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Tag Archives: Resurrection

Are the Promises of Safety in the Bible True?

I have long wondered what we are to do with verses like this…

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty… A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place– the Most High, who is my refuge– no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. Psalm 91:1, 7-10 (ESV)

Psalm 91, quoted above, is also the passage that Satan quotes to Jesus, urging Him to throw Himself off the temple because…

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. Psalm 91:11-12 (ESV)

This question is on my heart because I just preached Psalm 121 this weekend, which among other things, promises us…

The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. Psalm 121:7 (ESV)

All evil? Really? On the face of it, the promise just doesn’t make sense, for we all know (or know of) believers who have lost their lives for their faith, or have had untold evil done to them and have therefore suffered in many ways. Certainly we all know believers who have, at least according to human accounting, died before their time.

Prosperity Gospel Fuel?

Verses like these not only seem to give fuel to the false gospel of health and wealth, but the real danger here is that a Christian might read these portions of God’s word and begin to feel that…he is not truly saved; or to express a slightly different concern, that he doesn’t measure up in some way to deserve God’s loving-kindness and hand of protection.

“If I were really godly,” he or she thinks, “then the cancer wouldn’t have come to me. Perhaps I should have prayed harder or worked harder for God’s Kingdom. Maybe He really just doesn’t love me.”

But a little while ago, I was reading Luke 21, and I came across this wonderful insight…

“You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish.” Luke 21:16-18 (ESV)

The context? Jesus is speaking of the destruction of the Temple which would happen in 70 A.D., but He’s really using that forthcoming event to speak of the end times just before His return. But here’s the helpful thing: in one breath, the Lord says, “some of you they will put to death,” and in the next breath, He says, “Not a hair of your head will perish.”

Do you see? The Lord is saying that for the believer, it’s possible to be put to death by enemies, or by cancer (the effects of The Fall) or disease or violent crime, etc., and yet, to still be able to say that not a hair of your head has perished. How so? Well, Jesus is referring to the glorious doctrine of the resurrection, a truth that we must interpret all these other passages in light of.

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:51-55 (ESV)

 

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Called by Name

1923800_20980323557_8421_n[1]Dad’s been gone for 6 years now, but I still remember how he used to say my name when he called me on the phone.

When I saw him day to day, I don’t ever remember him calling me “Roger.” It was always the shortened nickname, the same name he used when referring to his brother, his only sibling whom I’m named after, who was killed in World War 2. Dad always called me “Rog”.

But when he would call me on the phone, I think he felt he needed an extra syllable to get my attention. It was a sweet sound, Dad’s greeting, for it always began somewhat melodically.

“Hello,” I would answer.

“Ro-og” He would greet me, elongating the nickname, preserving the familiarity, saying hello.

“Hey Dad!”

I wonder if I ever noticed then, but I certainly thought of it after he was gone.

To this day, no one in the world says my name like that. I would love to hear that sound again. Someday I will.

The most moving scene in all of Scripture

Mary stands weeping outside the tomb. Her pain is deep; her hope is gone. On top of all that has happened, now it appears that someone has stolen the body of her Lord.

She peers into the grave, and there are two strange figures sitting where Jesus’s body had lain.

They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”  John 20:13 (ESV)

And then she turns around…and Jesus stands before her…but she is clueless. She thinks He is just the gardener, that this meddling man may be responsible for relocating the body. She has no category in her mind for resurrection.

“Tell me where you have lain him, and I will take him away.” And then, apparently, she turns away from him, perhaps not expecting an answer.

And then…”Mary”.

Or if you prefer, “Ro-og”. That’s how I imagine it, anyway, as if one day I picked up the phone and Dad was on the line…again. “Ro-og”. Can you also imagine…the one you loved so much, saying your name again?

And she knows. Nobody said her name like that. Nobody said her name like Jesus.

And so she turned around, “Rabboni!”

And one day, so shall He say your name. And one day, so shall those you love who have died in Him…say your name. Such is the reality of resurrection.

For Monday, November 2: John 21

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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When Jesus Didn’t Come to Help

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. John 11:5-6 (ESV)

The word that doesn’t make sense in these two verses is, “So…” In Greek, it is the word, oun, and it means, therefore, or accordingly. So let’s look at it again, and paraphrase, “Jesus loved…Lazarus, so when He heard Lazarus was sick, He didn’t go to him.”

That word “so” just doesn’t make sense in the context, unless you agree that sometimes it is better for us when God keeps His distance. But surely I’ve phrased that wrong, because “the nearness of God is my good.” (Psalm 73:28 NASB). So, in other words, sometimes it is better for us when God doesn’t seem to answer our prayers.

