact to revolutionize their lives.

The same goes for those who heard the apostles. The apostles were credible witnesses but those who heard had to believe what they said and act on that faith.

That goes for all of us. The Gospel is presented to us. We hear. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” [Rom.10:17] We then decided whether to say, “Oh that may be facts or it may just be talk” OR “Those are facts I need to believe and act on.”

“Father, your Word is truth. It was written by inspired men who were credible witnesses to your work. Help me not be someone who has the facts and does nothing. Help me to be one who hears, believes, and acts.”

June 5

Wednesday, June 5th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Loss in Death vs. Victory in Death.

Death has been called the Great Enemy. I have also heard it called the Great Equalizer. Many people are afraid of death. The sad part is many people who use the name “Christian” are also afraid.  I have been at the bedside of people who are afraid to die and are unsure of their salvation and they need not have fear of death because of what Jesus has done.

Jesus conquered death, hell and the grave though His resurrection. So the Christ-follower (which I am one) has absolutely nothing to fear. Just yesterday (Tuesday), I went to the cemetery where my mother is buried. Following her death in 2004, she was cremated and I left PA to return home to Ohio. It is now 2019. 15 years later I went the gravesite where she and her godly parents were buried. I came away with a sense of relief knowing they weren’t there. Knowing I will see them again.

How different from the story I read today about Charles Bradlaugh, a belligerent British atheist was laid to rest in an empty funeral service. Writer Authur Porritt wrote:

No prayer was said at the grave. Indeed, not a single word was uttered. The remains, placed in a light coffin, were lowered into the earth in a quite unceremonious fashion as if carrion were being hustled out of sight…I came away heart-frozen. It only then dawned on me that loss of faith in the continuity of human personality after death gives death an appalling victory.

To the unbeliever death is a sting. To the Christ-follower death has lost its sting.

“Father, thank you for the victory over death. Thank you that death has no power to the one who follows You. Thank you that I have nothing to fear because of the victory of Christ over death.”

April 19/Weekend

Friday, April 19th, 2019

My title is All Access vs No Access.

Several months ago I had the great privilege of opening the Indiana House of Representatives session with prayer. Getting there was interesting. I had to go through a locked gate, tell them who I was and what I was there for and wait for the arm to go up. Fine…if someone is at the gate. I eventually had to back out (I had a number of cars behind me), make a call and get instructions.  Otherwise, no access. To top it off I had to go through other checkpoints (which I understand why) to get where I needed to go.

Today is “Good Friday.” A day that reminds me of access. Isaiah 25:9 says, “Behold, this is our God; we have watched for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

On this day the cross made salvation possible. On this day Jesus died for that salvation to be possible. On this day the sky grew pitch black even though it was noon. On this day the veil was torn from top to bottom giving us full and complete access to the presence of God. A new way is now open to God. No longer is the blood of bulls and goats required. No longer do we need a priest to offer a sacrifice for our sins. No longer does a priest give forgiveness. Full and complete access is now ours.

PRAISE THE LAMB!