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Archive for the tag “Resurrection”

Hope for Our World

Watching the memorial service of Ravi Zacharias yesterday evening caused a great sense of grief to overwhelm me. The great defender of our faith died last week on May 19th after battling cancer. The sadness wasn’t really from his death, although it is a sad day to lose someone of such great significance, but the sadness was from the death of my own Dad a couple of years ago.

The daughter was speaking about her Dad and as she was speaking it was just a fresh tidal wave of emotion for me. The daughter’s son said that he didn’t know who he was without his Papa. He asked his Mom, what did Papa mean to you? The dam broke while I remembered my own Dad’s words to me as she spoke of her Dad’s love for her.

After my Mom died ten years ago, my Dad called me every night. Before he hung up, he always told me to remember he loved me very much. I miss my Dad. I miss knowing he was always in my corner. I miss how he instructed me when I had trouble with my golf game. (He would correct my positioning so that I could work out my slice.) He would tell me how to do something to finish a home project or he would do it himself when he was able. My Dad was a great father and he loved his family well.

The overwhelming sadness isn’t just from the death of my Dad or Ravi it’s all the death we are focusing on right now. Death just seems to be the main topic every day. I’ve lost two aunts in the last five months. The darkness seems to keep closing in. Evil just seems to be winning every day and if I didn’t know better, I would think evil will win in the end. But I know better.

I believe in eternity and no one truly dies. For those in Jesus Christ, we are given a promise of eternal life through Jesus – we just pass from this life to the true life we are meant to live – with Him forever. We are told through Scripture we will be with Him where He is at that moment of passing. There is no darkness for those in Him – only light. We also know that we will see one another again. We have the hope of resurrection and eternal life with God (Romans 8:18-25).

I may have a sense of sadness every now and then due to the events happening around me or the world, but my underlying sense is one of hope and assurance that God is in control in all things. No matter what the evil one plans, God has a countermeasure to bring good from it for those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

Sometimes I just need to sit in His Word and let it wash over me. Sometimes the Word needs to fill my tank just as I get filled up being with my family. My tank needs to be full. If I start running low, my emotions and my outlook seems rather dark like there is no hope for this world. God has worked many of my troubles in this life for His glory. I know He still is going to work something out for the story of loss we feel for this day for His glory too.

I believe in a Great God who can take our troubles and make them into a great testimony. We just have to surrender our plans to His. Our plans are futile without Him. God’s plan was not to heal Ravi from cancer. God’s plan didn’t include healing my Mom from cancer or my aunt either.

But this I do know, God’s purposes will be fulfilled – I read through every story in the Bible and God works it all out in the end. God didn’t save Jesus from His suffering either – but thank God He didn’t. By His suffering, we are healed and we are saved. There was no other way to have a relationship with God unless Jesus died for our sins.

I also know we all have to suffer at some point in our lives. Maybe it’s at the end like my Mom and my aunt. We are told in Scripture (Romans 5:4) suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character and character produces hope. God is always about building character.

It was my aunt who rejoiced in her suffering when she found out she had cancer. She knew Jesus was right by her side. She was at peace with her end. My Mom too.

I told my Mom when we first learned of her cancer, that God had given me a sense of peace about it. I thought He was going to heal her, but He had other plans which are not truly known to this day. My Mom too felt that sense of peace and reconciled to the fact God had chosen that type of death for her.

There is a 100% guarantee we will all die one day. We just have to be ready to meet Jesus no matter what. If we are given another ten, fifteen or fifty years, we still have to live each day as if it’s our last because we never know the number of our days or the time of Jesus’ return. And yes, I have hope that I will see Jesus return in the clouds for His church. I will be ready for that day. How about you? It’s time to be ready no matter what!

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8

Making a Difference

It just doesn’t make sense. The news was bad. It takes time to process and after you do, it still makes no sense. You might think I am writing about the political landscape, but what I share is death. Death is bad news. It’s loss. It’s sorrow. But when it is someone who has such a bright future ahead, you just can’t make sense of why bad things happen to good people.

I lost my aunt a couple of weeks ago from cancer. She faced a long battle that finally ended for her. It was expected. But I woke up this bright, sunny morning going through my routine when I jumped onto Facebook to see what my friends and family had posted. I was shocked to learn of this young man’s life cut short by a new motorcycle and a good evening to ride.

I didn’t know him. I saw him around church. He was the kid everybody wanted to hang with. He was energetic and flashed a big smile. He spoke to everyone – even me – just one who passes by. I noticed when he left to go to college how everyone congratulated him and wished him well. When he came home, the people in his circle were so excited to see him. He seemed to be a really good guy.

