Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter-The Resurrection? (John 20)

Christians the world over during this week called Holy Week, are remembering the journey Jesus our savior took to the cross . This week's crescendo will be celebrated on Good Friday when we remember the death of Christ and Easter morning when we remember He is alive through His resurrection. —The sacrifice was paid by God, so that eternal life will be enjoyed by all those who accept to be His, through their faith in the finished work of Christ (Eph 2:8). 

The season of Easter in a sense puts a microphone of remembrance of God's plan for mankind and it heralds the call anew for those who have never heard or for those who have not yet responded to this love call of salvation.

As the world watches Christians celebrate—Some by going to Church every day this week, some by fasting and prayer, while others by reading and watching the accounts of Jesus entering Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) till the resurrection (Easter morning)—There is an enormous sense of importance, but its implications might not be obvious to those who only look on.

The natural question to ask is, "why is Easter such a big deal?" 

Why do I need a savior? Why is Jesus death good news? Why is His resurrection even greater news? So what He rose again from the death, what implications does that have on my life today…some may chime, "Is it not a bit unrealistic to believe in a resurrection?

Jerusalem, Mount of Olive where Jesus walked
Well the foundation of Christianity lies on the life, death and resuurection of Jesus because Jesus is our complete substitute for what a full life lived was created to look like, right from the beginning….ponder this with me.

Jesus lived a perfect life of obedience to God the Father and though He died, He conquered death by resurrecting and is now at the right hand of God the Father almighty. In complete fellowship and unity with Him. His life has been offered as the perfect substitute for ours (Meaning He took our life and the consequences that our actions brought which is punishment deserving of dying on a cross…then we take His life and the beauty of His life which is fellowship with God forever). 

So God, full of justice, allowed Jesus to pay the price for all the wrong things we did or ever would do (Rom 3:23) and then because of our faith in the work of Jesus we gain the beauty of peace, joy, pain, comfort all experienced within an intimate fellowship with God in this life (Rom 6:23). This new life is also coupled with an even better life with God forever, after our time on earth expires. (2 Cor 5:21, 1 Cor 15:20-23, Rom 5:20-21).

However Jesus living and dying for us was not enough to give us this complete full life (John 10:10), He had to conquer both sin and death. His resurrection provides those who believe in Him victory over sin (not being slaves to sin any longer) and victory over death (living forever). Here lies hope, hope not only for Christians but this hope is made available for all mankind, this hope is for all who will believe in Christ.

"Painful way" Old City Jerusalem

But how do we know the resurrection really occurred? 

To establish any case, there is need for eye witnesses and based on the credibility of the witness and the strength of their confession the truth of a case is established. Let us see what the eye witness reports to Christ's resurrection say. Did they see Christ after He had died and what are it's implication for us today?

John: (John 20:1-16)

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb...Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple (John), were going to the tomb...Peter saw...Then the other disciple (John)...went in also; and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.

Mary: (John 20:17-20)

11 But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping...she stooped down and looked into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white sitting...where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”14 Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”...16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’”18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her...

Jesus Disciples
19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord

Thomas: (John 20:24-29)

24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas,“Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Paul: (1 Cor 15:12-18)
But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. 15 And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. 16 And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. 18 In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! 19 And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.
20 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.21 So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. 22 Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. 23 But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back.

Peter: (1 Pet 1:3)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
(2 Pet 1:16) For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty

How credible are the testimonies of these witnesses? All of Jesus disciples died for their testimonies, *Peter was crucified upside down, Paul beheaded, only John died a natural death but in exile. All because they believed and told others about Christ being alive and its implication for all of mankind. Those who saw Christ alive after His death were over 500 in number, but you may say they are biased because they loved and believed in Jesus before He died. That is a fair argument, so watch this Yale graduate, former Chicago Tribune editor Lee Strobel's non-Christian investigation of if the resurrection of Christ really happened. He later on became a Christian because of what he found from his investigation. See a snippet of what he found.
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So if Jesus really lived on earth and died and resurrected, what should be your reasonable response to these things? = Believe 

so that you can have eternal life, the life you were created for. The disciple John says;
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book (The Bible). 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,and that by believing you may have life in his name. (john 20:30-31)

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3)

I understand the things presented here does not bring anyone into full understanding. It is my belief that full understanding to how God can take the place of man might be hard to come by, but even with limited understanding by His grace, belief is possible. Just Like C. S. Lewis said,

