Moving Away From the Tomb

Ephesians, Ministry, Resurrection, Romans, Salvation No Comments »

I’m struck by the fact that nobody saw Jesus at the empty tomb. Clearly our risen Lord didn’t hang around the¬†cemetery once the Spirit resurrected him back to life. It seems he got out of there as fast as he could. Yet, here are the women, looking for their living Lord among the graves. The angels ask, almost incredulously, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

Good question.

Sometimes good faithful Christians can be stuck. We’re dead. Or, at least, we act like we’re dead. Some of us have followed Jesus to Jerusalem. We’ve endured suffering and pain in his name. We’ve carried the cross. Most of us have died on the cross of Christ and, even though we’ve been baptized for the forgiveness of our sins and received the gift of God’s Spirit inside us, we’ve never really been resurrected. Some of us don’t live like we’ve been given the gift of eternal life by the almighty author of life. We live like we’re still dead. We’re still knocking around in the dirt and dark of the grave. And we’re surprised when we have a hard time seeing Jesus. We’re surprised when there’s no experience of Jesus.

The resurrection is not just about heaven someday — it’s about a full life today!

But some of us are still buried in a tomb. We don’t sing. We don’t work. We don’t explore or experiment. We don’t accept challenges or tackle new tasks. We don’t grow. We don’t laugh. Singing and working and exploring and growing and laughing are what you do when you’re alive! If you’re grumpy all the time, you’re not living the resurrection life. If you’re negative all the time, you’re dead.

What are you thinking? God’s going to fix my attitude when I get to heaven?

“Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ!” ~Ephesians 2:4

“Just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life!” ~Romans 6:4

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” ~Romans 8:11

The death and resurrection of Jesus is not just about my sin and Jesus taking my punishment and now everything’s great. We’ve been given eternal life. We share in Christ’s resurrection so we can be holy, royal image-bearers, so we can be ambassadors for Jesus and partners in his Gospel.

But I want to play it safe. Better safe than sorry. I don’t want to take any risks. I don’t want to go out on a limb. I don’t want to change or grow.

Man, you’re living in the dark and cold of the grave! And that’s not really living. Follow Jesus away from the grave and into the warmth and light of his resurrection life!

Once the disciples moved away from the grave, they most certainly did not play anything safe. There was no hiding or sleeping. No stagnation or status quo. They started preaching and teaching. They sold their possessions to give to the poor. They violated city ordinances to proclaim the good news. They took mission trips on broken down boats and prayers. They sang praises in prison chains. They turned the world upside down for the Kingdom of God! That’s resurrection living!

It’s like a wonderfully talented musician on the verge of his own worldwide concert tour. He plays beautifully. He’s awesome. He’ll inspire thousands. But he’s caught up in a terrible crime and is thrown in jail. But, then, by some miracle, the governor declares a general amnesty and the great musician is released! His response is not just, “Whew! Thank goodness I don’t have to go to jail!” It’s, “Now I can play like I was born to play! I can perform like I was created to perform!”

Christians sometimes are too preoccupied with not going to jail.

Listen. If you’re in Christ,¬†YOU’RE NOT GOING TO JAIL! So now you can really live!

This is good news, not good advice. This is the Gospel.

Peace,

Allan

Seeing the Risen Christ

Fellowship, Jesus, Lord's Supper, Luke, Resurrection, Salvation No Comments »

There’s a lot to see at the empty tomb. There’s a lot to see and experience there. The soldiers saw the angel and experienced great fear. The women saw the stone rolled away and experienced great confusion. Peter and the apostles saw the burial cloths and came away with a lot of questions. There’s a lot to see at the empty tomb. But nobody saw Jesus there.

Jesus isn’t there.

I want to see Jesus. I want to experience Jesus. I want to touch Jesus and know Jesus and be in his presence and hear his voice.

You know where that happens? At the table. The disciples do not see or experience Jesus in his resurrection fullness and glory until later that Easter Sunday when they are sharing a meal together. Jesus revealed himself during the meal. He appeared to his followers and spoke to them at the table. That’s where we see our risen Lord.

When we are around the table together with the risen Messiah as our host we experience forgiveness and belonging, unity and sharing, acceptance and fellowship. We see Jesus in the changed lives of the people with us around the table. We Jesus in that there are no walls, no barriers between us and God and us and each other; nothing separates us at the table. We Jesus when we remember that we have forgiven those around the table with us and have been forgiven multiple times by those same people. We see Jesus in the joy reflected in the faces around the table. We experience Christ in relationship with others.