That’s very hard to believe, especially when you are Martha, or Mary (or Lazarus!) and you are desperately crying out for Jesus to come and help. And yet it’s true, for Scripture says, “Jesus loved them, so He didn’t come…”

So, where in your life is Jesus not seeming to come? Where are you desperately crying out to him for intervention, and yet hearing and seeing nothing happening?

Here’s the truth that the family of Lazarus would attest to: If you are one of His, then He loves you, and His plans for you, accordingly, are good. When it seems like He doesn’t care, or when He seems to come late, well, the truth is that He has a better plan for you than what you are asking for. You may have a very hard time seeing this, and you might have a harder time believing it, but Lazarus – the recipient of the most famous resurrection other than Jesus Himself – would say it was true.

For Tuesday, October 20th: John 12

 

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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How to Lead a Skeptic to Consider that the Bible is True

How can you move a skeptic to consider the possibility that the Bible is the Word of God, or at least get them to consider the idea that it’s not just another book? Ultimately, of course, the Holy Spirit is the One who must do the convincing, but there is a logical argument that you can share with a non-believer that might at least lead them to “doubt their doubts”:

The argument is based on the person of Jesus Christ and His uniqueness in history. And it begins with showing that He was raised from the dead.

There are many excellent books out regarding the resurrection, Lee Strobel’s, The Case For Christ, being quite terrific, but also, a semi-recent scholarly work by N.T. Wright is apparently excellent (from what I’ve heard – I’ve only started it) : The Resurrection of the Son of God.

Some of the questions skeptics are forced to answer regarding this include…

  1. Why was there an empty tomb? In other words, what accounts for the missing body? If it was moved, who moved it? If the disciples stole it, how did they get past the guards? And more than that, why then did so many disciples of them die as martyrs preaching a lie? Finally, if the Romans or Jews moved the body, why didn’t they produce it when these Christians became such rabble-rousers? Answer: the resurrection.
  2. What accounts for the transformation of the disciples? First, we have these men abandoning Jesus and hiding in fear, and then, history records them publicly proclaiming Christ on a public square in Jerusalem roughly 6 weeks after the resurrection…at the risk of life and limb. What accounts for this change? Answer: the resurrection.
  3. Why did these early Jewish Christians begin worshiping on Sunday? This is one of the strangest facts about early Christianity. These devout Jews went from worshiping on the Sabbath (Friday sundown to Saturday sundown) to worshiping on Sunday, a.k.a. “the Lord’s Day”. Why did this happen, and how is it even remotely possible? The Sabbath was not a small aspect of their religion. It was huge. Why would they have abandoned it? Answer: of course – the resurrection.

Once you establish the likelihood of Christ’s resurrection, you have also demonstrated that he was a unique person in history. Now, take it to the logical next step – if this unique person in history was truly raised from the dead, then we shouldn’t be surprised that there is a record of his life and ministry. These records, of course, are the gospels – four different viewpoints on the life of Jesus, all culminating in the cross and resurrection.

Now, reading the gospels, we also discover this unique Person’s viewpoints on many different issues, one of which is the Old Testament. In different places, Jesus confirms that He believed the Old Testament to be absolutely and totally true. One of the strongest is here…

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came– and Scripture cannot be broken–do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? John 10:34-36 (ESV)

You’ll forgive, me, I’m sure, if I don’t go into a long discussion of what Jesus is trying to argue here. Suffice it to say that He believed the Scripture (the Old Testament) could not be broken. Whatever it said, He believed would come to pass.

Everywhere, He assumed the Old Testament was true…

He said to them, “Have you not read what David did…” Matthew 12:3 (ESV)

And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” Matthew 21:16 (ESV)

“For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Matthew 5:18 (ESV)

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17 (ESV)

Not only this, but considering the gospels – the historic records of this unique person Jesus – leads us to see that He believed in a real Adam and Eve, the destruction of Sodom, a person named Jonah who survived three days in a fish, Moses, Noah and a host of other wondrous things that moderns have difficulty believing.

These verses above demonstrate that Jesus believed the Old Testament was true, but He also made provision for the writing of the New Testament…

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:26 (ESV)

And there you are – reason to at least consider that the Bible is true, because Jesus certainly believed it was.  So once again…

  1. This unique person, Jesus, was really raised from the dead, evidenced by actual events in history.
  2. A record of His life and ministry would therefore be expected, and this record consists of the New Testament gospels.
  3. We see in these gospels Jesus’ belief in the truthfulness of the Old Testament and His provision for the New Testament.
May God use this helpful little argument for any discussions you may have with those who are far from God!

For Monday, October 19th: John 11

 

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Sharing Your Faith With Dead People

Have you ever wondered why your friend will simply not listen to you when you try to tell them about your faith? Jesus explains…

“If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” John 8:46-47 (ESV)

Some people just cannot hear, because God has not given them ears. Or, as Jesus put it, they are “not of God.” Therefore, our first step must always be to ask God to give them hearing.

