BREAKING CAMP

SCRIPTURE PASSAGE:  2 Corinthians 5:1-9

Growing up in Southern California brings back fond memories of summertime camping with the family.  My dad was a city fireman for over thirty years and because of his work schedule of 24 hours on duty/24 hours off, he would have as many as three days and sometimes five off, plus accrued vacation time which led to many camping trips during many summers.

Setting up the Campsite was always an adventure. 

Dad had to find the exact spot for the tent location.  He knew that the preciseness of location was a must or my mother would have him move the location to her liking.  The men (my dad, and brother), all three of us, would call my mom a ‘picky camper’!; the campsite had to be near the restrooms with hot and cold showers AND… the site had to be neat and clean for the entire stay.  Oh, and a clothesline was always stretched between two pine trees near the picnic table to hang out damp washcloths plus any wet bathing suits and towels brought back from the local swimming hole at the nearby river.

Don’t forget the rake! 

Mom wanted my brother and me to take turns in raking the campsite every morning after breakfast, then hook up the nearby hose to settle the dust in front of the tent.  “NO DIRT IN, OR ON THE TENT!”

The sad part in all of this…eventually, we had to leave and break down the campsite.  Although mom wanted the trip to be enjoyable for all, she also wanted her experience to feel like,,, let’s say, clean, tidy, and like home sweet home.

“But Mom, it’s all just temporary!”

WE LIVE IN A WORLD COMPOSED OF THAT WHICH IS ONLY TEMPORARY.

For,  “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”  (1 Peter 1:24-35, NIV Bible)

ALL will eventually fade and pass away.  Only that which has its foundation built on and in God and in His Word will live on.

DWELLING IN TENTS –

The TENT should remind us of the TEMPORARY NATURE of things which we deal with.

Abraham in the Bible Lived in a Temporary Tent but looked for a Lasting City [Hebrews 11:8-10].

BEDOUIN TENTS:

  • They were portable.
  • They were protective.
  • They were durable.
  • They were temporary.

The Hebrew Nation dwelled in TENTS but looked for a HOMELAND.

Marvin Wilson, a noted author remarked, “Israel’s religion might be called a ‘pup-tent’ religion.”  [See Footnote [i].]

The Israelites traveled for forty years in the wilderness and in doing so, they dealt with the “temporary” to achieve the permanent–Canaan, the Promised Land.

Each Year the Feast of Tabernacles is a Reminder.

It might surprise some, but Jesus kept the Feast of Tabernacles as well.  On the last day, “great day of the feast”, He stood in the Temple and cried out:

John 7:37-38 (NIV)

[37]  On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  [38] Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

God Lived in a Tent of Meeting (Tabernacle) but Longed for the Heart of Man (Exodus 29:46) –

The Tabernacle was a CONTRAST to the magnificent temples of pagan gods that surrounded God’s people.  When God laid out the CAMPING PATTERN for the Hebrews, the TABERNACLE was at the center while the twelve tribes camped around it in the shape of a CROSS.

That may be incidental, but God did teach them that He was in their midst–in the very heart of the Campsite.  Their lives flowed from Him and He taught them this arrangement would only be temporary.

Even the TEMPLE would picture the TEMPORARY–

God permitted the Temple that King David had proposed to build but the Tabernacle had been sufficient:

2 Samuel 7:5-7 (NIV)

[5] “Go and tell my servant David, This is what the LORD says: Are you the one yo build me a house to dwell in?  [6] I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day.  I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling.  [7] Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”

The TEMPORARY was made visible when the VEIL in the Temple was torn (“rent”) from top to bottom at Jesus’ Crucifixion [Matthew 20:50-52].

God was mourning His Son–symbolized by the “renting” of His garment.

God was changing His residence [1 Corinthians 3:16, AMP] –

[16]  “Do you not discern and understand that you [the whole church at Corinth] are God’s temple (His sanctuary), and that God’s Spirit has His permanent dwelling in you [to be at home in you, collectively as a church and also individually]?

God dealt with the TEMPORARY to establish the PERMANENT [Jeremiah 31:31-34].

JESUS momentarily lived among us but looked for His Father’s EVERLASTING house (John 1:14) –

JESUS’ brief LIFE was but 33 years…His brief DEATH…3 days.

In the interim until His return, He’s preparing a PERMANENT PLACE in His Father’s House [John 14:1-6].

Jesus dealt with the TEMPORARY to establish the PERMANENT and we live in the Short-term but should look to the Eternal.

That brings me to some QUESTIONS for all of us to ask ourselves:

  1. HOW MUCH TIME, EFFORT AND ENERGY DO WE PUT ON THE TEMPORARY?
  2. HOW MUCH TIME, EFFORT AND ENERGY DO WE SPEND ON THE ETERNAL?

(2 Corinthians 5:1-5) – LIFE IN TENTS

Especially notice what Paul is saying in the verses here.  He says, “For we KNOW [not we hope for or we expect or even that we believe] that if our earthly house of this TABERNACLE were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”  This is a very positive “KNOW”.  Paul knows because of the fact that the Holy Spirit has made it real to him.

The Word “TABERNACLE” – (Translations – ERV; AKJV; ASV; DBT).

The word for “tabernacle” is skene, meaning “tent”.  That’s the same word that was used for the wilderness tabernacle on the Old Testament in the Septuagint, the translation of the Old Testament into the Greek language.  The Old Testament tabernacle, a skene, a tent.  It was a flimsy sort of thing.

That thought brought me back to my CAMPING DAYS as a young boy and as a father raising my own children believe or not.  Setting up a TENT in the middle of the day was hard enough, much less at night by car headlights as once happened in the pouring rain.  At the time, I was thinking, I hate tents!  No privacy, there always seems to be small rock poking my back in the floor of the tent–right where my sleeping bag lies.

I like CAMPING IN TENTS, but only for a short time, not for weeks on end.

So it’s a little disconnecting to hear how the apostle Paul describes life in this world, as a TENT CAMPING TRIP that lasts your entire life!  For we must KNOW that if this TENT that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a HOUSE not made with human hands, but an eternal home in the heavens.  For in this tent of ours, we GROAN longing to put on our heavenly dwelling.  We don’t often think of LIFE like this, do we?

We hurt at times, reminders that our earthly bodies are TEMPORARY structures: sore joints, aches, pains, diseases, you name it!  We can resonate with that language especially as we grow older as we GROAN to put on the heavenly dwelling!

But at the same time, even as we look forward to our heavenly body, TENT LIFE is still a little scary, because one day, for each of us, hearts will stop beating, and lungs will stop breathing, and the CAMPING TRIP is over.

TIME TO BREAK CAMP and it’s then we’ll be glad that we have another home!

2 Corinthians 5:6 [Amplified Bible]

So then, we are always full of good and hopeful and confident courage; we know that while we are at home in the body, we are abroad from the home with the Lord [that is promised to us].

Let’s be honest that many times we feel completely at home in our bodies [“tents”] and they’re all we’ve known.  I know every scar and can point directly to moles on my back that I’ve never seen with my eyes.  However, as long as I’m at home in this body, I’m absent from the Lord.

“For we walk by faith, not by sight”  [2 Cor. 5:7].

Paul explains that we WALK BY FAITH–We take God at His Word.  I don’t know about you, but I would rather take His Word than anyone else’s word.

FAITH is taking God at His Word.

Remember, who you are, that the soul never dies; the soul goes to be with Christ as a true believer–the ‘overcomer’.  It is the physical body that’s put to sleep. 

It’s the BODY that must be changed–TRANSFORMED [1 Cor. 15:51-53].

RESURRECTION doesn’t refer to the SOUL or the SPIRIT.

The English word RESURRECTION is the Greek word “anastasis”, meaning a “standing up.”  It’s the BODY which will stand up.

Knowing these things, we WALK BY FAITH.

Being Ambitious [2 Cor. 5:9, AMP].

“Therefore, whether we are at home [on earth away from Him] or away from home [and with Him], we are constantly ambitious and strive earnestly to be pleasing to Him.”

The Greek word “philotin” is “to esteem as an honor”.  It is the same Greek word which is translated “study” in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 (NIV).

[11]  To make it your ambition to lead a quiet life:  You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you”

Be AMBITIOUS to mind your own business!

