Excerpts from Ephesus – Part 3

Making Known the Mystery of His Will

Ephesians 1:8-12

Ephesians 1:8-12 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

Introduction

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus a most glorious letter. The letter is filled with hope and promise as he carefully lays out the importance of God in the lives of the brethren. In the first chapter he lets us in on a profound truth for Christians;

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

Paul introduces them to how “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”.

In verses 4-6 we were introduced to the blessings of the Father: He Chose us (v. 4), He Adopted us (v. 5) and He Accepted us (v. 6). Beginning in the seventh verse, we see the blessings from God the Son. In verse 7 we found that Jesus redeemed us.

In this passage today, we will continue to see the Blessings in Heavenly Places from God the Son as Jesus reveals God’s will to us.

Ephesians 1:8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;

In the previous verse we found that “we have redemption through his blood and the forgiveness of sins”. And all this is according to the “riches of his grace.” Now add “he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence.” Spiritual blessings heaped upon spiritual blessings from God’s grace to those who trust in Christ.

Notice the word abounded, it means “in excess; more than enough to spare.” God does not give wisdom and prudence in moderation to His children. God will give in abundance to those that love God and keep His commandments.

Wisdom means full of intelligence and carries the idea of acting wisely. It can also mean insight. So another of the spiritual blessings is to have insight into God and then to act wisely concerning His will in your life.

Prudence means to have understanding; to think clearly, a capacity for understanding.

So God liberally gives, through the riches of His grace, wisdom and understanding to believers in His only Begotten Son, Jesus the Anointed One!

Ephesians 1:9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:

As a young boy I didn’t like to read very much. I would just as soon be playing baseball with all my friends. This condition existed until my first deployment on a ship in the Coast Guard. Life aboard a ship is one of work and then utter boredom. After the work was done, there wasn’t much of anything to do. I noticed that many of my shipmates were filling the down time with reading. So I found a book in the “loaner library” and I found that I liked to read and that I really enjoyed mysteries. I liked the “who done its.”

Paul uses the word “mystery” in this verse, but it carries a different definition than a “who done it.” Mystery used in Scripture is defined a “sacred secret, which was once hidden but is now revealed.” In this case it is a sacred secret revealed only to God’s people.

There are two elements which always enter into a New Testament mystery: (1) It cannot be discovered by human agencies, for it is always a revelation from God; and (2) it is revealed at the proper time and not concealed, and enough is revealed to establish the fact without all the details being disclosed.[1]

The Apostle Paul says that the “sacred secret” of God’s will is now revealed to Believers. And God let us in on this secret by His own good pleasure.

How Great Is Our God! Say it with me, “How Great Is Our God!”

Ephesians 1:10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:

We really need to understand two terms that Paul uses in this verse; that is the word “dispensation” and “fullness of times”. Dispensation is a term that means “the law or management of a household.” Theologically it means “the method in which God carries out His purposes towards men.” Paul’s use of the word in this verse means the “commission to preach the Gospel.”

Now God has never had but one method of saving folk; everything rests upon one method of salvation. The approach and the man under the system have been different, however. For example, Abel offered a lamb to God, and so did Abraham. The Old Testament priests offered lambs to God. God had said that was the right way. But I hope you didn’t bring a lamb to church last Sunday! That is not the way God tells us to approach Him today. We are under a different economy.[2]

“Fullness of times” means a point in time. It is time for the plan which God had previously hidden to be revealed to believers through Christ. In this case, it is time to reveal God’s redemptive plan for mankind. The clock of God, if I can use that term since God is beyond time, is moving forward to the event when God’s Son, Jesus the Messiah, will return to the earth and rule as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. (Revelation 5:5)

Philippians 2:10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

When my two sons, Sean and Rob, were teenagers and Michelle, my daughter, was just on the edge, I would have to begin the “countdown” on Sunday mornings so they would know that it was time to leave for church. I would begin by shouting “fifteen minutes kids before it is time to leave.” They knew that meant that I would be backing the car out of the driveway on our way to church in fifteen minutes. Soon I would follow-up with “ten minutes kids, all you have is ten minutes.” I called out “five minutes” and finally “I am walking out the door.” It was at this point that I would go to the car, sit and simmer! You see I was the only one on my time. Everyone else was on their own time schedule. Eventually all would get into the car and we were on our way, tying ties, pulling out curlers and applying makeup.