Our salvation from God is not a system. It’s not a theory. And it’s certainly not a five-step plan.

It’s a sacrifice and a meal.

Peace be with you,

Allan

Resurrection of the Flesh

1 Corinthians, Death, Resurrection 2 Comments »

heavenlight

“So it will be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power!” ~1 Corinthians 15:42-43

Christians believe in the resurrection of the body, not the immortality of the soul. The resurrection is a physical, bodily resurrection. When Jesus was raised, God didn’t leave his body in the tomb. The Scriptures go out of their way to show us this. After the resurrection, the first thing Jesus did with his disciples in all four biblical accounts is eat and drink with them to prove he was not just a spirit. He even says it in bright red letters, “Look, I’m not a ghost! A ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones!”

You’re not going to be an angel. You’re not going to be a ghost. No matter how much you threaten it or how badly you want it, you’re not going to be able to haunt anybody after you die.

1 Corinthians 6 says “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead and he will raise us also.” Romans 8 tells us we’re looking forward to the redemption of our bodies, not redemption from our bodies. God’s physical, fleshly, earthly creation is good; it’s very good. He’s not going to destroy the world, he’s redeeming it. He’s not going to destroy your body; he’s going to raise it and restore it.

There’s this very pagan, very Greek, and now very Western belief — conviction, really — that our true selves are our spirits. My true self is my soul and my body is just a temporary shell. My true self, my spirit, is trapped in my body and some glad morning when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away! Like a bird flying away from prison bars, my soul will leave my body and I’ll live forever as a spirit, my true eternal self. So my body dies, but I really don’t. I continue to live on and pass over to the spiritual realm where I came from and where I really belong.

That is not what Christians believe.

We talk like it, though. We’ll look into a casket at a funeral and say, “That’s not really him. That’s just his body.” Or we’ll say, “She’s not really dead. Her spirit never died.”

That’s not true.

That kind of thinking and talking denies the terrible reality of death. The Bible never pretends that death’s not that big a deal because we don’t actually die, we just “pass on” to our new kind of living. According to Scripture, death is real and total and dreadful. Our Lord didn’t face death with the calmness of somebody just taking a trip to the other side. He faced it with loud cries and tears that God would spare him from death. He sweat blood in the garden and begged God to avoid death.

Death is hideous and terrible because it means the end of us. Scripture calls death the awful enemy, not the welcome friend.

Our hope is not the indestructibility of our bodies or the immortality of our souls. Our hope is in the creative power of God Almighty! Our God calls things that are not as though they are and he makes the dead live again! Our hope is not in some internal capacity we have within ourselves, it’s in the power of God who raised Jesus from the grave and promises to do the exact same thing for us!

Peace,

Allan

Resurrection Hope

1 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians, Death, Promise, Resurrection No Comments »

resurrectionbodies“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all people.” ~1 Corinthians 15:19

Where is your hope? If your hope is in your health, you’re in trouble because you can’t control that. You can’t count on your health. There are lots of people in your life who can testify to that.

Is your hope in your money or your retirement account or your investments? I pray it’s not. You can’t control your money, either. There’s no guarantee with money. So what if you’ve got a million dollars, how much is it worth when the economy tanks?

Where is your hope? Do you even think about it?

So many of us are talking on the Bluetooth while we’re tapping out a text while we’re ordering at the drive-thru at McDonald’s on the way to a meeting that starts in three-and-a-half minutes. We’re just flying from place to place and going and doing and chasing and getting so frantically, we don’t ever think about the things we’re pursuing. What am I really hoping for?

The truth is we’re all going to die. The truth is that, eventually, you are going to stop breathing, you’re going to die, we’re going to put your body in a box, we’re going to put that box in the ground, we’re going to go inside and eat fried chicken and green bean casserole, and then in about two generations we’re going to forget everything about you. That’s the truth.

(Aren’t you glad you decided to read my blog today?)

There’s got to be more. There had better be more.

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

Our hope is in the resurrection of the body. That means, yes, our God has the final word over death. God has the final say. Not crippling disease, not mental illness, not violent crime, not war, not starvation — our Father has the final say. Your life on this earth might be long and happy or your life might be a bitter experience of pain and groaning. Whatever ravages the hostile powers might inflict on your body or the bodies of those you love, the empty tomb of Jesus and the resurrection promise of God fill us with a genuine hope that the body sown in weakness will be raised in power to life.

“By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.” ~1 Corinthians 6:14

We put undo hope in things that can’t deliver. We don’t rely on God like we should. We put more trust in ourselves and our stuff. It’s not because we intentionally downplay or reject the promises of God, I think it’s because we don’t slow down enough to allow ourselves time to truly reflect.