We should be Ambitious, LABOR, study. “to esteem as an honor” in such a way that we will be accepted of Him.  I’m not talking here about “works”.  This isn’t AMBITION to become a great somebody but to do our very best to PLEASE God.

Being ACCEPTED in Christ.

Being accepted in Christ is my…your standing before God at the “judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10).

God sees me in Christ, and He is made for me ALL that I need:

  • WISDOM & RIGHTEOUSNESS.
  • SANCTIFICATION & REDEMPTION.

[see 1 Corinthians 1:30]

HE IS MY PERFECTION – I am COMPLETE in Him!

You can’t add anything to COMPLETENESS.

True believers have Christ, and we are accepted in the Beloved.

ACCEPTED in Christ Jesus the standing that ALL BELIEVERS have before God.

But to be ACCEPTED of Him is a different thing.

This has to do with our present state and refers to the way we are living our lives.  Are we living in the “tent” of ours for Christ’s sake?  Are we “ambitious” to live in acceptance of Him?

To be AMBITIOUS to be accepted doesn’t mean that we are to crawl over everybody and step on top of them in order to get to the top of the heap.

God gave His Word to the prophet:

Jeremiah 45:5 (NIV)

“Should you then seek great things for your self?  Do not seek them.  For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the LORD, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.”

That’s putting it plain enough don’t you think?

There are no guarantees in this world aside from the Grace of God.

This is what we hold onto in the storms we face here on this earth.  The TENTS of our lives get tattered and worn out, and they get blown about by the winds of struggle and conflict, and they get drenched by storms of tears and heartbreak and then get covered with the dirt of sin.

But we have a PROMISE to stand on that gets us through the storms.

And that PROMISE is, I’m going to have a glorified body [house] someday that will make a mansion look like a worn out tent, and my God has already paid for it in full!

KNOW THIS & STAND ON…

  • THAT OUR GOD IS GOOD.
  • THAT THE CROSS HAS CHANGED US.
  • THAT THE EMPTY TOMB WILL NEVER FORSAKE YOU.
  • THAT GOD’S GRACE WILL NEVER DESERT US.
  • THAT WE HAVE THE UNSHAKEABLE BUILDING AHEAD OF US, ETERNAL IN THE HEAVENS!

____________________________________________________

CREDITS  & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [i] :  Quote byMarvin Wilson, author of “Our Father Abraham – Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith.”

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words.

Bible TRANSLATIONS:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP), or as noted in the text.

Commentary:  Sermon Notes from Jerry Shirley on 2 Corinthians 5:1-9 – Sermon Central.

Photo Images:  Google Image Search – settings, advanced.

 

 

“Yesterday Is History, Tomorrow Is A Mystery, But Today Is A Gift…”

A Study in Philippians 3:10-14 

I’ve heard about an odd phenomenon in the military.  When people were drawing close to retirement or their discharge date, their whole demeanor changed.  They started dragging to the formation.  Their PT efforts became lackluster.  Their work grew sub-par or average at best.  Now to be fair, it most likely wasn’t their fault.  They had an STD, which in this case stands for “short-timers’ disease.”

Do you ever feel like you’ve short timers’ disease in life?

Do you ever feel like, why even make the effort?

Maybe you’re just going through the motions.

Just maybe the Scripture cited in this blog will give you a new attitude:  about your past, present, and future.

First, Paul’s words advise us to…RELEASE THE PAST

In verse 13, Paul uses the phrase, “Forgetting what is behind”.

Is he asking us to suppress those troublesome memories we’ve accumulated over time?  I don’t think so.  Paul is talking about letting go of things that still have a hold on us.

Not releasing the past, two things will get us into trouble:

  • Past Failures
  • Past Successes

Past failures have the tendency to make us think we’re a failure.

Paul could certainly recall his failures:  He supervised the death of the first martyr of the Church, Stephen.  He could have carried a lot of GUILT for his persecution of Christians before his salvation.  But he didn’t.

He said we need to release all of that to God.

God can forgive your GUILT if you give it to Him.

God can FORGIVE ALL the woulda/coulda/shoulda decisions you’ve analyzed to death!

1 John 1:9 (AMP)

[9] IF we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].

We need to forget our FAILURES, and by the way, our SUCCESSES too.

If we concentrate on them too much, we’ll rest on our laurels and never want to do more.

One thing I learned over the years I was in business, the biggest threat to future success is past success.  That’s why companies keep reinventing themselves.

In marriage seminars, it’s often said, “Being married is like riding a bike: It takes some work, some peddling.  If you’re coasting, you’re always going downhill.”

In the first part of the chapter, Paul mentions the successes that were under his belt.

He listed his pedigree as a learned Jewish scholar and Pharisee, trained by the best.  Yet, he said, compared to knowing Christ all of his Ivy League know-how was garbage (verse 8).  The actual word there is “DUNG” (Strong’s Greek; 4657), or “manure pile”- Luke 13:8; 14:35.

ALL OF OUR EARTHLY EFFORTS AMOUNT TO NOTHING COMPARED TO KNOWING CHRIST.

The image of poop is a vivid reminder not to let those past success go to your head!

I’m not saying the past isn’t important.  We need to learn from the past.

But I find life is like driving a car:  Most of the time you want to look out that large front windshield; every now and then you need to glance back through the tiny rear view mirror.  Too much looking back will get you into trouble.

LEARN from the past.

Make PEACE with the past.

CELEBRATE the past.

And LET GO of the past so that you can be…

Reaching toward the FUTURE.

Paul says in verses 13 and 14,  “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.     [In other words, “I haven’t arrived yet!”].  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Straining to cross the finish line!

Paul pictures here the sprinter straining forward to cross the finish line.  You can’t worry about what’s behind you.  You need to lean into the run and give it all you got, keeping your eyes fixed on the finish.

And what a finish it will be!

What is our goal? What is the prize?

It’s the heavenward calling of God in Christ Jesus!

A couple of weeks ago now, I began this study in Philippians [STUFF Happens In Life, So What’s Next?].

In the introduction, we looked together at Paul’s life mission when he said, For me to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).  

He pointed out that the STUFF–the things we face in life is temporary.  We have one foot in eternity and one foot on earth.  Earth is our temporary home.  We’re just passing through.

And in God’s perfect timing, He will bring us home to our glorious future.

When we can remember that, we can press forward in the race of life, running every day in serving God, leaving our worries in the past.

Romans 8:31 (NIV) says “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift…”

I borrowed that quote for my blog-title from Master Oogway from the movie Kung Fu Panda.  Actually, the author is unknown yet many claim it.  And to be accurate, I left out of the title an important finishing line: “That’s why it’s called the ‘present’ “.

As we yield our past and our future to God, we’re left with the PRESENT.

We run the race, a race that’s never over until it’s over.  As long as we have breath, we need to PRESS ON!  Stay with it!

Follow Christ, love Christ and know Christ Jesus.

That, my friends, is what we do now:  We release the PAST, we reach toward our FUTURE, and we grow closer to Jesus every day.

Paul says, over and over in this chapter, his number one ambition is to know Christ. 

The word “KNOW” doesn’t refer to head knowledge.  He doesn’t want to know more about Jesus.  It’s the word used to describe how a parent and child know each other, or how a husband and wife know each other.  It means to KNOW in the context of RELATIONSHIP, to know more intimately, to grow closer and closer.

This is Paul’s goal; every day, to know Christ more!  Paul said, “I want to know Him in two ways.”  

In verses 10 and 11, Paul said,  [10]  “[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly]. and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope]  [11] That if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body].”  (Amplified Bible)

Paul starts by saying, to KNOW CHRIST means to know “the power outflowing from His resurrection.”

Think about the POWER found in our greatest atomic bombs or our largest hydroelectric plants.

RESURRECTION POWER is so much more!

How much POWER does it take to reverse death and decay?

All the blood loss and tissue damage done to Jesus’ body, all the muscles ripped apart by spears and whips and nails, and the weight of hanging on the cross–

God reversed all of that, restoring Jesus not only to a healthy human body, but to the very first resurrection body, and a body that would never age again!

We could use that kind of POWER in our world today.