Jesus is coming back one day. The “fullness of time” is at hand. God has already shouted “fifteen minutes world, you have fifteen minutes.” Scripturally there isn’t another event in the prophecy concerning Jesus return that has to be accomplished.

Ephesians 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

Here is a wonderful truth. Christians have obtained an inheritance! God is giving us something we do not deserve. And this is all being done as per God’s will for those that love Him and believe on His Son. God knew this from the foundation of the worlds and he predestinated, it was all part of His Plan of Salvation.

Romans 8:16-17 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

All of the Scriptures are coming “in focus” since the birth of the Messiah. The Gospel message includes the birth, death and the resurrection of the Messiah, Immanuel, Jesus the Savior of man.

Ephesians 1:12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

All of the blessings that come from the Father and the Son are given to those “who first trusted in Christ.

Conclusion

Let us review “all the spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”

  • God chose us to be holy and without blame (v. 4)
  • God predestined us to be adopted children by Jesus Christ (v.5)
  • God accepted us (v. 6)
  • Jesus redeemed us (v.7a)
  • God forgave us our sins (v. 7b)
  • God revealed His will to us (vv. 8-10)
  • God has made us an inheritance (vv. 11-12)

 

 

 

[1] McGee, J. V. (1997). Thru the Bible commentary (electronic ed., Vol. 5, p. 222). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] McGee, J. V. (1997). Thru the Bible commentary (electronic ed., Vol. 5, p. 223). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Questions from Youth Camp

Falls Creek Youth Camp, 2016

13438921_10157036324660693_5826177072707523061_n13438894_10157036324475693_3368577753193133029_n13516251_10157036275560693_2646459570835635512_n13509124_10157036276305693_5047270050303927968_n

Another Youth Camp is in the rear view mirror. Every camp takes on a different feel and this year’s camp was no different. We had many first time campers, some previous campers were now counselors and we had several new counselors to our group.

For the past four years, our church, Keys Valley Baptist Church in Belton, Texas, has joined with Grace Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. We go to Falls Creek Youth Camp, located in the Arbuckle mountains. The responsibilities are somewhat shared and we have it down to an organized chaos.

The temperature was in the mid 90’s in southern Oklahoma each day, but that doesn’t stop our 70 campers. They participate in volleyball, soft ball, skate boarding, swimming, canoeing, zip line or many other activities. Memories are made whether it be in the rain and flood of the previous year or the heat this year.

Note: If you decide to read this list of questions, I would ask you to not only look at the question, but think about the reason for the question. I believe you will see some real struggles in the lives of these teenagers (however, there is no way of know if any of the cooks or counselors also placed questions into the box). Many come from broken homes, some abusive. Many parents are not supportive of taking their kids to church. Each year my heart is broken for these teenagers that I get to teach and love for a week. 