We believe that the death of Christ is just that point in history at which something absolutely unimaginable from outside shows through into our own world. And if we cannot picture even the atoms of which our own world is built, of course we are not going to be able to picture this. Indeed, if we found that we could fully understand it, that very fact would show it was not what it professes to be--the inconceivable, the uncreated, the thing from beyond nature, striking down into nature like lightning. You may ask what good it will be to us if we do not understand it. But that is easily answered. A man can eat his dinner without understanding exactly how food nourishes him. A man can accept what Christ has done without knowing how it works: indeed, he certainly would not know how it works until he has accepted it.
    ... C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), Mere Christianity,
For all of you who believe already, remember that there is no pain in this life that can be compared to the great hope life in Christ brings. So wipe your eyes,...He is alive...He is Risen!!!! Your hope lies in the infallible truth of God's word and the surmountable evidence from witnesses all around the world. I leave you with this quote from one witness many centuries later.
If [Jesus] were God and nothing else, his immortality means nothing to us; if he were a man and no more, His death is no more important than yours or mine. But if He really was both God and man, then when the man Jesus died, God died too, and when the God Jesus rose from the dead, then man rose too, because they were one and the same person.... Dorothy Leigh Sayers (1893-1957), Christian Letters to a Post-Christian World
Happy Easter He is Risen, He is Risen Indeed!!!!!
Until next time, be comforted by this praise dance done in Houston by The Praise Dancers of Omega Gospel Church, "Why do you Cry, He has risen" Kurt franklin. Slower internet connection click here

*events in the church which happened after biblical accounts are Found in the books of Church History. Church History books were written by Historians some not even Christians who documented how the church grew after Acts till present 2000 years. If interested you can get started reading this good book The Story of Christianity, Vol. 1: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation by Justo Gonzalez, or if you are like me who likes DVDs, you can check out this one that I own, Christianity-the first 2000 years (this is from a non-Christian point of view).

Friday, March 29, 2013

"Good Friday-We Remember and are Glad" (John 18-19)

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Today at noon all across the world in many Churches, Christians gathered to remember a man who walked the earth and was nailed to a cross in 33 AD on the preparation day of the Passover feast in Jerusalem. He died as the preparatory lamb whose blood was and is the stain needed for all of mankind to escape the coming judgement by God for all of our sins, my sins and yours (1 Pet 3:18, 1 Cor 5:21, Exo 12:614)…..Is this a fairytale?

….Who is this man they remember…who is this Jesus?….This was not just a man, He was God (Mat 26:63-64, Mk 14:61-62, Lk 22:67-69, John 1:1, 1:14)…Yes unlike many other religions or faiths who have to die for their God….for Christians…Our God came down and died for us…so that we may Live!!!!

So what makes Good Friday Good? What makes Good Friday good news?

......Good Friday is Goood Because 
although Jesus suffered and died on the cross and hung there in my place and in yours (1 John 2:2), we celebrate because He died for all mankind, so that all mankind who believes in Him can live forever (John 3:16). Rom 5:8 says, "But God proves His love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us". 

So we celebrate the greatest love that ever lived, where an innocent man who was also fully God died for us. For all who will receive this love today, He gives the right to be called children of God and says... you have life (John 1:12, John 3:16-17, John 10:10). 

 If this new life resonates with you, I invite you to join all Christians the world over, in this Good Friday celebration. If you are not part of God's family, this invitation is open for you right now, you can pray to God something like this " I confess I am a sinner needing to be saved, I receive Jesus sacrifice for me by faith, and ask you God to come into my life, and make me a new creation in Him, Amen".

If you prayed this sincerely, you are born again (John 3:3). If you need to know more, I invite you to contact me by leaving a comment and I will be glad to be in touch with you. Find a Bible believing Church this Easter and get plugged into the Christian family. You are a new person.

Just know although it might seem strange, that faith in Christ can make all things new, hang in there and you will see what the Lord does with a life surrendered to Him. May this song encourage you that God makes all things new with Christ even when it does not seem like it.


If you are already part of the family, I celebrate with you this truth. When I look at the cross I see my shame, my guilt, my depression, my lack of self worth, my insecurities, my anger, my lust, my death ….all nailed to the cross…..all put on Jesus….so that I can take his freedom, his righteous life, His intimacy with a beautiful God and Father. Yes He makes all things new again, the greatest of which is a new life. For these reasons Good Friday is indeed good.

20 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. 21 So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. 22 Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. 23 But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back.—1 Cor 15:20-22

I  leave you with this dramatic reading right from the bible put together by the Presbyterian Church Mission online. May this reenactment help open up doors for conversation with your children or your youth group...Now this is true comfort for the soul. 

Happy Good Friday & Happy Easter, we remember, and are glad.
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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Laying down the Law (Exo 20-24)

So Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the judgments. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the Lord has said we will do.” And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord. And he rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient.” And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words.”

In our world today we hate the whole idea of someone putting laws and rules that should govern us. We desire to be free to do what we want, when we want and how we want. Yes we strive on freedom of choice. Have you ever allowed a 2 year old enjoy their freedom of choice in your beautiful living room? What do you get? Not a pretty sight I can imagine. Even as a parent your rules and direction for your children are not meant to keep them in bondage but to set them free to live the best, safest life possible. How much more the God who created the universe? His good and perfect plan for His children Israel and for us, will only be realized if we play by His rules and not ours, rules set in place for our good. It is at this place where we enter our story today.

