Sunday, April 20, 2014

He is Risen!

As Christians, we believe that Jesus really did rise from the dead.  It wasn’t just a dream, it wasn’t a vision, it wasn’t a lie made up by the 12 disciples, but it was a real event in time and history. A real event with historical and eye-witness proof.

"Sir Lionel Luckhoo (1914-1997) is considered one of the greatest lawyers in British history. He's recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the "World's Most Successful Advocate," with 245 consecutive murder acquittals. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II -- twice. Luckhoo declared: "I humbly add I have spent more than 42 years as a defense trial lawyer appearing in many parts of the world and am still in active practice. I have been fortunate to secure a number of successes in jury trials and I say unequivocally the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt." - Lee Strobel

The resurrection is vital for our faith, because the defining event of the Christian faith is the resurrection of Christ.

If he didn’t rise from the dead then our faith is worthless, but if he did, then everything has meaning.

If Jesus rose from the dead then…..

…death is not the end, there is something beyond this life.
   
…what Jesus said about himself really is true. He really was the son of God (God in flesh)!
    

…there is more to life than what we understand here.
     

…there really is a God who was able to raise Jesus from the dead, a God we have to acknowledge, a God we will have to deal with.
     

…death is more than sorrow, loss and grief; it also has with it a hope for more than just these few years. 

This is not all there is....there's more!
    

The resurrection was the defining event of man and defining moment of history.

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead…then nothing matters, eat drink and be merry….this life is all there is. (Paul, 1 Corinthians 15)

But HE DID RISE FROM THE DEAD!  And for that we celebrate, because of his resurrection we have hope, we have faith, we believe.

The resurrection is the defining event of the Christian faith.  It was a historical event with more evidence than most events of history!


"If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead."  -Timothy Keller 

The resurrection is our line in the sand, our one issue that must be addressed.  If he rose, then he's God.  If he didn't, then nothing matters.  


But, I'm thrilled to say, as I close these Easter thoughts, 

He is Risen!!  He is Risen indeed!  

And he's coming back soon.

Are you ready?




Saturday, April 19, 2014

The struggle


During Easter week there is one day that is left out.  It's this day, Saturday.  Friday is the celebration of the passion, the day Christ died and Sunday is Easter, the day of resurrection, but Saturday is missing...both in the bible story and in our own narratives.  

What happened on Saturday?  It must have been the most terrible Sabbath for the disciples.  It was a day of struggle, a day of despair, a time of fear, of self-doubt.  I can't even imagine the thoughts they struggled with...

....did we follow the wrong guy?
....what has just happened, we thought Jesus was the Messiah.
....how could so many who were healed by Jesus turn on him like this?
....what do we do now?
....are we next?
....how can we ever trust anyone again?

The questions, the doubts, the struggles must have been overwhelming.  They always are.  Between a time of great loss...on our way to faith and victory is "the struggle", that time when we question everything! Was I wrong? Where was God? Doesn't he love me? How could he let this happen? We thought we had followed the right path....why did he allow THIS?

The loss is always bad, but the time of struggle before we see the resurrection is the darkest time in our walk with God.  It's what David called "the valley of the shadow of death".  It's that time of darkness, doubt, despair and confusion.

But wait a day, tomorrow something will happen that will change everything!  They won't believe it even when they see it!  When resurrection happens in our lives the time of struggle is overwhelmed and overshadowed by the bright glory of God's redemptive work.  The contrast is amazing!  

Between our loss and the time when we see what God is doing is always that time of struggle.  It's the Saturday between good Friday and Easter.  It's the darkest day you will ever experience.  In that time never forget 12 men who wondered if they had made a terrible mistake, never forget that Easter is coming....just wait!  

When Easter comes the time of struggle will be so forgotten that it won't even be mentioned....just as it's been completely left out of the story of Jesus.  What happened on Saturday?  Who cares!  Look at what happened on Sunday!!!



Friday, April 18, 2014

What would you ask?

This week, as my wife was working on a bible study, she came to the story of Bartimaeus in the study.  It's the story of a blind man (the story is below) and his encounter with Jesus.  When he had persisted in his plea for help Jesus called him and asked, "What do you want me to do for you?"

In her study the question was this- If you had been in that situation what would you have asked for?  I thought about it a bit, but pretty much already knew my answer....it's my primary request to God....but then my mind wandered to another story.

The story that came to my thoughts was the encounter of Solomon as God came to him and said, "Ask what you will..."  It was the "magic genie" kind of question...you have one wish, anything you want, it's yours! God's hands were open wide for anything Solomon would ask. To his credit, Solomon asked for wisdom.  God was pleased with his request and gave him more than he had requested...he gave his wealth, power, wisdom and much more!

As I thought about  Bartimaeus I also thought about Solomon.  Two men who both were given one grand open ended offer- "what do you want?"  Solomon chose well, but I wonder about Bartimaeus. 

Here's the story and then a few thoughts on the offer of Jesus.