  • What do you do to comfort somebody with Jesus?
  • If God has always been there, were the angels always there as well?
  • What do you do if you feel like God is calling you and you don’t listen and you feel like you sinned?
  • I have been having hard thought’s? What do you do if you’re in a church and you feel like God is calling you and you don’t listen?
  • How do you get baptized faster if the other church you go to gives you a 50 question test that you have to pass to get baptized? What do you do?
  • What do you do if you want to get baptized and your pastor immediately says you’re not ready to do this?
  • What do you do if you have problems getting to church?
  • If you commit suicide, can you still go to heaven?
  • What do you do if you’re having bad thoughts and are questioning if God loves you or not?
  • How do you deal with guilt from sin?
  • How did anyone know about God before Jesus came down?
  • What is Christianity? What is God doing when good people die or have bad times?
  • What if someone dies and they have never heard the Gospel?
  • How should we pray?
  • Do you HAVE to confess with your mouth to be saved or just believe in your heart?
  • What verses can you read if you’re going through a tough time?
  • Is it good to only want to read one verse in the Bible?
  • Will I still be able to get into heaven if I believe in things the Bible doesn’t support it? For example, supporting gay marriage.
  • Is it wrong to be transgender, bisexual or gay? Will God hate me if I am? If it is wrong, I’m sorry.
  • Are gay’s allowed to be in heaven?
  • Do you love God? (question for the Apologetic’s Forum panel). Why?
  • How do we help homosexual people?
  • What do you do if when you’re reading a verse in the Bible and don’t get it?
  • Am I saved if I can’t remember when I accepted Christ, but I still believe in him? I just can’t remember the actual date.
  • How do you know the Lord is with you?
  • Is it OK if you want to get closer to God and get resaved?
  • Is it true they took things out of the Bible they didn’t want us to know about?
  • What is the difference between God the Lord & the Holy Spirit? And if none, why not call all of them one name?
  • How do you talk to people that think God is fake?
  • What do you do when you encounter an atheist that argues about your faith? What are some arguments I can use?
  • How do you overcome doubt of God?
  • Why does God love me? Is it OK to have doubts?
  • If God created earth, who created God?
  • Is God going to make us live again?
  • Did the dinosaurs exist?
  • Why is theism involved in Christianity?
  • What does God’s love mean?
  • How do we begin understanding God’s love?
  • How do we know/feel when God is speaking to you?
  • Why is evolution not in harmony with creation?
  • If you aren’t saved, can you still be saved?
  • In Revelation, it says that someone who “adds to” the Bible will have their name “blotted out of the book of life”, but as Baptists we believe no one can be separated from God after they’re saved. Can a Christian lose their salvation by adding to the Bible? Or, does getting your name removed from the book of life mean losing your salvation?

We ended up the Friday evening Apologetics Forum well after midnight. I am sure that there were many questions that were never put on paper.

Our greatest resource in America are our youth. Would you agree to pray with me for this next generation as they search for answers? Thank You.

The Person and Nature of Christ

Recently I was asked, “Who is this Jesus Christ and what was his mission? Is he God? What was the purpose of His life on earth?” I will attempt to discuss the person and nature of Christ, considering His deity, humanity, preexistence and ministry as the incarnate Jesus. While the answer can be made in just a few paragraphs, it would be impossible to fully describe Christ. The Apostle John puts it this way: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” (John 21:25)
With that thought in mind, let us look at Christ’s Person and Nature.

Christ’s Deity

Jesus Christ is God. Four simple words. I don’t speak them lightly, but with conviction. Over and over again the Bible declares this truth. God declares it. Jesus declares it and those closest to Jesus while he lived on the earth declare it.
The attributes of Christ can only be ascribed to God. For example; Jesus is everywhere, He is omnipresence (Matthew 18:20). He is all knowing, omniscient (Mark 11:2-6, John 4:14). Jesus is all powerful, omnipotent (2 Corinthians 12:9; Matthew 28:18; Mark 1:33-34) Jesus is immutable, He is the same yesterday, today and forever immutable (Hebrews 13:8). All of these attributes are attributed to God the Father. Therefore, since they are ascribed to God the Father and Jesus the Son, Christ must be God.
In the creation of the heavens and the earth, Genesis chapter one, proclaims that it is God, Elohim, that is the creator. Jesus is called Elohim in Hebrews 1:8, John 20:27-28; Titus 2:13.
When Moses met God on the mountain, the Lord identified Himself as “I AM”, the all sufficient, eternal God. This name is given to Jesus as He calls himself “I Am” in John 8:58.

