Sunday, March 27, 2016

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 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 and Josh McDowell 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 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

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What's Good about Good Friday?

God loves us because He created us. I stand amazed at what He has done 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 we all descended 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...fire and brimstone.

In the Bible, God says that He alone is good. We are all born as sinners. Some 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 of escape from eternal punishment. If we will accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and allow Him to have control of our lives, we can become righteous in the eyes of God and receive His gift of eternal life.

"...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. The cross may be glamorized as jewelry or clothing adornments but it 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 and He suffered the ignominious death on the cross, but it was "good" for us because He became the 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

Monday, March 21, 2016

Born Again

I grew up in the ghettos of Philadelphia, PA. My dad was a violent abusive alcoholic. We weren't Catholic but my mom put me and my sister in Catholic school to get a good education. We also got a good dose of religion. At five years old I began to learn about God and being a good student I developed quite a knowledge of religion. I was taught many facts about God but also taught that when you die, God would weigh your good against your bad deeds and if you were good enough you would get into heaven. So I determined to be good and try to please God. I became an altar boy at eight years old, learned the mass in Latin and served in church at every opportunity. My goal was to become a priest because I thought they were holy men. By the time I was fourteen I became disillusioned with Catholicism and stopped going to church altogether when we moved to New Jersey.

Home was very dysfunctional because of alcoholism. I never understood why my mother put up with all of the abuse. But something radical happened when I was a teenager, my parents both became Christians and got involved in a Baptist church.

At that stage of life, I wanted nothing to do with religion and began hanging out with the hippies, living an immoral lifestyle, ingesting any drugs or alcohol that I could get my hands on. At seventeen I left home to attend college in Tennessee, which was just one continual party. A year later I was back home working with my father in the construction business. For the next three years, I was in and out of college, working various jobs, partying with my friends, trying anything that would bring happiness to my troubled, wounded soul.

Every day the road to my apartment took me right past a Christian bookstore. I was 21 years old at the time, and one Friday on the way home from work I decided to stop in. The bookstore owner greeted me and let me browse through some Bibles. We shared a brief conversation and he obviously could tell that I was out of my comfort zone and not really sure of what I was looking for. Before I left he invited me to church on Sunday. I reluctantly agreed and quickly left the premises.

I really had no intention of attending church but by Sunday morning I changed my mind. The people at church greeted me and expressed their joy at seeing me there. The church was a very simple storefront building compared to the elaborate architecture of a Catholic church. That morning for the first time in my life I heard the gospel message. I already believed in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ but that morning I understood the significance when I heard this message, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast" Ephesians 2:8,9.

I knew that Jesus died for me, bore the penalty for my sins and I desperately wanted and needed a fresh start. I prayed and asked God to forgive me, take over my messed up life and change me from the inside out. I gave control of my life over to God because I couldn't live a good life on my own and I wanted to follow Jesus.

The changes were miraculous! Eventually I stopped taking drugs and abusing alcohol, stopped having premarital sex and had a voracious hunger for the Bible. I spent many hours in my little studio apartment reading my Bible and talking to God. I told all my friends that Jesus was now in control of my life and of course, they ridiculed me. The irony is that now some of them are now Christians as well. Since that day I have been far from perfect, but I know that the Spirit of God lives within me, my sins are forgiven and my purpose in life is to honor Him. My life belongs to Him and I am totally submitted to God and dependent on Him. I am assured of eternal life and every day my desire is to spread the good news about Jesus.       

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" 2 Corinthians 5:17.

No matter how miserable your life may be, God loves you too and wants make you a brand new person. Talk to him right now, ask Him to forgive your sins and take control of your life. Jesus will never reject anyone who comes to Him in faith.

"If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved" Romans 10:9-10.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Real St. 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, February 11, 2016

Love is the Greatest Gift



A Peanuts cartoon shows Lucy standing with her arms folded and a stern expression on her face. Charlie Brown pleads, “Lucy, you must be more loving. This world really needs love. You have to let yourself love to make this world a better place.” Lucy angrily whirls around and knocks Charlie Brown to the ground. She screams at him, “Look, you blockhead, the world I love. It's people I can’t stand.”