When the cruel words cut into our hearts, when our mood darkens, when the prognosis isn’t good, when tragedy strikes, when the loss is devastating…WE NEED THE RESURRECTION POWER OF CHRIST!

And we have it as we get to know Jesus better and better!

Paul talks about having that POWER now, in his first phrase (verse 10).

Paul also talks about how that RESURRECTION POWER and the participation in His sufferings arrives completed in the FUTURE…

Becoming like Him in His death, and so “somehow…” (“if possible” – AMP.) “attain to the resurrection out from the dead.”

I like the words, “if possible”.  

Some have wondered, does this mean Paul had doubts about this?  I don’t think so.  Paul doesn’t strike me as a guy who was unsure what he believed.

I think, with the words “if possible”, or “somehow”, Paul was implying to the mystery of the final resurrection.  The Bible describes how the dead in Christ will rise first, followed by believers that are still alive, as we join Jesus in the air, (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17)

But what a mystery!  Our minds cannot conceive it.  It’s simply too great to imagine!!

But Paul wasn’t content to know only the power of Christ’s resurrection.  He also wanted to participate “in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.”

I don’t know about you, but I would rather have His resurrection power than want His sufferings.

But Paul did!

Paul knew that if you were to know Christ Jesus, you were to know suffering.  And Paul suffered!

  • He was arrested on false charges
  • He was beaten on several occasions
  • He was run out of cities
  • He was slandered
  • He was shipwrecked

I don’t have to tell you there’s a lot of SUFFERING in this world.  Ask the citizens of Las Vegas.  It seems the news headlines are non-stop lately, from one hurricane to another, from earthquakes to mass murders.  And here around us, in our own backyards, many are suffering in various ways that don’t capture the news’ headlines–physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

When you suffer (Not “IF”, but “WHEN”), draw closer to Jesus in His sufferings.

He knows what it’s like to SUFFER, so He knows what you’re going through right now.  None of us have suffered to His extent, but He knows our situation quite well.  And He promised us in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace.  In this world, you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

Jesus can and will bring perspective and meaning to your suffering if you’ll let Him.

C.S. Lewis, the Christian writer, suffered several losses throughout his life.  He wrote a book called, “The Problem of Pain”.  There he said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Let your suffering bring you closer to Christ in His sufferings.

Release your past to Christ, all the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Reach toward your glorious future, living with one foot in eternity, as you remember where you’re heading in glory.

And then, every day, seek to grow closer to Jesus.  Make it your daily ambition to get to know Christ more and more.

____________________________________________________________________

~CREDITS~

Epository Dictionary Of Bible Words by Stephen D. Renn

The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

Images:  Google Image Search; Settings–advance search.

Video:  The Resurrection of Jesus -The Passion of Christ – YouTube

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP); New International Bible (NIV) unless noted.

 

An Easter Postscript: DEATH HAS EXPIRED!

Where were you when President Kennedy died?  

I remember it clearly.  It was on November 22, 1962, around 12:30 PM.  I was 21 years of age, employed as a stocking clerk at a Grocery Store chain in Southern California.  I worked nights and slept days while living at my parents home and on this particular day I didn’t have to set my alarm to wake up.  My dad cracking the door to a darkened bedroom said, “You better wake up and come out to the front room and watch the news on TV.  President Kennedy was shot in Dallas, Texas.”

Where were you when Martin Luther King was shot?  Where were you when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded?

We have a way of remembering events like that, don’t we?  When something startling happens, when someone famous dies, for some reason those things get burned into our memories.

On EASTER SUNDAY we hear about a DEATH, the most shocking announcement of all time.  DEATH EXPIRED!

That’s right, DEATH DIED!  Our greatest enemy–DEAD!  Our greatest fear–GONE!  Our greatest doubt–REMOVED!  This happened through JESUS CHRIST, who rose in victory and triumph on Resurrection Sunday morning.  There is no doubt that this is true.  Never any doubt that Christ would win.  There isn’t any chance that He can’t deliver you from DEATH and bring you safely into His eternal kingdom of Heaven.

There is no doubt that this is true.  Never any doubt that Christ would win.  There isn’t any chance that He can’t deliver you from DEATH and bring you safely into His eternal kingdom of Heaven.

For so certain a truth is EASTER, even centuries before it happened, centuries before Christ lived and died and rose again, JESUS said through the prophet Hosea:

Hosea 13:14 

“I will deliver this people from the power of the grave;

I will redeem them from death.

Where, O death, are your plagues?

Where, O grave, is your destruction.”

EASTER MEANS THAT JESUS LIVES!

It means that you LIVE too!  It means that DEATH HAS EXPIRED!  Praise God!!!

Our Savior Destroyed the Enemy.

“Resurrection Sunday” is the MOST INCREDIBLE MESSAGE the world can hear.  Yet people don’t, or won’t believe it, and even we in the weakness of our FAITH are slow to believe it.

DEATH HAS ENDED?  HOW CAN THAT BE?

Our experience screams at us “That isn’t true!”  A father taking his kids to a Seahawk game is caught in the middle of a drive-by shooting on the nearby streets and was accidentally killed.  Every day there’s an obituary column in the local newspaper.  Every day people pass from this life to the next.  How then can I write in a BLOG-study and proclaim “DEATH HAS EXPIRED”?

Yes, in one sense DEATH is still very much in the world, very much lurking behind every corner of our lives.

SO DEATH IS OUR GREATEST ENEMY –

Ultimately everything we do is geared toward prolonging life,  We put AIRBAGS in our cars, we WARN our kids not to run out into the street.  We try to eat HEALTHY.  We WALK, WE RIDE, WE JOG…we go to doctors.

The prophet Isaiah once wrote that DEATH hangs over us like a CLOUD:

No matter how much success we may experience in life, no matter how much fun we might have, no matter how much capital we’ve accumulated, IN THE END…there is the GRAVE, there is DEATH,

DEATH HAS PLAGUES –

  • It plagues us with DOUBT,
  • It plagues us with FEAR,
  • It plagues us with SORROW.

Is being in debt to creditors a problem? Sure.  Does arthritis cause pain? Yes.  Does having our hopes and dreams dashed hurt?  Of course.  But there is no enemy like DEATH, an enemy that stirs up FEAR just by the mention of his name.

DEATH’S ENTRY TO THE WORLD –

The Apostle Paul wrote in the Book of Romans:  AND IN THIS WAY DEATH PASSED UPON ALL, FOR ALL HAVE SINNED (Ro. 5:12).

No, DEATH isn’t merely a scientific, biological problem.  But will SCIENCE ever find a CURE FOR DEATH? No.

Mark Twain once called DEATH the “ultimate statistic; one of everyone dies.”  If the Lord Jesus doesn’t return first, we too will each march off to the grave.

HOSEA HAS IT RIGHT;  the GRAVE HAS POWER AND DEATH HAS DESTRUCTION; DUST WE ARE AND TO DUST WE WILL EACH RETURN, the ultimate proof of our sinfulness.  

We feel GUILT.  Deep down we know that we are sinners.  We are afraid to DIE and stand before our CREATOR.

THE ENEMY HAS BEEN DESTROYED ONCE AND FOR ALL!

THE TRUTH is not just to be recognized during the Easter season once a year, but a TRUTH to be recognized daily; looking to the empty grave of JESUS…“HE IS NOT HERE; HE HAS RISEN!”

I don’t really care what the popular views of JESUS are–that he was only a great teacher, that he was only a great role model, that he was merely a man with moral conviction who bravely died for his beliefs.  He’s indeed more than that; He is your SAVIOR, AND HAS DESTROYED YOUR ENEMY!

THE VICTORY IS WON!

“I will deliver this people from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death…”  (Hosea 12:14)

Many bible translations use the word REDEEM or DELIVER.  In the Old Testament, that word “REDEEMER” has such a beautiful meaning:  The responsibility “to redeem” belonged to the nearest relative–brother, uncle, uncle’s son, or a blood relative from his family.  The person (kinsman) who “redeemed” the one who was facing dire circumstances was known a kinsman-redeemer [READ the Book of Ruth].

JESUS became our “relative”–our “blood brother”–our kinsman-redeemer when God became a man–Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

The Bible tells us HE SHARED OUR HUMANITY (Hebrews 2:14).