Christ’s Preexistence

Since Christ is God and Creator, He is therefore pre-existent to creation. While there are many passages that speak of this truth, none are clearer than the first chapter of the Gospel of John. John makes statements of fact as they relate to Christ and everything else that follows in the book is given to support those facts.
We can see His preexistence through His relationship through eternity, and His equality with the Father. Jesus has always existed and that can be seen in His relationship through eternity. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1-3)
In the Revelation, Jesus is identified as “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8). These phrases identify Christ as the “I Am”. I Am being He who is and was and is to come. This is the description of Jesus the Christ; He preexisted all things including time.

Christ’s Humanity

Jesus the Christ had two natures in His incarnate state; He was all God and He was all man. His humanity can be found in several ways. He had human parentage; he was born of a woman. He took the form of a human body in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. That is, he was to be “seed” of the woman, He was to come from the seed of Abraham and be of the seed of David.
His human birth is well documented in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. While He had a human mother, he was not born with a sinful nature.
We know little of His childhood until He was twelve years old and the Gospels captured the dialog between Jesus and His parents. We are told that He grew in stature and wisdom and that His parents taught Him the Law. He was raised as a son of Israel and attended the Feasts of Israel in Jerusalem with His earthly father and family.
Throughout His earthly ministry we see evidences of His humanity as He had compassion on the multitudes, He grew weary, hungered, thirsted and wept. While hanging on the cross, Jesus had compassion on His mother and gave her to the Apostle John. He had the appearance of a man (John 4:9; Luke 24; John 20:15, 21:4-5). 80 times in the New Testament, Jesus took upon Himself the human title, the “Son of Man”.
Jesus required a human body in order to fulfil the prophecies concerning the Messiah. Hebrews 2:9-17; Jesus was to “taste death for every man in order to bring many sons unto glory, and to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (Hebrews 2:9-10)

Christ’s Ministry

The scriptures are silent concerning the activities of the God-head in eternity past. However, Christ was present before the creation as the redemptive plan for mankind and creation were established before the creative acts found in Genesis 1:1.
The reason for the incarnation is to redeem mankind. He came to die for our sins (Hebrews 2; Romans 8:32), become the believers High Priest and be our example for life (1 John 2:6; Philippians 2:5-8; 1 Peter 2:24).
His earthly ministry included proclaiming the “Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”, teaching the masses, performing miracles, and confronting false teaching.
Jesus earthly ministry included His crucifixion. Through His death on the cross as the substitute for man, He fulfilled the Old Testament scriptures (Isaiah 53; Psalm 22) concerning the Messiah. With His sacrifice, atonement, reconciliation, propitiation, redemption and substitution of the Law, became manifest in Christ. The purpose of Christ’s crucifixion is that He might justify fallen man (Romans 4:23-25).
The final chapter in Christ’s earthly ministry was in His resurrection and ascension. It was necessary that Christ rise from the dead: 1) to fulfill prophecy, even His own; 2) His resurrection is the everlasting guarantee of the forgiveness of our sins; and 3) His resurrection was also the guarantee of the believer’s resurrection. He was raised for our justification according to 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, 12-17.
By His ascension we see the completed ministry of Jesus Christ. His work continues today as our great High Priest. John 17:1 ff. John 6:62. Recorded in Acts 1:9-11. His ascension marked the end of His humility. Ephesians 1:20-23.

In summary,Matthew sums up the works of Christ:
Matthew 20:28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Are You a Naomi or Job?

On Sunday nights, our church has been studying the Old Testament book of Ruth. Last night as I was getting ready to leave, a lady in our congregation came up to me and suggested that I compare Ruth 1:21 and Job 1:21. This intrigued me.  After I got home I eagerly looked at both passages.  Wow.

What we see in these two verses are Naomi’s and Job’s response to the events in their lives. In each case, they had experienced great loss, but there is a dramatic difference in how each one perceived those losses.

Naomi lost her husband and two sons, which led to the loss of her living as there was no man to take care of her. She was in a foreign land (Moab) and decided to return to her home of Bethlehem because the famine was now over in Bethlehem.

As she entered her home town, the townsfolk and family happily turned out to meet her. We pick up the narrative in the first chapter.