I don’t know why God loves us the way He does, but I’m just glad He does. God knows us intimately and yet He loves us with an everlasting love. Before God ever created man He knew the outcome. He knew we would rebel against Him but because of His great love for us, He created man anyway because He already had a plan to redeem His creation.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3:16-17

The Son of God volunteered to complete the mission. He willingly decided to leave the splendor and glory of heaven, humble Himself, become human and live a sinless life in order to fulfill the requirements of the law. He was obedient to the point of death on the cross, to satisfy the demands of a holy God, destroy the works of the devil and in the process redeem mankind. Jesus loves us enough to offer His life as a sacrifice for us. Jesus said, Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 And that’s exactly what He did.

The English language is so limited when it comes to the word love. We use that one word for so many things. I love my wife, spicy food, seafood, cheeseburgers, my job, my house, my truck, beaches, mountains and sunshine. The Greek language is much more specific. Storge means fondness or affection. Eros means erotic love or sexual desire. Fileo means brotherly love. God’s love is agape love. Agape is the kind of love that seeks the other’s highest good. That’s why Jesus was willing to let go of his divine privileges, be born as a human and give His sinless life in exchange for ours on that cross. He put our needs ahead of His rights.

Paul tells us of the importance of love and then defines it. 

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

Paul wanted us to see that spiritual gifts are great but without love we’re just making a bunch of noise. He lists many good things we can do but without love they’re really not worth anything.

Love is to be the defining characteristic of every Christian.

Jesus said, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Groundhog Day

In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray plays meteorologist Phil Connors. He travels to Punxsutawney, PA with his producer and cameraman to cover the annual festivities where Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog is the star.

A blizzard develops and forces them to stay in Punxsutawney. Connors awakens the next morning to find it is February 2 again, and his day unfolds in exactly the same way. However, he is the only one aware of the repetition. Everyone else seems to be living February 2 exactly the same way and for the first time. This pattern continues for many days, maybe even weeks.

I love the fact that many great Bible teachers seem to find analogies in every day things. Rarely does this happen to me. But this movie seems analogous to trials in the Christian life. It may not be the best analogy but it works for me.

When Phil Connors realized that the same things were happening everyday, he began to memorize events, so he could manipulate people and take advantage of his situation. Later when he begins to get tired of being stuck in Groundhog Day, he tries to fight against it but the repetition continues nonetheless. Finally when he examines his life and priorities and makes the necessary changes, Groundhog Day stops and he wakes up on February 3rd a better man. Lesson learned.

The analogy may be loose but it just reminded me of the trials we go through as Christians. Whether it’s a “blizzard” in your life or just a minor testing of your faith, trials are inevitable. God is doing a work in the life of the believer and He allows things to happen along the way to develop our character. “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

God allows trials in our lives because there is obviously something He wants us to learn from that particular situation. When we don’t pass the test it seems that God continues to bring that particular trial back into our life until we do pass the test...kinda like in the Groundhog Day movie.

Like Phil Connors sometimes we try to manipulate or take advantage of the situation we’re going through, other times we try to fight against it. But when we finally stop and examine our lives and priorities, then we pass the test and move forward. We learn and grow spiritually from the situation.

Many of us complain when we are tested. We pray for patience, and God allows us to be tested so we can develop our patience, and then we complain more. Our character is both developed and revealed by the testing of our faith. “When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your patience has a chance to grow.” James 1:2-3

It's not a matter of "if" the storm is going to come, it's just a question of "when". People have this idea that when you turn your life over to Jesus you won't have any more difficulties. Christians are not immune to difficulties and hardships but we are responsible for our reactions to the trials we encounter. The Apostle Paul probably suffered more hardship than any other Christian and yet he learned to welcome the trials. He said “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” Romans 5:3-4

Monday, January 04, 2016

New Year's Revolution

Many of us make resolutions when the New Year comes. Some of us keep them a few weeks, some make it through the entire month of January. But very few actually accomplish their annual goals. I found a list of my goals from last year. I reached some, but failed to accomplish most of them. There's nothing wrong with resolutions per se. Here’s what the apostle Paul had to say about resolve…

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

Maybe we make things too hard, too complex. Maybe the goals we set are not realistic, not measurable or not attainable. Maybe we should try to minimize our goals, narrow our focus. This year I have asked the Lord to give me just one thing to focus on and He gave me this one word…follow.