  • HE ATE, HE WALKED, HE SLEPT, HE ACHED.
  • HE HUNGERED, HE KNEW PAIN, HE KNEW SORROW, HE WEPT, HE BLED, HE DIED!

But then He rose again from the dead.

All this He did for you and for me.  To REDEEM us, to DELIVER us from SIN, from DEATH, and from HELL itself!

I KNOW MY REDEEMER LIVES –

It’s comforting to know this because JESUS, our brother, erased our sins.

It’s comforting because JESUS has PAID THE RANSOM for our release with His own BLOOD.

It’s comforting because Easter proves that God accepted Jesus’ SACRIFICE for payment for our sins.

His RESURRECTION declares to you that you are forgiven.  Your SIN is gone!  Your GUILT is dead!

Every wrong thing you’ve ever done has been washed away by the BLOOD of JESUS.

I have had a severe wound on my right middle toe exposing the bone now for several months.  In the next week, because of the infection, the toe must be amputated.  The other morning while in the shower, I noticed BLOOD being washed down the drain.  A reminder of Jesus’ shed blood on the cross for all of mankind; washing away sin.

And Jesus came out of the GRAVE to tell each one of us,

I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE.  ANYONE WHO BELIEVES IN ME WILL LIVE, EVEN THOUGH HE DIES, AND WHOEVER LIVES AND BELIEVES IN ME WILL NEVER DIE (Jn. 11:25-26).

So then DEATH is not the end, but only the beginning.

YOUR REDEEMER GIVES YOU VICTORY!

VICTORY, not just for your SOUL.  It was not just the Son of God that came out of the tomb, but also the Son of Man.

It was not just the Son of God that came out of the tomb, but also the Son of Man.  It was a human being that arose on Resurrection Sunday morning.  By becoming a man, Jesus Christ also became our blood-brother.  And His RESURRECTION means that these tired old bones of yours also comes out of the grave to rise in glory!  My SOUL will be united to my glorified body and I will LIVE–yes, me, not a copy, not a clone, but me!  I will LIVE with my REDEEMER in heavenly bliss.

Compared to other cultures, we Americans are obsessed with our bodies and the way we look.  Yet these bodies do grow old (trust me, I know!) and they radically change and finally wear out.

But Easter gives HOPE to our bodies as well as our souls.

WE WILL BE CHANGED, Paul wrote the Corinthians,  “In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, at the [sound of the] last trumpet will sound, and the dead [in Christ] will be raised imperishable (free and immune from decay), and we shall be changed (transformed)” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:52 – Amplified Bible.

YOUR REDEEMER SHARES HIS VICTORY OVER DEATH WITH YOU –

God will raise us from DEATH and give to our souls and bodies ETERNAL LIFE.  That’s His PROMISE to all who believe in Him and God doesn’t and can’t LIE!

Are you reading this BLOG-study with skepticism about what EASTER proclaims?

Then proceed through life at your own risk.  Go ahead, continue to let UNCERTAINTY gnaw at you, FEAR chase you, and DEATH terrifies you.  In fact, that’s not living at all; that’s just slowly dying.

RESURRECTION SUNDAY OFFERS A BETTER SOLUTION TO LIFE AND A SURE HOPE –

It is more than bunnies and baskets of candy, more than nice flowers and long weekends, even more than that family Ham Dinner.

Today is where the rubber meets the road.  This strikes at the very heart of our human existence; will we live or is DEATH the end?

They say that there are only TWO certain things in life:  DEATH AND TAXES.  But, in view of Easter, really only one thing is certain. April 15th (April 18th this year) has passed.  I’m sorry about the TAXES.  That probably won’t ever go away, at least not in our lifetime.

But DEATH has!  The PROPHECY of Hosea is fulfilled!

That’s what Jesus’ RESURRECTION is all about:  DEATH HAS EXPIRED!

Your Savior has DESTROYED your greatest enemy!  Your REDEEMER LIVES to share with you His VICTORY.

And you who believe in Him WILL NOT DIE BUT LIVE – Psalm 118:17:

________________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS:

VINE’S COMPLETE EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY OF OLDTESTAMENT AND NEW TESTAMENT WORDS.

PHOTOS:  Google Advanced Image Search; Photo Pin.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV), unless referenced in the text.

A “KODAK MOMENT” of Calvary

In photography, a snapshot concept was introduced to the public on a large-scale by Eastman Kodak, which introduced the Brownie box camera. Kodak encouraged families to use the Brownie to capture moments in time of perfect images seen through the viewfinder.

And I remember receiving the gift of a Kodak Box Camera, a Brownie Hawkeye, no less,  from my parents before going on a family vacation one summer.  It was easy to operate, even for a young boy–point, look through the lens at the object to be photographed, and “SNAP!” No fancy adjustments.  Just point and shoot!

So here I am in this blog-Post, taking a snapshot of a moment in time by viewing the biblical landscape in Genesis 22.

An ‘Abraham and His Son’ moment:  Genesis 22:2, 6 and 8.

“Take now your son”…”Abraham took the wood…laid it on Isaac his son”…and Abraham said, “My son”.

Just as Abraham had a son, so God the Father has a Son.

  • God the Father offered His Son, by the POWER of the Holy Spirit:

“How much more then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”  (Hebrews 9:14 ~ New International Version – NIV).

So you can see that the TRINITY (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is plainly in view and involved in our SALVATION–

The FATHER PLANNED it…

The SON PROVIDED it…

And the SPIRIT APPLIED it.

Furthermore, by sharpening our FOCUS, we can see He was the Father’s lone Son – “your only son”.

Of course, Abraham had other sons, but the only one like Isaac–he was his unique son.

Next, we see through our lens, the Father’s LOVE for His Son.

“Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love” (vs 2)

  • The LOVE Abraham had for Isaac was only a subdued love, compared to the LOVE God had for His Son.

This is the FIRST MENTION of LOVE in the Bible and a VIEW of God’s LOVE for His Son:

The first mention of LOVE in the Gospel of Matthew is “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased”  (Matthew 3:17).

The first mention of LOVE in Mark’s Gospel is again, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you, I am well pleased” (Mark 2:11).

And Luke… “and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you, I am well pleased”  (Luke 3:22).

And finally, the first mention of LOVE in John’s Gospel, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

SPURGEON: “JESUS was God’s Son, his only-begotten Son, whom he loved more than any of you can ever love your sons or daughters, for the love of God towards him is ineffable, immeasurable.  It is not possible for me to tell you how much God loved his Son, but that Son who had always given him delight, in whom he was well pleased, that Son must endure shame, and agony, and death, if sinners were ever to be saved.  How could the Father give up his Son for such a purpose?  I have felt sometimes as if I could almost rush in, and say, “No; it must not be, the price is too great to be paid for the rescue of such worthless worms as we.”  Yet, to ransom every one of us, the Son of God must be sacrificed, and sacrificed, as it were, by his Father, for thus it is written, “It pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief.”  This, there is one point of resemblance between the offering of Isaac and the propitiatory sacrifice of our Lord, Jesus Christ, it was the father who had to offer up his son who he loved so dearly.”

A SNAP-SHOT of the Landscape–The Land of Moriah (Gen 22:2;  2 Chron. 3:1).

Genesis 22, Verse 2:  “go to the region of Moriah”

The importance of Mount Moriah is established by a number of KEY historical events which have taken place there:

  • Abraham offers Isaac (Gen. 22:2)
  • The Site of Solomon’s Temple.  King David was instructed by God to erect an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite which occupied this site.  So David purchased the land which later became the site of Solomon’s Temple.
  • The Crucifixion of Jesus.  On the very mountain where Abraham was asked to sacrifice his “only son”, God sacrificed His only Son.

The LAW of the Burnt Offering (22:2).

This LAW was spelled out in Leviticus (Lev. 1:3-9), much later than what we see here in Genesis 22.  Actually, the term is first used of the sacrifices of Noah (Gen. 8:20), predating Abraham’s day.

The LAW spells out that the SACRIFICE is not to be a Second-rate offering:

#1.  It must be sacrificial–from the herd or flock that is domestic not of a wild animal.