But as I read the posts by my friends and church family, I noticed how big a loss this truly is to our church body. It’s a sad day. To make it worse, there’s no gathering together to mourn the loss. There’s no comfort of hugs as people come together to remember. I felt this loss when I went to see my aunt for the last time. There was no comfort found in mourning alone. But as I reflect on my aunt and this young man, I don’t mourn their loss of life because they are more truly alive today in heaven than what they ever experienced here on earth.

It’s hard to explain to those who do not understand this joy when we face these times of sorrow. We do not mourn as those without hope. We have the hope of Jesus – the One who defeated death and claimed victory for eternal life. Yes, we experience sorrow. But oh the joy we find in Jesus. If this young man’s legacy is as it appears to be, even in death his light will shine. This isn’t the end of his story. He already has a legacy even at his young age.

It was a death of a friend that reached into my heart and changed me. And I believe God can do it again with someone else who is on the fence looking in and wondering about their own eternity. My friend died at a young age too; a little older this young man. My friend was a godly woman. It was a tragic accident too. But what set this death apart from all the others I had experienced up to that time was she was around my age. It was shocking. I knew people died young. But not ones I knew. Maybe this young man’s death can be a catalyst for change in someone else’s life. I pray it may be so.

When my friend died years ago, I was faced with my own mortality. Even thought I have known about Jesus all my life, I didn’t know where I would go when that day of death occurred. You see, my life had taken a detour for a few years. I wasn’t living as one who had given their life to Jesus. Basically, I knew about Jesus, but I didn’t have a relationship with Him. I didn’t even know that was a thing.

From my years of church life, I just thought you said a prayer and it was a done deal. But when my friend died, I had to know for sure where I stood with Jesus. I began the journey to find Him. My friend’s death changed my life. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). We just have to trust God in our circumstances and remember He is our good Father who loves us and weeps with us in our sorrow.

We will all die one day. My hope is that you will know where you will go when you do. Let this young man’s life touch you too. We are to make the most of what God gives us – each and every day. God will make the most out of our days even when it’s such a short time. We just have to surrender each day as if it’s our last. This young man’s life has made a difference – even to the one who just passed by.

Jesus said to her (Martha), “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who was to come into the world.” John 11:23-27

Preparing the Way

As we contemplate Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, I want to draw your attention to the waiting time. Have you ever noticed when God gives a promise, it usually doesn’t happen right away? Abraham and Sarah waited twenty-five years before the promised child arrived. Noah had to wait 120 years before the first raindrop fell. The Israelites lived in the land of Egypt for over 400 years before they got sick and tired of being oppressed by their slave masters and cried out to God for deliverance. God waited forty years for Moses to be ready to lead the people out of Egypt. Once they were led out, it took forty years before they took possession of the Promised Land.

From religious scholars we are told that it was 400 years of silence from the last Old Testament Prophet until the voice of the Lord spoke to Zechariah to announce the birth of John the Baptist. A baby would be born to Zechariah and Elizabeth to prepare the way for the Lord fulfilling prophecy concerning the coming of the Lord Jesus. The Old Testament prophets prophesied the birth of Jesus and the anticipation grew year after year. But when He arrived on the scene, only a few recognized Him as God’s promised One. It was foretold about His death and His resurrection, but again, no one understood what this would represent to all of humanity. The promise was fulfilled and the sting of death would be removed for all who believe. Promise after promise – and it all came true.

God is faithful in His promises. The silence though is unnerving to us. It erodes our confidence. It causes doubt to arise in us. Did we really hear from God? Noah built a boat on dry land! Abraham and Sarah decided God meant something else; after all she was in her sixties when the promise of a son was given to them. So they took matters into their own hands to fulfill God’s promise to them. But that was not the promised child. God said what He meant. Elizabeth too had a promise of a birth in her old age. Really? This makes no sense to us; yet, God is faithful to fulfill His promises in His time for His reason and in His way.

Then there’s the birth, life, ministry of Jesus written for all of us to read and believe. Prophecies are meant to be fulfilled in God’s will, in God’s way and in God’s time. And we still wait on the fulfillment of more prophecies to come. The Bible is full of promise. It’s full of hope. We are told that Jesus will return one day and receive the church – His bride. And we wait. Like the people of old who didn’t recognize their Messiah, will we lose sight of the promise? After such a long wait, generation after generation; complacency and doubt sets in. God has taken forever to send the promise, maybe He’s forgotten. But we know that’s not true. To God, a thousand years is like a day. His timetable is not ours.