Remember what Jesus said about following Him?

"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Luke 9:23-24

We don’t like to deny ourselves. It seems almost un-American. We live in a land of indulgence and instant gratification. When we want something, we get it. We go buy it or charge it. But if we’re going to follow Jesus, He said that we must deny ourselves, and take up the cross daily. Taking up the cross means dying to self. The outer man is broken before Him. Like a kernel of wheat, the shell must break before new life can grow from within. That's what it means to follow Jesus.

The one thing I want to focus on this year is following Jesus. I want to become more like Him. If I’m going to follow Jesus, then I need to get to know Him more. I need to saturate myself in the Word and spend more time talking with Him. I must learn what He did, what He said, see how He treated people and how He responded to them. I want to represent Him, I want to resemble Him, I want to imitate Him, I want to exemplify Him, I want to smell like Him. Maybe you will resolve to do this with me.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Waiting for the Promise

I have a confession to make. I don’t like to wait, but waiting is a part of life. As a child,
waiting for Christmas seemed like an eternity. As time progressed, I couldn’t wait to become a teen, and then an adult, but still I had to wait. Driving to visit my family on the busiest travel day of the year we found ourselves waiting in traffic. Whenever I checkout at the store, I have a tendency to pick the slowest moving line, and so I wait. When I go to Starbucks, all I want is a plain old cup of black coffee, but I have to wait for the woman who wants a Venti, sugar-free, non-fat, vanilla soy, double shot latte, no foam, extra hot, Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha with light whip and extra syrup, double cupped. And so I’m learning to wait.

In the Garden of Eden, God made a promise to Adam and Eve after they sinned against Him. He promised to send a Redeemer who would crush Satan, but the world had to wait thousands of years for the promise to come to fruition.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15

Two thousand years later, there lived a man named Abraham. God asked him to leave his country and his kinfolk and go to a foreign land that God would show him. He obeys and God makes a promise to Abraham.

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:2-3

All the people on earth would be blessed through the coming Messiah who would descend from Abraham. But it all began with one child of promise. God promised Abraham and Sarah a son, but they waited twenty five years for Isaac to be born. 

The nation of Israel began with Abraham and one of his best known descendants was King David. When the prophet Samuel anointed David to be the next king, David still had to wait. He waited over 15 years before he would take the throne of Judah and he waited another 7 years before he ruled over the united kingdom of Israel and Judah. And several years later God makes this promise to David.

The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 2 Samuel 7:11-13

That last phrase refers to the promised Messiah but Israel waited another thousand years before He came. Three hundred years after King David, God raised up the prophet Isaiah. This promise came through the prophet.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

The virgin birth is important. We’re all born with a sin nature because we are descendants of Adam and Eve. In order for God to take on flesh and blood without the sin nature, he bypassed the earthly father. The child in Mary’s womb was miraculously conceived by Holy Spirit. Therefore, Jesus was able to live a sinless life and become the perfect sacrificial Lamb of God.

After the prophecy of Isaiah, Israel still had to wait seven hundred more years for the coming of Messiah. And many didn’t even recognize Him when He came. They didn’t realize that He would first come to suffer and die and at His second coming He would establish His earthly kingdom. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  Many failed to recognize that the promised one is Jesus.

In his gospel record, Matthew traces the genealogy of Jesus all the way back to Abraham.

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Matthew 1:1

And so after the world waited over four thousand years, the promised Messiah came to earth to save His people from their sins. Jesus the Christ lived a perfect, sinless life, was crucified, died and was buried, and on the third day He rose again victorious over the grave, death and hell.

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12 

Those who have received Jesus Christ as Lord have been given the right to become children of God. Jesus promised to return, and so we wait. For over two thousand years we’ve been waiting for His promised return.  

God’s timetable is not the same as ours. One day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day to the Lord. So from His perspective, Jesus has only been gone for a couple of days! Peter encourages our hearts and reminds us why Jesus has not returned yet.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient and merciful toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:8-9 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Resurrection Day

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 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 and Josh McDowell 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 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

Monday, March 30, 2015

What's good about Good Friday?