#2.  There was to be a relationship between the OFFERING and the one offering it ~ “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”

#3.  The SACRIFICE must be the Strongest of the flock–a male animal (John 1:29).

#4.  It must be Spotless–without blemish (1 Peter 1:18-19):

[18] You must know (recognize) that you were redeemed (ransomed) from the useless (fruitless) way of living inherited by tradition from [your] forefathers, not with corruptible things [such as] silver and gold.  [19] But [you were purchased] with the precious blood of Christ (the Messiah), like that of a [sacrificial] lamb without blemish or spot.”  [Amplified Bible].

JESUS WAS SINLESS!

#5.  AND…It must not be Stiff-necked; used of an uncooperative animal–it must be a VOLUNTARY Offering (John 10:17-18)

A SACRIFICE was made to BALANCE our account (Romans 4:35 & 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Romans 4:25 (AMP): 

Who was betrayed and put to death because of our misdeeds and was raised to secure our justification (our acquittal),  [making our account balance and absolving us from all guilt before God].

The SACRIFICE was SLAIN by the one who brought it.

Ultimately, it was God the Father who brought Jesus to CALVARY who slew Him for our sins (Matthew 27:45-46). 

The BLOOD from the SACRIFICE had to be Sprinkled (Hebrews 12:24):

[24]  And to Jesus, the Mediator (Go-between, Agent) of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood which speaks [of mercy] a better and nobler and more gracious message that the blood of Abel [which cried out for vengeance]  (AMP).

The SACRIFICE was a Sweet Aroma to Father God (Ephesians 5:2):

[2] Walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

A Lapse of Time occurred…(Genesis 22:3)

ABRAHAM rose early in the morning…on the THIRD DAY–he did not offer his son immediately but had to wait for 3 days.

Those had to be 3 difficult days and mindful of what he was about to do.

  • JESUS waited some 3 years before going to the CROSS and it was ever before Him!  (John 2:4; 7:30; 12:27).

LOOKING FOR A RESURRECTION (Hebrews 11:17-19):

Abraham came to the conclusion that he was going to see a MIRACLE because God can’t lie!  God had previously said this son of his, Isaac, would be the one whom He would fulfill all His promises (Gen, 12:2, 3 – “The Abrahamic Blessing”).  Therefore the son must live or God would be found as a liar.  And yet God commands that THIS SON (Isaac) be put to death.  Since there is no contradiction in God, He must be planning on raising Isaac from the dead.  All this…a SNAPSHOT of what JESUS would actually do–die and then be raised back to life!

All this…A VIEW of what JESUS would actually do–die and then be raised back to life!

The Laying Of Our Sins Upon Christ –

The WOOD that is laid upon Isaac (Gen. 22:6) becomes a PICTURE of Jesus carrying His own cross (John 19:16-18).

The FIRE (Genesis 22:6-7) that Abraham carried in the fire-pot for the “burnt sacrifice” becomes a snapshot once more of God’s Holy wrath upon Christ (Isaiah 53:4-6).

The KNIFE (22:10) depicts His being pierced with nails and the spear in His side…

And FINALLY, the LAMB (Genesis 22:8; 11-14).

GOD DID PROVIDE A LAMB FOR HIMSELF AT CALVARY (Romans 8:32):

[32]  “Certainly not God. who did not even keep back his own Son, but offered him for us all!  He gave us his Son–will he not also freely give us all things?”  (GNT- The Good News Translation)

Why did God tell Abraham to offer his son?

Abraham was an Old Testament PROPHET (GENESIS 20:7)–one who by the grace of God have us a glimpse into future events.

JESUS said ABRAHAM hoped for “My day [My incarnation]; and he did see it and was delighted”  (John 8:56).

This MOMENT, this event in history becomes a SNAPSHOT taken to illustrate God offering His only Son at CALVARY.

From 1935 to 1962, former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt had a daily newspaper column writing her opinion on various world events.  One quote I especially took to heart is from an article she wrote in 1946:

“It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself.”

God will never ask us to do something He is not willing to do Himself–and that includes SACRIFICE.

ISAAC is the beginning of the CROSS, and a shining example of how God will always do the same thing He expects of us.

Isaac was the RESULT of A PROMISE, through his birth that allowed God’s presence to reach a new nation of people–ISRAEL.

And JESUS was also the RESULT of a PROMISE, and through His DEATH, BURIAL and RESURRECTION allowed God’s presence to reach the entire world!

____________________________________________

CREDITS FOR THIS POST:

Genesis: A Devotional Exposition by Donald G. Barnhouse.

Commentary:  Pondering Scripture – An Uncommon Commentary, Genesis 22:5.

Kodak Brownie photo:  Snapshot (photography)–Wikipedia.

Other PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations used for this blog-POST:  New International Version (NIV), except where noted.

 

 

We Are Living In A Spiritual Fishbowl

 

1thess

Several days ago, the Lord led me to do a study in 1 Thessalonians.  In His sovereignty, this study comes at a perfect time with the worlds current events.

I Thessalonians speaks about REAL HOPE in the midst of the trials and tribulation that surround us.

Warren Wiersbe written commentary on 1 Thess., “Be Ready” really sums up what we face ahead.

Aquarium/Fishbowl Experience –

What do you do with an aquarium?  What do you do when you visit an aquarium?  I just look.  The fish, for the most part are oblivious–could care less.

I remember when first married and we were as poor as a church mouse.  An aquarium sat on a stand in our duplex style apartment, with not much else in the room.  It was Valentine’s Day, and unable to afford much except exchanging Valentine cards, my wife said,  “Did you notice the aquarium?”  “No,” I replied. “Why?”  “Just go look,” she said.  There on the outside of our aquarium, on the outside of the glass, was a heart drawn in pink lipstick–“I LOVE YOU”.  But there’s more!  For fourteen cents, my wife bought an angel fish.  I must have watch that fish swimming around behind the glass for hours.  Even days later, that angel fish reminded me of my wife’s love for me and it wasn’t the amount spent, but the LOVE behind the gift.  “For God so loved the world that He GAVE…” John 3:16.

As Christians, we live in a spiritual fishbowl.  People are constantly examining us and looking at us, especially in times of stress and discomfort. They let us know when we misspeak or mess up entirely.

153338028

There’s another reason why they watch us.  The problem is…we’re often oblivious–like fish in a bowl–we could care less what they see or even read on our social media page; which means they may be viewing the wrong things.  

The Barna Group–“Knowledge to navigate a changing world” says there’s “no difference between believers and unbelievers.”  

That’s tragic–it’s no wonder Christianity as we know it isn’t growing like it should.

This was definitely not the case with the Thessalonians.

Here was a church who realized they were being watched on all sides.  Paul hears about their reputation/testimony, and writes to them.

There’s a LESSON here for us.  Our reputation is at stake and the world is watching us; they need to see a DIFFERENCE is us.

1 Thessalonians 1 BACKGROUND:

This was a fledgling church (Paul was there but 3 weeks).  Paul had been kicked out, riots going on, their pastor was gone.  They were familiar with persecution.  I can imagine it was like being a Christian in Afghanistan or Iraq today.

You would think they wouldn’t be too concerned with their reputation, but the opposite is true.

slide_2

Here was a CHURCH whose reputation was faultless.  They had an incredible TESTIMONY.

WHAT OTHERS SHOULD SEE WHEN THEY LOOK AT US:  

“Your work of faith” – salvation (V. 3)

Philippians 2:12 (NIV)

“Therefore, my dear friends; as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

In our spiritual journey on this earth, FAITH gets us on the started on the right path.  Notice what Paul says about our FAITH:

1 Thessalonians 1:4-6:

[4]  For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,  [5] because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.  You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.  [6]  You became imitators of us and of the Lord, in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.

ELECTION makes our FAITH possible — Vs. 4:  “He has chosen us” not vice versa.

John 15:16 (NIV):

[16]  “You did not choose Me, but I chose you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.  Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”

Somewhere in eternity past, God chose us to believe on Him.  ELECTION makes our FAITH possible, but not automatic.

That takes us to the next step:

CONVERSION makes our FAITH actual “because”– Vs. 5:

“BECAUSE our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.  You know how we lived among you for your sake.”