This truth reminds me of the story of the homiletics (preaching) professor who one day took his class to the cemetery. The bewildered students stood around a grave, and he asked one of them to begin preaching to the dead person, telling him to come to life. The student thought the prof was joking. He said he was quite serious. So the student began to talk to the grave, and then seizing the moment, actually began to shout at the dead person.

Satisfied that the young man had done what was asked, the professor looked around and said, “Do you understand the lesson?”

The students said nothing, which seemed the safest course.

So the professor continued, “One day, God willing, you will be called to a church. And some of those people in the pews will say they are alive, but they will dead. When you try to talk to them about conviction of sin, or repentance, or new life in Christ, they may nod their head, but there will be no change…because there will be no life. And similarly, when you relate to a professing unbeliever in the community about Christ, he or she will not be able to hear you, because they will be spiritually dead. They might as well be 6 feet under.

“So you must remember that the new birth is not something that you can manufacture with persuasive arguments and especially good illustrations, or with compelling preaching. Your church services may have terrific music and your preaching may be wonderful, but unless God makes someone alive, it will all be for naught.”

And so it is true with those we love and long to see come into the Kingdom. We must be faithful to share with them, but ultimately, our only hope for their salvation is the power of the Holy Spirit.

If He moves, they will be moved. If He makes them alive, only then can they come out of the grave.

For tomorrow, Thursday, October 15: John 9

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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What to Remember When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayer

“We wanted him to redeem us, but he only got himself crucified.”

So intimated Cleopas and friend to that mysterious traveler on the road to Emmaus. He and his fellow disciples were hoping for a savior who would bring redemption to Israel, but all they got was a well-meaning dead friend, hanged on a bloody cross.

Of course, redemption originally meant deliverance from slavery. Israel was a vassal state of the Roman Empire. Roman centurions were a fixture of Israelite streets. If you were a Jew during these days of Israel and a Roman soldier asked you to carry his pack, you carried his pack. No questions asked.

And Cleopas and company thought that this Jesus of Nazareth was going to redeem them – they thought that this miracle working prophet, mighty in word and deed, would be just the One to get Israel out from under the boot of Rome.

“But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.” Luke 24:21 (ESV)

They wanted so badly for one thing, and when it didn’t happen, they thought that God had come up up short for them. In the end, though, of course, they got far more than they might have ever hoped for: a resurrected Savior, the blessed Holy Spirit of God, and the hope of eternal life.

It begs the question: has God come up short for you too? Has He failed to answer your prayers…to meet your expectations?

  • You wanted to get into UW Madison, but all you got was….
  • You wanted to date so and so, but all you got was…
  • You wanted to work at XYZ company, but all you got was…
  • You wanted redemption, but all you got was a dead friend.

Well, Luke 24 tells us…don’t be so sure. Don’t be so sure that you got less than what you were hoping for. We serve a surprising and powerful God, who often doesn’t do things the way we would expect Him to, and who also happens to love us deeply.

Thus, our definition of God “not coming through” may in the end mean that we receive far more than we ever hoped for.

 

For tomorrow, Tuesday, August 4: Philippians 1

 

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The “Airtight Argument” for God

The Sadducees were a group of Jews who believed in God but also believed that there was no afterlife; one day they came plotting to make Jesus look foolish with an “airtight argument” for their position:

“Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. And the second and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. Afterward the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.” Luke 20:28-33 (ESV)

Strange law, huh? But aside from that, in their desire to prove Jesus wrong about the resurrection, it surely seemed like they had Him right where they wanted. And yet, of course, they were wrong – Jesus explained to their dismay that people weren’t actually married in heaven. Instead, they are like angels. Now, that’s fascinating in itself and worthy of a blog or two. (Diane and I, by the way, are planning to be best friends on the other side.)

But the idea of refuting Jesus is also fascinating. How many people today are convinced they can prove the Bible or Christianity wrong? They come up with this or that argument that purports to show how foolish we are to follow a 2,000 year long dead carpenter from Nazareth. And some say that they will only believe if we ourselves can come up with an “airtight argument” to prove God is real and Christianity is true.

And this is where I so appreciate Tim Keller’s idea:

“When God decided to send salvation he didn’t send an airtight argument; he sent an airtight person. He didn’t send an abstract principle; he sent a human being.”

And along those lines, historian Philip Schaff writes about this airtight person:

“This Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without science and learning, He shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of schools, He spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, He set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise, than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times.”

Again, God didn’t sent an airtight argument. He sent an airtight person. And when people wonder about the Bible or the resurrection or what have you, point them to this incredible person of Jesus Christ. Just as he answered the Sadducees 2 millenia ago, He is the ultimate answer to every question we have.

 

For Wednesday, July 29th: Luke 21

 

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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