Ruth 1:20-21 And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi [pleasant], call me Mara [bitter]: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?

As we can see, she is very bitter at her current situation and is convinced that the “Almighty” is against her and brought on all the calamities of life upon her. Naomi is “Naomi centered.” Her view of life is one of hurt, bitterness and depression.

This was fresh on my mind as we just finished the first chapter.  I eagerly turned to the book of Job. In his case we know that God allowed Satan to interfere with Job’s life, up to the point of death. The incidents that took place included 1) his livestock, oxen, sheep, and camels were stolen and those that were watching over them were slain. 2) all of his 10 children died in a horrible accident (Job 1:13-19).

Job 1:20-22 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, 21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. 22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.

Job did not blame God. He also was hurt, but his outlook on life was God centered. He was in deep mourning at such a loss, but he fell down and worshipped God. In all this he did not charge “God foolishly.”

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you do not get a “free pass” of bad things happening to you in this life on earth.

In Jesus’ great teaching called the Sermon on the Mount, He gave the listeners this truth:

Matthew 5:45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

Bad situations will happen to us, that is a fact. It is how we respond to them that will show the intent of the heart to those around you. When life crumbles all around you, will you respond like Naomi or Job?

He Is Not Here: For He Is Risen!

First page of the Gospel of Mark, by Sargis Pi...
First page of the Gospel of Mark, by Sargis Pitsak, a Medieval Armenian scribe and miniaturist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1 Corinthians 15

Introduction

The early church, persecuted to the point of imprisonment and death should have failed.  The message they carried triggered division.  Their leader was murdered and yet He was resurrected.  Many saw him and heard him speak after He rose from the dead.  The Roman guards were paid off to tell a lie.

And yet, His followers flourished.  Everywhere new churches were forming.  The Gospel Message was getting out.  But how would they identify who they could trust.  They had to have a way of identifying each other and to find safe places to hide and meet.  For a while, Christian homes would display the ixthus (fish symbol, ‘ikh-thoos’) to identify a safe haven.  Jesus calling of fishermen as His first disciples and the idea that spreading the gospel is like catching fish was easy for them to relate.  Inside the sign of the fish would include five Greek letters.  The letters formed “ixoye” is an acronym comprised of the first letter of five Greek words: iota – Jesus, chi – Christ, theta – God, upsilon – Son, and sigma – Savior…Jesus Christ is God’s Son, our Savior.

These five Greek letters became the message that Christians clearly identify with.

A password was also given that would be easy to identify and yet be general enough that the non-believer would not understand.  The pass phrase would be spoken, “He is risen”.  If the other person responded, “He is risen indeed” that would be the authority that they were followers of Jesus the Messiah.

History tells us of statements made that we will always remember.

  • J. F. K’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.”
  • Do you remember when we were made to memorize the preamble to the Declaration of Independence?
  • I still remember every word of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
  • I remember hearing the scratchy recording of FDR’s words; “a day that will live on in infamy.”
  • In addition, I remember when Linda said she would marry me.  These words are forever etched in my mind.

Today I would like to remind you of some words uttered by an angel to a follower of Jesus at His empty tomb that mankind must never forget.

“He is not here: for he is risen, as he said.  Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (Matthew 28:6)

In churches all across the world today, the message of the resurrection of Jesus the Christ is celebrated.

This is the Christian High Day.

We remember today that death and the grave could not hold Jesus.  Throughout the early church, the cross was not commemorated as the central theme of the Gospel, the resurrection became the capstone.  All through the book of the Acts of the Apostles, we read that the Gospel presentation always included the resurrection as the cornerstone.

Biblical scholar, G. E. Ladd, stated, “The entire New Testament was written from the perspective of the resurrection.  Indeed, the resurrection may be called the major premise of the early Christian faith.”

The Gospels reveal the remarkable events that Jesus said and did during his three and a half years of ministry.  However, the remainder of the New Testament barely mentions these miracles.  The emphasis is on Jesus death and resurrection.  Much of what we consider Christianity and the message of the early church; how to live, how to love, how to defeat sin, and our hope for the future is centered on the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah.