“Because” shows why Paul is so convinced that God CHOSE them.  He sees their changed life, their “conversion.”

The Gospel isn’t just some fancy speech we mouthe that most don’t understand.

No amount of persuasion can “convince” someone to turn to Christ Jesus.

What makes our FAITH actual is the powerful work of the Holy Spirit exhibited in our lives.

Colossians 2:13 (NIV):  “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.”

Our conversion, the transformation of our OLD dead nature, to our NEW nature in Christ, is what makes our ELECTION sure.

The Thessalonian church didn’t just HEAR the Gospel message, they experienced the Gospel!  It transformed their lives!!

ELECTION makes our FAITH possible while CONVERSION makes it actual.

But there’s even more.  We need to have a WORKING FAITH, a VISIBLE FAITH.

ACTION makes our FAITH visible–Vs. 6 (AMP):

[6]  “…become imitators of us and [through us] of the Lord Himself, for you welcomed our message in [spite of] much persecution, with joy [inspired] by the Holy Spirit.”

THEY, the church, became IMITATORS (of Paul and the Lord).  They acted out their FAITH and they welcomed the message with JOY (in suffering).

A baby learns by imitating/children playing “copy-cat.”  The same is true in our spiritual lives (we learn by imitating).

When someone comes to Christ, they immediately begin looking at other professing believers to see how they behave; how they act.  [ Prayer, church etiquette, sit in the back, express/hold our emotions, worship. ]

Who are you imitating?  Your spiritual parents?  Your Pastor?  Are they truly IMITATING Christ?

1 Corinthians 4:16 (Paul says)  “So I urge and implore you, be imitators of me.”  He could say that because in Galatians 2:20 (NIV):

[20]  “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Paul commended the Thessalonians because they had a REAL working FAITH.  In other words, they wore their FAITH on their sleeves, visible to everyone they came in contact with.  There was a great difference between them and their pagan, unbelieving neighbors.  So Paul didn’t need to defend them, he bragged about them!

1thessalonians1_6-7
1 THESSALONIANS 1:7

People often wonder how we can know if someone is SAVED or not.  Paul knew that God chose the Thessalonians for SALVATION because he saw the POWER of the Gospel in their lives.  He also saw their transformation in their working, visible FAITH.

DO WE HAVE THAT KIND OF FAITH?

The world should see JESUS in us!

The WORLD should see our LABOR OF LOVE – Vs. 3:  “Your LABOR should be prompted by LOVE”

Whereas FAITH gets us started on the journey, LOVE becomes the vehicle on our way.

Will Rogers once said,  “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

What is the LABOR OF LOVE?

1 John 3:18 (NIV):  

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

John 4:15 (NIV):

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

There are so many opportunities that are missed in our Christian life in reaching out to others with the LOVE of Christ.

  • At WORK:  working for the Lord or your boss?
  • At HOME:  patience?  loving our families as Christ loves us.
  • In SOCIETY:  Lifestyle Evangelism?  integrity?
  • In CHURCH:  seeking to meet others’ needs, rather than our own?

FAITH & LOVE go hand in hand.  You can’t have visible faith without real love!

Galatians 5:6 (AMP):

“For [if we are] in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith activated and energized and expressed and working through love.”

The WORLD is watching us!  Our reputation is framed and hanging on the wall!  

They should see our working FAITH and our labor of LOVE in action.

V. 3…your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ

The WORLD should be able to SEE our everlasting HOPE!

Paul actually uses three qualities as bookends in the closing of this chapter (vs. 9-10 AMP):

[9] For they themselves volunteer testimony concerning us, telling what an entrance we had among you, and how you turned to God from [your] idols to serve a God Who is alive and true and genuine.

[10] And [how you] look forward to and await the coming of His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead–Jesus, Who personally rescues and delivers us out of and from wrath [bringing punishment] which is coming [upon the impenitent] and draws us to Himself [investing us with all the privileges and rewards of the new life in Christ, the Messiah].

FAITH gets us started on the journey, LOVE becomes the vehicle, and HOPE…? HOPE shows us where we’re going.

There’s a difference between HOPE & WISHING.  This HOPE Paul’s referring too, isn’t like dropping pennies into a wishing well.  This HOPE is like saying, “I hope tomorrow is Monday!”

The Thessalonian BELIEVERS had a real, visible, enduring HOPE.

They hoped for 3 things that we too, should hope for (VERSE 10):

#1.  They HOPED for Jesus’ return!  “…look forward to and await the coming of His Son from heaven.”  (v. 10)

#2.  They HOPED in Jesus’ resurrection, who He raised from the dead and because of the RESURRECTION, they knew too,  and they will eventually conquer death and be raised to a new life in Christ.  When Jesus returns, all those who HOPE in His resurrection can have confidence that we will live with Him forever!

#3.  They HOPED in Jesus’ rescue from God’s coming wrath (v. 10).  There’s coming a Day when God will return vengeance and wrath upon this godless and evil world we currently live in.  Those who’ve chosen God, those who’ve been transformed, those who’ve a visible faith and a labor of love…have a heart peace from the HOPE they will be RESCUED from His great wrath.

SO, WHAT DO PEOPLE SEE WHEN THEY LOOK INTO… OUR “FISHBOWL”?

Do they see CHRIST in us?

Do they see a WORK OF FAITH?  a labor of love?  an enduring, everlasting LOVE?

Do they see a DIFFERENCE in us?

If not, why would they want to become a Christian?

Whether we like it or not, we are LIVING in a public aquarium, where we’re putting on a show for the world to see.  How’s the show going?

sealion194

 

We need to be ready for Jesus’ soon return.  

In the meantime, we also need to be busy bringing people to Him by being imitators of Jesus, before it’s too late.

 


CREDITS –

COMMENTARY:  Enduring Word Bible Commentary:  1 Thessalonians 1 – Receivers and Responders.

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

BIBLE TRANSLATIONS:  New International Version (NIV), except where noted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easter Egg Hunts

Before you form a preconceived opinion from my title–this is not about my condemnation of family traditions; the ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s of the Easter season.

After reading a full-page in my local newspaper the other day, I couldn’t help notice our local area churches’ upcoming Easter activities advertised, and it made me question…

“Why does the Easter bunny and egg hunts seem to be more exciting than news about Christ’s death and resurrection?”  So here we are.110424-the-resurrection-of-jesus-widescreen-1-728

I simply believe we haven’t grasped the significance of the DEATH & RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ.  Oh, most of us know the ‘story,’ of what happened over 2,000 years ago, but it didn’t stop at the Cross.

POST’S Scripture Focus:  1 Corinthians 15:1 – 15:25

Manuel Gonzales was the first rescue worker to reach 33 miners trapped or 69 days in a Chilean mine explosion in 2010.  At great risk to his own life, he voluntarily went underground more than 2000 feet, to bring the trapped men back to the surface.  We all watched in amazement as one by one, each miner was rescued and transported to freedom [See Footnote [i] ].

We need to come to a conclusion today that the RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ is…

–more than a fairytale,

–more than a legend,

–and more than some religious symbol.

It is a historical fact that is indisputable.

Billy Graham once said,  “There is more evidence that Jesus rose from the dead then there is that Julius Caesar ever lived or that Alexander the Great died at the age of thirty-three.”  [See Footnote [ii] ].

How can Billy Graham make such a statement?  Is there evidence that makes believing in the Resurrection more than a leap of ‘blind faith’?

“For the RESURRECTION to have any significance, JESUS had to be dead first”  (Dr. Norman Geisler – When Skeptics Ask;  p. 120.)

Some have said that Jesus just passed out and was revived later in his tomb.  HELLO!!  Christ suffered horribly and eventually died with the beginning at the Garden of Gethsemane, where “His sweat was like drops of blood” (Luke 22:44).

His suffering continued throughout His interrogations by Annas and Caiaphas, hitting him in the face, spit upon and beaten, and continued when taken to Pilate, flogged, given a crown of thorns, spit upon and struck repeatedly on the head.  The flogging alone was so brutal that it was amazing He lasted until His crucifixion.

And then there was the CRUCIFIXION itself!

Hanegraaff writes,

“The Roman system of crucifixion had been fine tuned to produce maximum pain. In fact, the word excruciating (literally “out of the cross”) had to be invented to fully codify its horror.”