Mark 10:46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Bartimaeus had a problem, he was blind.  His opportunity came and he asked for what he thought was the most important need of his life, but realize he could have asked for anything...wealth, power, long life!  What would you have asked if you had been blind in the presence of Jesus the miracle worker?  What would you have asked for?  I think most of us would have asked just as he did...for our most important need- sight.

It struck me there might have been a much better choice, a better request.  My mind wandered as I imagined what God might have done with another request from this man who could have anything he wanted.  What if he had asked, "Jesus, can I follow you?  I'll need some help because I'm blind, but could I follow you?"  

As I thought about that question I could see a twinkle in Jesus eyes. I imagine he would have smiled and replied, "YES!  I would love that, but you will need your sight, here is that as well."  I imagine this once blind man following Jesus, one of the 12...or should I say the 13 and after the cross he takes Judas' place among the apostles.  

I imagine Bartimaeus among the others on the day of Pentecost.  I think of a man with a testimony that changes his world....but he didn't ask to follow Jesus, he probably didn't even think of that.  He just asked for sight.  How blind we really are sometimes.  Even though we see we sometimes miss what's most important.

In the midst of your greatest need, if God came to you and asked, "What do you want me to do for you?"  What would you reply?  What would you ask?

Now the answer's not so easy, is it?




Good Friday


More than 2,000 years ago God in flesh, Jesus Christ, died a terrible death by the hands of man to pay for the sins of those same men and us as well.  He was, as the bible describes, "the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world".  On this terrible day so many years ago Jesus marked all of human history with this event and this statement- God loves you and paid the ultimate price to give you all he wants for you.  He paid the price himself!  He paid my debt and yours and invites us, by faith, to receive the ultimate gift....forgiveness and eternal life.  

On this day, when we remember God's love and gift, I just want to say, "Thank you God!  I can't express how grateful I am for your love, your forgiveness and your mercy to all of us.  You are so wonderful!! Thank you!"

Isn't it strange that the most terrible day in history was also the best because of what God did for us? 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Deception and accusation

The enemies best weapons are deception and accusation.  First, he deceives us into sin telling us God is holding something back from us, cheating us of "pleasure".  Then, when we sin, he accuses us of that sin and of our unworthiness of forgiveness or love.

It's the same tricks he's used for centuries.  He has none better!  First, the deception, then the accusation for falling for the deception.  What a evil being he is!  How foolish we are to fall for his age old tricks.

Apology

Sorry I have been missing in action.  The recent trip to Kenya really took a lot out of me and Internet was spotty at best.  I will catch up here soon.  If you stop to check on me, thank you.  I will post soon.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Quote of the day

 "The mystery and the beauty of the world is overwhelmingly amazing, and there's no scientific explanation of how it came about...I think it makes sense to believe in God." Bill Gates, interview in Rolling Stone.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Coffee in Nairobi


This morning (Saturday) I'm sitting with a nice cup of coffee in very cool Nairobi.  It's been a great week with 40 pastors on the east coast of Kenya, but tonight we head home.  

The week was difficult because of the heat and humidity, but we adjusted our format and made it a fun week for everyone.  I think the results were great and the pastors all seems to be benefited.  

We had planned to move from lecture format to facilitator format and it proved to be a great plan.  We heard from pastors who had not said a single word in three years.  It was quite a surprise to find out several of them are quite the comedians!  It was a very fun week and I'm glad it went well.  

Today we rest and tonight we fly home.  I look forward to my home and family, but am most grateful for the week that has just passed and I am thankful God used us in such a wonderful way.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

It's ok, God's in charge


If you watch the news it's easy to panic. The world seems out of control and panic, fear, worry are all emotions that come when it seems anarchy is  imminent. 

But it's ok....God IS in charge.  Nothing is out of control, it's ok.  As I read scripture there is one thing that is very clear- God is sovereign and all the chaos you see is not God's doing, but he is sovereign over it all.  Rulers are placed in their roles by him (see Daniel 11!), nations have their existence because of him, the events of history do not catch him by surprise....he's a "hands on" God, fully engaged in two things- 1. Glorifying Christ, and 2. Saving the lost world Christ died to redeem.  

It's quite a simple plan, but all fully under the control of God with the intent that Christ be glorified and the lost man be drawn to him.  How do I know all that?  It's fascinating, but I get it from Revelation.  As I read in chapter 17 I find these words, "For God has put it into their hearts to carry out HIS purpose...until the words of God are fulfilled."  

These are the events of the last days.  Anti-Christ is in charge and yet even this one who is against God is fully responding to the direction of a sovereign God with one goal.....HIS purpose, HIS glory, and the salvation of his children.

The Christian world I live in is in full panic mode because it seems "wicked men" rule and chaos is looming near, but don't forget....it's ok, God's in charge.  Even the apparent wicked ruler you see in different places around the globe is there by divine appointment to accomplish his will, his plan, to bring glory to his son.  

Relax, God has everything fully under control.....the government, the leaders, the weather, global warming, prices at the pump, your job, your life, you future...all of it....God's in charge.