  • Without the resurrection, Jesus was just a prophet going about doing good.  With the resurrection, Jesus is the Lamb of God that takes away our sin.
  • Without the resurrection, many of the prophecies remain unfulfilled.  With the resurrection, only the final chapter remains.
  • Without the resurrection, God’s redemptive plan is without the perfect sacrifice.  With the resurrection, Jesus sits down next to the Father waiting to return to earth to gather in His bride.

References to the Resurrection in Scripture

  • In the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians, the Apostle Paul clearly identifies the importance of the resurrection of Jesus.

“And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain”…”And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.”  (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17)

  • In order to be considered an Apostle, the qualifications included seeing Jesus after His resurrection.  (Acts 1:22)
  • On that great Feast Day of Pentecost, Peter spoke of the resurrection of Jesus.  (Acts 2:31)
  • Peter and John preached the resurrection of Jesus, after which they were arrested.  (Acts 4:1-2)
  • The Apostle Paul preached “Jesus and the resurrection.”  Acts 17:18)
  • The Apostle Paul in writing to the church at Rome declared “Jesus to be the Son of God and His resurrection”.  (Romans 1:4)

The Apostle Paul lays out the importance of the resurrection to the church at Corinth.  He takes great care to give the brethren hope and encouragement to those who are grief-stricken.  Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecies.  With the resurrection, Jesus conquered death.

The Bible speaks of resurrection in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Resurrections of the Bible

Old Testament

Elijah raises the Widow’s son                          1 Kin. 17:17–22

Elisha raises the Shunammite’s son                   2 Kin. 4:32–35

Unnamed man thrown in Elisha’s grave         2 Kin. 13:20, 21

New Testament

Jesus raises Jairus’ daughter                                Matt. 9:23–25

Widow’s only son in Nain                                   Luke 7:11–15

Lazarus of Bethany                                           John 11:43, 44

Many saints                                                       Matt. 27:52, 53

Dorcas                                                                Acts 9:36–40[1]

Paul’s first epistle to the Church at Corinth…

3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

12Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20 ¶ But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. (1 Corinthians 15:12-20)

51 ¶ Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 ¶ Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.  (1 Corinthians 15:51-58)

The resurrection of Jesus is the pinnacle of Jesus being God.  Other religions may be ethical, moral, agree that there is an afterlife and even have their own scriptures.  But Christianity stands alone because God became flesh and dwelt among us.  Jesus died for His people and He was raised from the dead in power and glory.

You may be saying, “Preacher why are you so focused on the resurrection?”  Well let me give you some reasons why the resurrection of Jesus is so important.

  • The resurrection proclaims the deity of Christ (Romans 1:4)
  • The resurrection turns the tragedy of the murder of Jesus into the triumph of God’s redeeming power.
  • When Jesus was raised from the dead, the world now faces redemption instead of ruin.
  • When Jesus rose from the dead, He conquered death and therefore His Bride will conquer death as well.
  • When Jesus rose from the dead we know that He will keep all the promises recorded in Scripture.
  • When Jesus rose from the grave that early Sunday morning, the Church was given a message to proclaim to the world.  The Apostles preached that Jesus had been raised from the dead!
  • The resurrection of Jesus gives us hope in times of great tragedy and hope for the future.
  • The resurrection of Jesus assures us that Jesus is on the throne, sitting on the right hand of God.
  • The same power that resurrected Jesus will one day bring our mortal bodies to life. (1      Corinthians 15:12–19).
  • After the resurrection Jesus has been preparing a mansion for me (John 14:1-6)

In Christian denominations, we can look different, worship differently, and even have differing views on politics, how to live our lives and varying theologies.  But the one point that is true of all Christians today is:  Jesus rose from the dead.

Conclusion

The resurrection celebration of Easter invites all to believe that Jesus is the Son of God!

The decision is yours.  The gift has been laid before you.  Will you accept it?