They used 5 to 7 inch spikes to hammer him to the wooden beams of the cross.

$_1

And there is more!

John 19:31-37 gives the account of the guards breaking the legs of the thieves to hasten their death by asphyxiation.  But when they came to JESUS, He was already dead and they speared His side instead.

If he wasn’t DEAD…he would be dead now!

– EMPTY TOMB

Matthew 27:51-61 gives an account of Jesus’ BURIAL.

Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the religious right, the Sanhedrin, placed Jesus’ body in his tomb.  This account also says that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting opposite the tomb, so they knew where it was.

The next day, the Sanhedrin came up with a plan…just in case the disciples might have plans in stealing Jesus’ body, faking a resurrection–getting Pilate’s order to post a guard and seal the tomb.  [Read Matthew 27:62-66]

The tomb was discovered EMPTY because it was EMPTY!

Nobody got the tombs mixed up.

Nobody stole the body.

It was, EMPTY, period!

– APPEARANCES

One of the greatest PROOFS of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ was His post-resurrection appearances.

1 Corinthians 15:5b-6 ~ NIV bible

[5b]…He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  [6] After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.

More than 500 people!

500 saw Jesus

There were surely many people who could testify to the trustworthiness of this statement. Several hundred.  Paul’s statement had plenty of eyewitness testimony to back it up or disprove it if false.

– TRANSFORMATION REALITY

The reality is that a TRANSFORMATION of Jesus’ followers took place.

This is evidence of the reality of the RESURRECTION–

This small group of disciples went from hiding to preaching in a very short time.  And, they were willing to go through pain, suffering and even death.

“Nobody willingly dies for something that they know is false”  (Lee Strobel, “Case for Easter”.)

They knew Jesus had died, knew there was an empty tomb, and they had seen Him.

And the REALITY of the Resurrection’s transforming POWER didn’t stop with the eyewitnesses, but within weeks of the Resurrection, not just one, but an entire community of at least ten thousand Jews were willing to give up the very sociological and theological TRADITIONS that had given them their national identity.  [The Case for the Resurrection! – He is risen! –He is risen…www.chiptape.com]

The Relevance of the Resurrection –

Christ’s Resurrection proves He was God, and not an imposter.  In John 2, Jesus chased out the money changers in the Temple because they’d turned God’s Temple into a marketing venture.

The Jews asked Him,  “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”  This is what Jesus told them:

“Destroy the temple, and I will raise it again in three days”  (John 2:19 NIV).

They thought he was referring to the Temple building they were in.  But verse 21 tells that He was referring to His body.  He delivered on the miraculous sign, proving who He was.

The Resurrection proves Jesus to be the Son of God; brings us face to face with the FACT that He is who He claimed to be.  God in the flesh!

The founders of every other religion DIED and stayed DEAD!

JESUS ROSE AGAIN!

This is important to all pf mankind.  It forces people to make a decision in life.  Since Christ Jesus IS who He claimed to be, how will the world respond to Him?

The Resurrection makes your Salvation possible –

Without the Resurrection of Jesus, every person is still DEAD in their sins  (Romans 4:25).

If Jesus died and was never raised, then His death did nothing to accomplish JUSTIFICATION.

God raising him from the dead showed acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice.  If God left Jesus in the grave, then the SACRIFICE was not accepted and no one has received cleansing from sin.  The condemnation for sin is death (Rom. 6:23).  To still be under condemnation means that ALL people will be given the ultimate penalty for their sins.”  [Life Application Bible Commentary]

Paul writes “And if Christ has not risen, then our preaching is in vain  [it amounts to nothing]  and your faith is devoid of truth and is fruitless  (without effect, empty, imaginary, and unfounded)…And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is mere delusion, and you are still in your sins [under the control and penalty of sin].  And further, those who have died in [spiritual fellowship and union with] Christ have perished (are lost)!”  [1 Corinthians 15:14, 17-18 AMP).

If JESUS didn’t rise then you are still dead in your sins and your Christian faith is worthless, and anyone you’ve known who died a believer is just as damned as an unbeliever.

– The RESURRECTION makes YOUR Resurrection possible

You and I are spirit and body.  Unlike the beliefs of the great Greek philosophers, who thought the body was evil and something we should want to be released from.

God made our bodies as part of who we are and they complete us.

Right now our bodies are affected by SIN and the body dies, BUT…God has a plan to RESURRECT our bodies to perfection.

These resurrected bodies, our current bodies will be TRANSFORMED (When I look in the mirror in the mornings, I say Hallelujah!) and will be bodies completely perfect and dominated by the Spirit rather than the sinful nature.

I especially like what the apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8 (NIV):

[23] Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  [24] For in this hope we were saved.  But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has?

Our spirits have been SAVED, BUT…we are awaiting the day for our bodies that are made completely new that frees us from the ugliness of SIN and totally be dominated by the Holy Spirit.

Resurrection is our HOPE, our GUARANTEE!  

And, 2 Corinthians 5:5 says…

Now He Who has fashioned us [preparing and making us fit] for this very thing is God,  Who also has given us the [Holy] Spirit as a guarantee [of the fulfillment of His promise]. (Amplified Bible)

Our resurrection is only made possible by the resurrection of Christ Jesus.  Christ’s RESURRECTION guarantees our own bodily resurrection.

The Bible refers to Him as being the ‘firstfruits,’ guaranteeing the whole harvest of which you and I are a part…IF…we are in Christ.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes through man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.  But each in his own turn; Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him  (1 Corinthians 15:20-23 NIV).

“Is it EASTER yet?”

LIVING IN THE “EGG KINGDOM” –

Humpty Dumpty, A NURSERY RHYME of old, most of us know by heart.  I find that there is an analogy to be found in this classic tale that lines up with this Blog-post.

Google Images
Google Images

I remember that egg-shaped character sitting on a wall and fell and all the king’s horses and the king’s men couldn’t put him back again.

You and I are broken because of SIN.

There is nothing anyone can do to fix us.  We are utterly helpless and hopeless to stand in judgment before God in our sin.

The Story of “PHILIP’S EGG”  [See Footnote [iii] ] –

Little Philip, born with Down’s syndrome, attended a third-grade Sunday School class with several eight-year-old boys and girls.  Typical of that age, children didn’t readily accept Philip with his differences.  But because of a creative teacher, they began to care about Philip and accept him as part of the group, though not fully.

The Sunday after Easter, the teacher brought Leggs pantyhose containers, the kind that look like large EGGS.

Each receiving one, the children were told to go outside on that spring day, find some symbol of new life, and put it in the egg-like container.

Back in the classroom, they shared their new-life symbols, opening the containers one by one in a surprise fashion and after running about the church property in wild confusion, the students returned to the classroom, placing the containers on the table.

Surrounded by the children, the teacher began to open them one by one.  After each one, whether flower, butterfly or leaf, the class would ooh and aah.

Then one was opened, revealing nothing inside.  The children exclaimed, “That’s stupid. That’s not fair! Somebody didn’t do their assignment.”

Philip spoke up, “That’s mine.”  “Philip, you don’t ever do things right!” the student points out.  “There’s nothing there!”  “I did so do it,” Philip insisted.  “I did do it. It’s empty; the tomb was empty!”  Silence followed.  From then on, Philip became a full member of the class.

Philip died not long after that from an infection most normal children would have shrugged off.  At the funeral this class of eight-year-olds marched up to the altar, not with flowers, but with their Sunday school teacher, each to lay on it an empty pantyhose EGG.

The JOY of Resurrection Sunday Morning!

While you may be broken like Humpty Dumpty because of sin, unfixable by anyone in the world, and because that tomb is genuinely empty and Jesus is alive and well…what He did on the cross for you and I, paying for our sins, we’ve been given an opportunity.  Not only to be fixed, but to become a NEW CREATION and to have fellowship with God.

That’s the Joy of Resurrection morning.  

God can fix you spiritually and you can have the HOPE that He will one day complete your redemption by redeeming your body to be like Jesus’ body.  There is no JOY without the relevancy of the Resurrection and without it, you have no life! 

 


 

Credits & Footnotes:

Footnote [i] :  Our Daily Bread REDEEMED, Pg. Devotion: Day Nine.