Every time we are waiting for fulfillment, God is still at work. God continues to move things in place in order for everything to be right for the promise to be fulfilled. During the 400 years of silence, the language had to be common throughout the known world; roads had to be built for easier travel; military peace was given throughout the land to make the way for the Word to travel when the time came. God was busy preparing the way. I believe He is still preparing the way for the next event in His eternal plan.

It may seem God is slow in fulfilling His promises. We may have to build a large boat. Or we may have to live in the desert to grow to our potential for God’s purpose. Or there maybe roads that need to be built or nations that need to be lined up to God’s plan. God is always working, even when we hear nothing but silence. Maybe the silence is for us too. Maybe He is preparing our hearts for the promise to be received. Maybe there’s a reason that we cannot fathom right now, but we can be confident in our God – He always comes through – no matter what. His will, His ways and in His time. Just look to the cross of Jesus as proof. He is faithful and He loves you beyond any reason. Count on it and trust Him to fulfill His Word to you. No matter what you’re waiting on; if you have a promise from God, He will fulfill it. And we can count on Jesus coming back. Are you prepared to meet Him?

And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight. And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. 2 Peter 3:14-15a (NLT)

The Lesson

This past week I listened to a couple of messages – one on health and the other was a sermon – both on the spiritual battle that we all face in our minds. They were both on fear. The first message was from Caroline Leaf, PhD.1 She is a brain researcher and lecturer. She has been studying the brain for over twenty years. In her talk, she related that there are two emotional roots tied to our memories – faith and fear. Each memory has emotional components to them. In the brain, there is a place where memory is stored for long-term. When visible seen, the memory storage area looks like trees. The faith-based memories (aka good memories) will look like lush green trees. The fear-based memories (aka bad memories) will look like thorn bushes. Fear creates little thorn growths on the outer edges of our memory trees. (The fear-based emotions cause harm to the body.) I was fascinated with these ideas.

The next message was from Andy Stanley on the N Commandments2– the commandments that Jesus instructed the disciples in order to carry on with His movement. This first commandment in this new series is, of course – “Do not fear.” Jesus was telling His disciples all the time “do not be afraid!” He told them not to be afraid when persecution comes (and it would come). Do not fear man or what man can do to you, but fear the One who has control over life and death eternal. Fear God. We are to respect God. He has authority over life and death; He conquered death through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

In the early years of this new movement, they didn’t have a Bible; they didn’t have great instructions to live by – except what Jesus spoke and was passed along. The disciples followed Jesus for three years. They listened; they saw; then they were given the instructions to go to the world and preach the good news. Jesus told Martha when Lazarus was dead in the grave for four days (John 11:25) – “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever believes in me will never die.”

When Jesus was resurrected, they believed. Because of their belief, they no longer feared death or feared sharing the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection no matter the consequences of the persecution they would face. They would go before governors and kings; they would be flogged and thrown out of synagogues, but they had confidence in the One who sent them. They became fearless and spoke with the authority that Jesus gave them – no matter what.

One of my own struggles is fear. I needed to hear these messages this past week. For the past couple of weeks, I have been in the place of fear because of my circumstances. But what I realized in the last day or two, if everything was gone and I had nothing – is this life or death? Why am I afraid that I will have nothing? God said He would take care of all my needs. I see persecution happening all over the world today. People are leaving everything behind and fleeing to safer places. They are facing executioners and standing firm until the end. They have nothing in the end, except the One who can save them from eternal damnation. That’s enough – nothing else matters. It’s time to release the fear and know that God is enough!

My pastor concluded his message on Sunday on the wisdom from Solomon found in Ecclesiastes 12:13 – Fear God and keep His commandments (Solomon reminded us that everything else is meaningless). Voids in our lives cannot be filled by stuff or people – God made us incomplete so that we can find our sufficiency in Him alone. Nothing else matters. When fear starts to creep in, I have been recalling a new song I heard recently – “You are a good, good Father – it’s who you are. And I am loved by You, that’s who I am. You are perfect in all your ways.”3 When I remember this, I remember a good Father takes care of His children – no matter what. We are precious in His sight.

“Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” Matthew 10:28-31 (NLT)

1Caroline Leaf, PhD, “My Body, His Temple” teaching series by Life Today

2Andy Stanley, the N Commandments series, Part 2

3“Good Good Father” by Housefires II, 2014

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