So what do we do????  Preach Christ and make disciples, be ready when he comes and present to him a life of trust and obedient response to his one command to his disciples...the final words...go into all the world and make disciples.  That is his goal...the redemption of the lost man and he has given us that one task.

Why are we so busy with so many other things he never told us to do?  Why are we worried about all the rest?  It's ok, God's in charge, focus on the one thing he has told us to do and don't worry about the rest.  ok?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Living like Christ

"Americans have a higher opinion of gay people than they do of evangelical Christians, according to a new poll from the Human Rights Campaign."  -The Advocate

This statement is the first line in a recent article.  Isn't it sad that we have departed so far from what we were called to by Christ?  We were called to be a light to the world, salt to our culture and instead we have left a bad taste in the experiences of our culture.  

We don't need better P.R., but rather we need to go back to the gospels and follow Jesus around once more.  Instead of being seen as critical, judgmental and condemning we are called to love as Christ loved.  He ate with "publicans and sinners", we instead criticize them.  He drew the hurting, lost and struggling, but we seem to be too busy for them. 

I'm not trying to criticize the Christian community, obviously the culture has done that for me.  What I hope to do in my own life is live in such a way that when those who don't know Christ commentary my life they will say, "He loved others like Jesus did, he loved me."

May that be our common goal, our passion, to live like Christ and once more recapture the love that touched the world 2,000 years ago and turned it upside down.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Formulaic Faith


Much of what I see, that is called Christian today, is simply formulaic faith to make life easy, "blessed" and happy for the culture we call Christian.  I know that's a big statement, but I wonder how many of us realize that most of the books in Christian books stores are about "How to" make everything work just right for us and make our lives comfortable.

How to have a happy marriage, how to lose weight, how to raise good kids, how to deal with depression....and on the list goes.  With just the right formulas we can fix everything and life will be great! But that's not how life works, it's not about holding our tongues just right, doing the right things and then like the right formula, magically everything is wonderful and life is good.

Formulaic faith does not work!  You can't just "confess the right things", have daily devotions, pray every day and be nice to people and expect God will "bless you".....whatever that means.  (By the way, this phrase, "I am blessed", is a purely American idea.  I've not heard it anywhere else.)  But back to the topic...there is no formula to make everything perfect.....even when you do everything "just right" life goes wrong, you might get sick, you kids could "turn out bad", your marriage could fail....there is no magic to this. 

We live in a broken world full of broken people and things go wrong, people sin, we still get sick, our kids still go crazy and make us crazy and once in a while a marriage partner says, "I don't want to do this anymore."  When those times happen we naturally ask, I've heard it, "What did I do wrong???"

To be honest, as a loving parent you don't have to do anything wrong to have a rebellious kid.  To be in a marriage there is no magic formula to make it work.  It's hard work by two good people who both want to work on it.  We still get sick, no matter what we say with our mouths.  We still live in a broken world and there are no formulas to make this life "bump free perfect."  It wasn't meant to be.

The question is this....when something goes wrong...are you looking for the right formula, the right book, the perfect solutions so everything will add up and life will be perfect or are you trusting God and resting in him even if the world around you falls apart?

Formulaic faith does not work.  Trusting God with a host of questions and doubts in hand does.  When things go wrong we don't need the perfect book, the ideal list of things to do, the perfect words to say, we need to sit at God's feet and trust him, rest in him, with all of our problems, all of our doubts, our rebellious kids, our broken marriages, our crumbling lives and simply say, "Lord, I don't know what to do but trust you.  Will you help me?"  

And with that simply prayer you have done the one thing that makes everything add up!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Current status.....


This is me today, but I feel like the photo below....
I'll be back when I'm feeling better.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

God's museum

If you have ever been to a museum you will find it is full of the world's best works, pottery, sculpture, paintings.  

Only the best for a museum will do. We, as visitors to these solemn places, admire with amazement the works of art created by hands much more gifted than ours.  


How did they do that?  What amazing skill!  That must be worth a fortune! And we come away in awe at the artistic skill of men and women through the ages.


God has a museum too.  But his art work is much different.  We would never pay to see what he is most proud of.  In fact, like the precious collection of a little child...with valued items to him that only make us smile, God's valued treasures amaze us....not because of their great quality or beauty, but because of their utter worthlessness.


Here's God museum collection- 



"God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.  As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”

This is the artistic work God values.  Not awe inspiring, is it?  
And yet, to our surprise, as we walk through God's museum it is filled with flawed works of art, cracked pots, torn paintings, ruined statues, used by the great master for his glory. 

His museum is full of flawed and worthless pieces that he can be glorified through. 

If you know him you are one of his prized possessions, not because you are so good or beautiful, but because he can look good through you.  You see, you don't have to be good enough to be in God's museum...he's not looking for that kind of art...you just have to be cracked, broken, worthless to the world, but available to him.  Then you will find yourself in his museum of precious works of art.  A vessel, cracked broken and worthless to everyone else, but highly prized by God.