Bible LessonWhat is Biblical Covenant: It is a binding agreement (treaty) presented by God to His created people where he makes certain promises to them if they keep their obligation to Him. It was never a treaty between equals but between God the creator and man His creation. God always made the terms of the agreement, so if man desires to enter in covenant with God, he will voluntarily agrees to God's terms. This mutual agreement was normally accompanied with a sign or reminder to help man and his descendants after him, remember God’s promise and their agreement. Examples are the Naohic Covenant (The Rainbow Gen 6, 18, 19), The Abrahamic Covenant (Circumcision Gen 12,17, Rom4:11-13) Mosaic covenant (the blood of the oxen Exo 19:5, 24:1-8), Davidic Covenant (an everlasting kingship from David’s line 2 Sam 7:12-16, Luke 1:32. Rom 1:3), The New Covenant (The blood of Jesus Christ-By grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ Mk 14:24, Luke 22:20, Heb 8:8-13, 9:15).

The Land of Israel today

In today's reading we arrive at a very important phase where God makes Israel a Nation. To have a nation, you will need a people, land and law. So having the first two, God proceeds in Exodus 20-24 to give the Laws that are to govern His chosen people Israel. These laws reflect God’s perfect character and standard which when obeyed would bring a life of blessing, if obeyed will provide Israel the best life they can have on earth. Their blessed life will cause other nations to desire to be in relationship with Israel’s God. Israel will stand in a unique position to lead other nations into a right relationship with the one true God.
As God commanded, Moses tells the people God’s Laws and judgments, he writes them down and the next morning reads the same laws and judgment to the people again (Exo 19-23). Twice the people of Israel shouted, “All that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient.”. In the midst of these declarations Moses makes 12 altars representing the 12 tribes of Israel and conducts a peace offering (according to the God’s law Lev 11:7-20) and uses the blood of this peace offering to seal this Covenant (agreement) between God and Israel. So what the Bible calls the Mosaic covenant is established and sealed by the blood of an oxen. The covenant stated that, if Israel obeys all of God’s laws they will be blessed and if they did not they will be cursed (see details in Lev 26).

Reading further in the New Testament we understand that all of God’s law could be summarized by these two laws, as said by Jesus, (Mat 22:37-40)

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

…and reading further from our story today we know that though Israel shouted "we shall obey", within no time they shouted "make us our own God"(32:1). This chant is not foreign to us, its trend continues in our world today. We likewise shout “make us our own god!”, by wanting human wisdom and knowledge to guide us, we shout "make our own god!" by loving riches and fame, by wanting to explore our own selfish desires rather than the desires of the God who made us. These are our gods today, I see them in my life and I am sure you can see them in yours. We are all guilty of being unfaithful to a God who has been nothing but perfectly loving to us, we all are guilty under his judgment (Rom 3:23).

But did God provide a contingency plan for when His people did not obey Him? Was there a way out of the curse of death, which is now over Israel because of their disobedience, and also over us today who do not obey God’s perfect standard?

Yes He has a way out!!!!, His way out is the best story ever told, it is the rest of the story. I move ahead of the story to tell you God’s plan because it is important. God’s plan to restore man’s relationship with Him and remove the curse of death brought by his disobedience, is this;
A perfect man (fully God and fully man)....Jesus Christ.... will come in our world, who will
    Obey God’s perfect law and
   Give his life as a substitute for all of mankind and
   As a sacrifice for all the sins of mankind in order to satisfy God’s justice-Rom 6:23a, 3:23-28
Who ever believes in this God-man...Jesus Christ... will have
    The curse of death replaced by the gift of everlasting life. 
   A restored relationship forever with the one true God.-(Rom 3:23-25, Rom 5:8-11, Rom 6:23b, Rom 10:13, Rom 10:9-10, John 3:16-21)
      This same God-man...Jesus Christ will come again
   To make all things new and
   Remove completely evil and death from our world-(Rev 20:14, 21:1-8, 22)

Since these statements involve eternal life and eternal death, I suggest you do not just take my word for it, read the other references provided. 
I pray you believe that just like you have rules and standards you want your own children to follow for their good, God your Father, your creator has His own standard for you, so that you may have abundant life (John 10:10, 14:2-3). There is no greater comfort known to man than God’s perfect plan for you as laid out here and in more detail in the Bible. I pray these words will not be foolishness to you but that they will be the very power of life that you have been crying for (1 Cor 1:18). I hope as you continue reading your bible, assisted weekly by this blog you will come to a place of belief or renewed faith. Until next time…read, share and be comforted, as I leave you with this song with prayer for you.  
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Bible lesson notes are taken from Nelson's New illustrated Bible Commentary & Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary.

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