Footnote [ii]:  Hank Hanegraaff Resurrection – Publisher: W. Publishing Group.

Footnote [iii]:  Christianity Today.com – Philip’s Egg by Harry Pritchett Jr. in the Leadership Journal Magazine.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV), except where noted in the text.

Photo Credits:  Google Image Search.

 

 

 

I’m Dying

Bible Study verses:  John 12:24-25  (NIV & The Message bible)

john12-24
King James Version

New International Version –

[24]  “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  [25] The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

The MESSAGE –

24-25  “Listen carefully:  Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat.  But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over.  In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys life.  But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.

THE SEED PRINCIPLE –

“If you keep the SEED out of the ground, all you have is the SEED.  But when that SEED is planted and then it grows…end of story.  Bury it and it rises.”  [“Are You Dead Yet?” by Michael Walker]

Sounds a lot like RESURRECTION to me!

1 Corinthians 15:36-37 (NIV):

1 Corinthians 15:36
1 Corinthians 15:36

“What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed…”

DEATH CAN PRODUCE LIFE!

JESUS knows at this point this is His last week on earth.  He knows He is going to be betrayed, beaten, crucified and will die by weeks end.

Since JESUS knows this will be His final week through His preaching, teaching and example, JESUS decides He will take His disciples into some deeper water; make them dive into the deep end of the pool.

JESUS presents not ONE, not TWO, but THREE examples of a Dichotomy for us all as Disciples, followers of Christ Jesus to examine.  So lets all ‘jump in the pool.’

So what is a “DICHOTOMY”?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary,  [4] : something with seemingly contradictory qualities; a paradox (synonym) is a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses the truth.

In verses 24-26, Jesus shares three important principles of “dichotomy’s” pertaining to our lives.

John 12:24 (AMP):

I assure you, most solemnly I tell you. Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains [just one grain; it never becomes more but lives] by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces many others and yields a rich harvest.

THE FIRST DICHOTOMY is introduced to the crowd.

DEATH can produce LIFE!

Jesus is trying to let the listeners know that His time is short; He is not going to be the type of Messiah they were expecting.

In the following verses of John chapter 12, verses 27-34, Jesus speaks of His impending departure and when you drop down to verse 34, the crowd seems obviously confused.

“We have learned from the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; how then can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up on the cross’?”

The DICHOTOMY presented in this verse is the FACT that DEATH CAN PRODUCE LIFE.

JESUS uses the example of a grain of wheat.  For it to produce fruit, it has to be put in the ground–then has to DIE in order for it to produce visible fruit.

In context, Jesus is speaking of Himself; how His impending DEATH and subsequent resurrection will be a fruitful event for ALL who will follow Him.

Jesus must DIE giving His life to bring LIFE to us today.

  • When a SEED dies, it produces fruit.  
  • LIFE comes by DEATH.

This principle is true not only in nature but also true spiritually.  When you take a moment and meditate on Jesus’ words, it is directed to our spiritual life.

We must DIE in Christ in order for us to become FRUITFUL spiritually.

Certain changes occur when seed is planted underground.

  • The HARD dry shell softens.

the_seed_by_paweljoncaWhen we are separated from God because of our sin, we need to be born again. The old self (the ‘outer hard shell’) needs to DIE.

Romans 6:5-7 (NIV):

If we have been united with Him like this in death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection.  For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin–because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

This is spoken in context of one who has been BAPTIZED in to Christ Jesus.

When we are immersed into Christ, our old body of SIN is crucified and DEATH frees us from SIN.

The apostle Paul struggled with this principle in his life as many do today as well.

Philippians 1:20-25 (NIV):

[20] I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. [21] For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. [22] If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! [23] I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; [24] but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. [25] Convinced of this, I know I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith,…

PAUL was well aware that the end of his physical life was not the end of his existence,  He also knew that he was here on earth for a purpose.

Our life isn’t about getting through it as shortly or quickly as possible, it is about savoring every moment along the way, making sure that we maximize our life for Christ.

VERSE 25 is our next Paradox –

“In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is, destroys life.  But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal”  (The Message).

We have a tendency to think that if we hold on to something really tight we’ll not lose our grip or… that we will do better by holding on tightly.  We do this with our possessions at times, and our relationships.  We can hold on so tight…that we smother the other person, even driving them off.

Jesus tells the crowd that whoever loves their life will lose it.  Now that sounds a bit awkward at first reading. 

This phrase reflects the ‘hard coating of the seed’ and denotes someone who lives only to serve themselves.

Jesus is not telling us not to enjoy life, but He is calling us to a high calling.  Think about that for a moment.  The one who loves his life is the one who only lives to serve themselves.  The presented issues here is…

  • WHO IS FIRST IN MY LIFE?
  • WHAT IS MY PRIORITY?

Your priorities reveal who you really love.  When we live for self, we risk the danger of losing the very thing we are trying to hold on to.

When we LOVE SELF more than we LOVE GOD, we will come up very short in the end.

LOVE is SACRIFICIAL–

Many people look at the word SACRIFICE as being a four-letter word.  When you look at the other end of the bible verse (v. 25), you see Jesus speaking of hating (King James Version) their life and how that will gain them life.

When you LOVE God and willing to lose your life, then the things of this world are hated in contrast to the things of God.  JESUS doesn’t mean we are to HATE our life, but rather OUR LOVE for God is so great…our LOVE of life pales in comparison!

This VERSE is a play on the Greek term psyche, which refers to the essence of a human’s personality or life force (Matthew 10:39; 16:25).   [see FOOTNOTE [i].]

Once someone TRUSTS CHRIST, they are given a NEW Life.  And this NEW LIFE is a gift from God for service, not for personal use.

BELIEVERS are STEWARDS of this new life.

We are freed from slavery to sin and to become SERVANTS of God.

“If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself] and take up his cross daily and follow Me…”  (Luke 9:23 AMP).

PAUL goes even deeper.

“I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ (the Messiah) lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me  (Galatians 2:20 AMP).

THIS LEADS RIGHT INTO VERSE 26 –

John 12:26 The MESSAGE:

“If any of you wants to serve me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moments notice. The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me.”

Being a SERVANT in this life gives you the highest honor.

The DICHOTOMY is this:  When you look around, it seems those who are being served have made it in this world.  Who doesn’t want an entourage around them to take care of all their needs.  Those are the folks who seem to get the highest honor.  In this life that may be true.

But in ETERNITY…

JESUS is telling us the one who will be honored is the one who serves.  

Look at Matthew 23:11-12:

[11] “The greatest among you will be your servant.  [12] For whoever exalts himself will be humbles, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted”  (NIV Bible).

John 12:26 gives us some insight on how we can tell if we LOVE self more than Jesus.

JESUS equates SERVING Him with following Him with our words, and our physical bodies in continuance.  Jesus’ words in verse 26 speaks to our ongoing RELATIONSHIP that leads us to follow!

We FOLLOW Jesus by serving Him, and by SERVING…we maintain our relationship with Him.

The issue of SERVING comes down to our commitment, love and priorities.  When these line up we are in good shape.

When we live for SELF, we are living with an empty existence which eventually leads you to a dead-end! 

dead end sign

THE PARADOXES OF LIFE

JESUS shares the Paradoxes with us, now we have to decide what to do with them.

IGNORE them or EMBRACE them.

In verses 35-36, Jesus is calling the crowd gathered to BELIEVE in Him:

[35] “You will have the Light only a little while longer.  Walk while you have the Light [keep on living by it], so that darkness may not overtake and overcome you. He who walks about in the dark does not know where he goes [he is drifting].  

[36] While you have the Light, BELIEVE in the Light [have faith in it, hold to it, rely on it]. that you may become sons of the Light and be filled with Light…” (AMP).

WILL YOU ANSWER THE CALL?

 

 


FOOTNOTES & CREDITS –

Footnote [i]:  Bible Hub/Strong’s Concordance #5590, ‘psuche’; psyche.

Commentary:  Tony Abram Abundant Life Crusades 11 Jan. 1996 notes on “CORN”

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations as noted:  NIV- New International Version; AMP – Amplified bible; MESSAGE – the Message Bible; KJV – King James Version