I stand amazed at the great lengths God would go to just to save us. You might say, "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 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 we all descended from Adam and Eve, the same curse is upon us, we're born, we die and without God's intervention we would be eternally separated from him in a place of torment...fire and brimstone.

God says we are all born as sinners. Some 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 or thieves. God is the one who sets the standard and His standard is nothing short of perfection. "...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 mankind but I'm just glad that He does. He loves us so much that He provided a way of escape from eternal punishment. If we accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and allow Him to have control of our lives, we can become righteous in God's eyes. "...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. The cross can be minimized to jewelry or clothing adornment but it was the most brutal form of execution ever known to man. But God decided 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 makes Good Friday "good". Jesus suffered the ignominious death on the cross but it was "good" for us because He became the substitute on our behalf. God poured out His just and holy wrath on His own Son, whom He had made to be the very embodiment of sin. You just need to believe it and receive Christ by faith. Good Friday can be good for you too when you 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

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

New Life



I grew up in the ghettos of Philadelphia, PA.  My dad was a violent abusive alcoholic.  We weren't Catholic but my mom put me and my sister in Catholic school to get a good education.  We also got a good dose of religion.  At five years old I began to learn about God and being a good student I developed quite a knowledge of religion.  I was taught many facts about God but also taught that when you die, God would weigh your good against your bad deeds and if you were good enough you would get into heaven.  So I determined to be good and try to please God.  I became an altar boy at eight years old, learned the mass in Latin and served in church at every opportunity.  My goal was to become a priest because I thought they were holy men. By the time I was an adolescent though, I knew that something about the Catholic church wasn't quite right.  I became disillusioned and stopped going to church at age fourteen. 

Home was very dysfunctional because of alcoholism.  I hated my father and tolerated my mother.  When I was a teenager, both my parents became Christians and they got involved in a Baptist church.  At that stage of life, I wanted nothing to do with religion and began hanging out with the hippies, living an immoral life, ingesting any drugs or alcohol that I could get my hands on.  At seventeen I left home to attend college in Tennessee, which was just a continual party.  One year later I was back home working with my dad in the construction business.  For the next three years, I was in and out of college, working various jobs, partying with my friends, trying anything that would bring happiness to my troubled, wounded soul.

At 21, while driving home from work one Friday, I stopped in a Christian bookstore.  I noticed this store every day as I drove to my apartment and was curious about what was inside.  The bookstore owner greeted me and let me browse through some Bibles.  We shared a brief conversation and he obviously could tell that I wasn't sure what I was looking for.  Before I left he invited me to church on Sunday.  I reluctantly agreed and quickly left the premises.

I had no intention of attending church but by Sunday morning God changed my mind and I went.  The people at church greeted me and expressed their joy at seeing me there.  The church was a very simple storefront building compared to the elaborate architecture of a Catholic church.  That morning for the first time in my life I listened and received the gospel message.  I already believed in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and knew that he died for the sins of the world.  But that morning I understood the significance when I heard this message, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast" Ephesians 2:8-9. I realized that Jesus died for me, bore the penalty for my sins and I desperately needed a fresh start.  I prayed and asked God to forgive me, take over my messed up life and change me.  I gave control of my life over to God because I couldn't live a good life on my own and I wanted to be saved.

The changes were miraculous!  I stopped taking drugs and alcohol, stopped having premarital sex and instantly had a hunger for the Bible.  I spent many hours in my little apartment reading my Bible and talking to God.  I told all my friends that Jesus was now in control of my life and I was going to heaven.  They ridiculed me back then but now some of them are also Christians.  Since that day I have been far from perfect, but I know that the Spirit of God lives within me, my sins are forgiven and my purpose in life is to honor Him.  My life belongs to Him and I am submitted and surrendered to God. I am assured of my future in heaven and I openly spread the good news about Jesus and the change He has made in me.  "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" 2 Corinthians 5:17.

God loves you too and wants to transform your life and make you a brand new person.  Talk to him now, ask Him to forgive your sins and take control of your life!

"If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved."  Romans 10:9-10