Sunday, April 16, 2017

Resurrection Sunday

One of the things I love about this time of year is how various colors emerge as nature resurrects from its winter death sentence. This is also the time of year when we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. With remarkable accuracy, Jesus fulfilled over 300 Old Testaments prophecies concerning his life, death, burial and resurrection.

Here's the account from the Gospel of John...

Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and 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 Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (which means, Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, 'I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord," and that He had said these things to her. So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. John 20 11-20


Not only did Jesus appear to his immediate disciples after His resurrection but He also appeared to over 500 of his followers at once! At the time the apostle Paul wrote about this fact many of the witnesses were still alive who would corroborate his story. Paul himself persecuted Christians until Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus, years after His ascension to heaven. Here is how Paul describes the good news about Jesus death, burial and resurrection...

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church. 1 Corinthians 15:3-9

I believe these things by faith, but still there are many skeptics today. However many agnostics and atheists like Lee Strobel (The Case for Christ) and Josh McDowell (Evidence Demands a Verdict) took the initiative to actually study the claims of Christ. The overwhelming evidence lead them to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Even Josephus, the secular 1st century historian attests to evidence of Jesus' resurrection...

" ... About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats and as a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvelous things about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared." Josephus' Testimonium Flavianum, from Antiquities of the Jews 18:63-64

The Gospel of John closes with the reason for his writing. His purpose in writing his gospel is that you will be presented with the factual truth about Jesus and hopefully come to believe his claims. We who believe in Him have hope beyond the grave... because He rose from the dead, so shall we!


Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. John 20:30-31

Friday, April 14, 2017

What's Good about Good Friday?

God loves us because we are His creation. I am amazed at the lengths that He went through to provide salvation. You might ask, "Why do I need to be saved? What am I being saved from?"

It all goes back to the Garden of Eden. The story is found in the Book of Genesis. God created Adam and Eve and gave them simple instructions which ultimately they disobeyed. God had warned them that their disobedience would result in death. They chose to listen to the temptation of Satan rather than the clear, single command of God. The result was their banishment from the Garden, eventual physical death and separation from God. However, God promised that he would provide a way of reconciliation for them. Since all of us descend from Adam and Eve, the same curse is upon us. We're born, we live for a certain number of years, and then we die. And without God's intervention we would be eternally separated from him in a place of torment, outer darkness, fire and brimstone.

Only God is perfectly good. We are all born as sinners. Some people will readily admit to being sinners but others believe we are basically good. The problem is that we have the wrong standard. We think we're good because we're not as bad as others who may be drunks, murderers, rapists or thieves. But God is the one who sets the standard and His standard is nothing short of perfect righteousness. 

"...For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood." Romans 3:23-25

I don't understand why God loves us so much, but I'm just glad that He does. Because of His great love for us, He provided a way to be reconciled to Him and escape eternal punishment. If you will accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and allow Him to have control of your life, you will become righteous in the eyes of God and receive His free gift of eternal life. No strings attached.

"...When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." Romans 5:6-8

I'm currently reading through the Gospels as we approach Resurrection Day. It's good to be reminded of the price that Jesus paid to redeem us from the penalty of our sin. Today the cross is glamorized as jewelry or clothing adornments but crucifixion was the most brutal form of execution ever devised by man. But God decided that this would be the method by which Jesus would willingly give up His life.
  
"... Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they put a purple robe on him. “Hail! King of the Jews!” they mocked, as they slapped him across the face." "...So they took Jesus away. Carrying the cross by himself, he went to the place called Place of the Skull. There they nailed him to the cross." John 19:1-3, 17

That's what is "good" about Good Friday. Jesus was beaten, bruised and bloodied beyond recognition and He suffered the ignominious death on the cross, but it was "good" for us because He became the sinless substitute on our behalf. God poured out His just and holy wrath on His own Son, whom He had made to become the very embodiment of sin. All you need to do is believe it and receive Jesus Christ by faith as your Lord and Savior. Good Friday can be "good" for you too when you choose to become a follower of Jesus Christ.  

"For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ." 2 Corinthians 5:21

Thursday, March 09, 2017

The Ministry of Saint Patrick

I am Patrick, yes a sinner and indeed untaught; yet I am established here in Ireland where I profess myself bishop. I am certain in my heart that "all that I am", I have received from God. So I live among barbarous tribes, a stranger and exile for the love of God. He himself testifies that this is so. I never would have wanted these harsh words to spill from my mouth; I am not in the habit of speaking so sharply. Yet now I am driven by the zeal of God, Christ's truth has aroused me. I speak out too for love of my neighbors who are my only sons; for them I gave up my home country, my parents and even pushing my own life to the brink of death. If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God so as to teach these peoples; even though some of them still look down on me. 1 Corinthians 15:10; Philippians 2:30

Could I have come to Ireland without thought of God, merely in my own interest? Who was it made me come? For here "I am a prisoner of the Spirit" so that I may not see any of my family. Can it be out of the kindness of my heart that I carry out such a labor of mercy on a people who once captured me when they wrecked my father's house and carried off his servants? For by descent I was a freeman, born of a decurion father; yet I have sold this nobility of mine. I am not ashamed, nor do I regret that it might have meant some advantage to others. In short, I am a slave in Christ to this faraway people for the indescribable glory of "everlasting life which is in Jesus Christ our Lord." Acts 20:22; Romans 6:23

Excerpt from "A Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus"

Thursday, March 02, 2017

"There's No Place Like Home"

When I was a child, we used to watch the Wizard of Oz every year. One of the most memorable lines from the film was when Dorothy said, “There's no place like home!”

Home is a place of familiarity, where you grew up, where you have fond memories.  Home is a place of security, where you can let your guard down.

No matter where you currently live, once you receive Jesus as Lord you have a dual citizenship. Your real home is in heaven.

But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. Philippians 3:20-21

When you belong to the family of God, sometimes you actually get homesick for heaven.  You may feel restless for home because God created you that way, with a spirit that longs to be with God. It's like we have a homing instinct guiding us there.

It's amazing that God has built this homing instinct even into animals. The salmon return home from the sea to lay their eggs in the rivers of their birth. Birds migrate home over long distances every year as well.  God designed something in them that brings them home.

Likewise, God has built into each one of us, a desire, a longing to be home with Him. 

God has planted eternity in the human heart.  Ecclesiastes 3:11
 
I believe we were all created for heaven. C.S. Lewis put it this way...

"Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists.  A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food.  A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in the world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." (Mere Christianity)

We were made for another world. You and I will never be fully satisfied with life here on earth.  Ironically, many people think that if they have a nice big house, a loving family, a stable job, two cars - then they will be happy and content.  But look at how many rich people have it all and yet they are some of the most miserable people in the world.

Augustine said, "Thou hast made us for thyself and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee." We will always be restless if we try to find rest here on this earth and through things of this earth.  We need to realize this world is not our home and that true rest can only come when we finally return to our eternal home in heaven.

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. Colossians 3:1-2

The more pain I experience, the more evil I see, the more funerals I perform, the more I long for heaven. No more sin, sickness or sadness there. God will wipe away every tear. The greatest thing about heaven is that we will be with our Lord. 

How do you get there? Not by good works. You must admit you are a sinner, repent of your sin, ask God's forgiveness and receive Jesus Christ as Lord of your life.  

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 
 

Jesus has provided the way of salvation. God has prepared a home for you in heaven and He is waiting for you to come to your real home. I pray that you know Jesus as Lord and that you too will be homesick, not just for your earthly home but for your true eternal home in heaven.