[1] Thomas Nelson Publishers. (1995). Nelson’s quick reference topical Bible index. Nelson’s Quick reference (530–531). Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

“Is it nice out?”

English: Logo of Alzheimer's Society.
Image via Wikipedia

“Is it nice out?” is a question that my mother asks me many times when I visit her.  She lives in a Seniors Assisted Living community as she has developed Moderate Alzheimer’s.  She is a happy 85-year-old woman who has filled her life with love for her family.  But she cannot live by herself any longer.  She is mobile, she gets into her routines of when to go to the cafeteria and the many activities they have, but she cannot take her meds without assistance.

At least twice a week I visit with her while my wife Linda goes through her apartment, looking for dirty clothes, gives her a shower, washes and sets her hair.  When the hair dryer isn’t blowing, mom will look out the window and say, “Is it nice out?”  She will comment that “the sky is so blue and there isn’t a cloud in the sky.”  I will tell her that the temperature is in the seventies and the wind is blowing.  Mom doesn’t like the wind to blow.  It is perfect weather in Texas for January.

As she sits in the chair while Linda is styling her hair, she will ask me, “Is it nice out?”  I have already answered this question several times since we have been here, but have learned to treat each question as it is the first time it has been asked.  “Yes mom, it is nice out.  Would you like to walk us out when you are done and you can see for yourself?”  She smiles and says she would enjoy that.

We go through this every time we visit.  But on one visit, it hit me.  Every time she asks me the question, it is like it is the first time she has noticed.  How many times do I just slow down my busy schedule and just take in God‘s wonder?  How many times going from one appointment to another do I look at the sky as if seeing it for the first time?  As a child I used to lay in the grass and look up at the sky and try to make out pictures in the clouds.  A cow, a dragon, a flower or just the beauty of the blue sky spotted with fluffy white clouds.  No I don’t do this anymore.  I am grownup now.

So my 85-year-old mother continues to teach her 62-year-old son and I love the experience.  Momma still causes me to wonder.

One day, my mother will go to be with her beloved husband where they will spend eternity together.  I can almost hear her ask my dad, “Is it always this nice here?”

Let Freedom Ring

Normandy Liberty Bell
Image by dbking via Flickr

On Monday we celebrated the 4th of July for the two hundred and thirty-fifth time.  This holiday is celebrated in towns and  cities all across America with parades, picnics, barbecues, fireworks and concerts.  It is on this date that the United States commemorates Independence Day.
It is a federal holiday, celebrating the writing of the Declaration of Independence, declaring our desire for independence from Great Britain signed on July 4, 1776.

John Quincy Adams is quoted as saying, “You will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you make good use of it.”

Have you ever taken your freedom for granted?  The greatest sacrifice is one laying down his life for another.  We should remember the importance of Independence Day as a struggling group of people were united into a nation as they declared their Independence from Great Britain.

Our freedom has been purchased by the blood that has been shed by the men and women who have defended our country, some paying the greatest price with their own lives.

Today’s military is manned by some of the most interesting people.  They love the US so much that they will leave it and go to foreign lands to defend it.  They revere freedom so much that they will give up their own freedoms and serve this nation in the military.  And finally they love peace so much that they will go to war in order to have peace.

As citizens of the United States of America, we have a responsibility to be thankful to those who have served our great Nation.

However, we will never truly have freedom until we accept Jesus into our lives.  Jesus declares freedom for mankind in the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John.  “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:31-32, 36.  Little did those within hearing distance of Jesus realize that their freedom would cost Jesus His life.

The Apostle Paul wrote to his protégé Timothy and explained what Jesus did for mankind; “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all…” (1 Timothy 2:5-6)

Just as the military man will lay down his life for the defense of freedom for our nation, about two thousand years ago, Jesus was the ultimate example when he willingly gave up his life for mankind.

As you remember and celebrate Independence Day, remember those who gave so that this nation is still free today.  Also be thankful to God for sending His Son as a “ransom for all.”