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be ignorant about death or to grieve like the rest of people who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe…we will be with the Lord forever.” ~1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Peace,

Allan

Jesus’ Judgment Will Be Final

Acts, Carrie-Anne, Hebrews, Jesus, Philippians, Resurrection, Texas Rangers No Comments »

“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all people by raising him from the dead.” ~Acts 17:30-31

JesusGloryThe resurrection proves that Jesus is the promised Messiah, it vindicates him as God’s Holy Son, as God’s chosen agent in making all things right. Jesus is the one who creates order and restores what’s been destroyed. When the Son of God returns, the powers of this world will finally be overthrown by the power of God, that power that was so fully displayed at the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

Hebrews 9 says Christ Jesus will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. His first coming was in humility to bring redemption; his second coming will be in glory to bring God’s salvation purposes to their long-awaited and majestic consummation. Jesus is coming back to restore his people, to rule in righteousness, and to make all things right.

We’ve all been reminded over the past few weeks that this whole world is immersed in evil. This entire planet is motivated by selfishness and greed, this earth is captivated by violence and force.

It’s sickening, it’s unsettling, it’s scary, and terribly sad. It’s awful. But our Lord sees every bit of it. None of this goes unnoticed by our Lord. None of the madness, none of the sadness. Every single tear drop that’s shed and every single drop of blood that’s spilled will be answered for.

If our Lord were not angered by evil, if injustice and wrongdoing didn’t make him mad, what kind of God would he be? If he were just going to ignore evil or pretend like it didn’t matter, he wouldn’t be holy and righteous.

Philippians 3 tells us the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel, with the trumpet call of God. He has set a day. And that day is coming.

It might not be today. It might not be tomorrow. I don’t know when it’s going to be. But God is not going to tolerate sin forever. He won’t put up with violence and injustice and unfairness forever. God overlooked all kinds of ignorance in the past, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. Wicked and evil organizations may have their way for a while. They may kill and cheat and steal for a time. And it may get worse before it gets better. But if they don’t repent, they will pay for every one of their sins.

The resurrection proves that Jesus is the Son of God. The day has been set when he will judge the world. And that judgment will be final.

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RedCrossCarrie-Anne is slowly — very, very, very, very slowly — recovering from her surgery last Wednesday. She’s still really sore, the pain medicine still keeps her somewhat nauseated and dizzy, and her face is still slightly discolored and puffy. But she’s eating more solid food now, she’s talking more, she’s actually walking around the house, and smiling.

Thank you so much to Debbie V., Donna G, Callie Lou, Karen Cooper, and Becky Nordyke for the fabulous meals you’ve delivered to our home. You are dear and cherished friends. And thank all of you for your faithful prayers for my darling wife.

Her follow up appointment is this Thursday afternoon. There’s a chance they remove the two splints from her nasal passages then. We’re hoping so. Her eyes may water for three days afterward, but getting those splints out would be a giant step toward some relief.

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RangersClassicEvery year this decade the Texas Rangers have been in contention, Jon Daniels has made a blockbuster deal or two at the trade deadline to significantly improve the team. Apparently the White Sox were asking too much for pitcher Chris Sale. So JD went out and added a ton of power to his batting order with Beltran and Lucroy, and shored up the bullpen with Jeffress. I would imagine Texas might score more than five runs per game from here on out. It’s possible.

Yes, they gave away a ton of young, talented, minor league pitchers in the deals with Milwaukee and New York, but they’re still just absolutely loaded. Profar and Gallo remain with Texas, Mazara is only 21 years old and Odor is only 22, and the farm system, even after yesterday, is still going to be rated in the top ten in all of baseball. According to Daniels, major league teams inquired about the tradeability of more than 30 Rangers minor leaguers over the past three weeks.

It seems the Rangers have positioned themselves now to capture their fourth division crown in the past seven years. And, if they’re in the same situation this time next season, it looks like they’ll have plenty of talent down on the farm to make the same kind of aggressive, headline-grabbing deals.

Let’s Go, Rangers!
Clap, Clap.
Clap, Clap, Clap.

Allan

Where is Jesus? Part Two

Acts, Heaven, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Resurrection No Comments »

RightHandJesusCloudsOne of the very first things Jesus did when he “sat down at the right hand of God” was send us his Holy Spirit. Christ Jesus our Lord is in heaven — his physical body, resurrected and glorified, his human-self is in heaven. But because of his Holy Spirit, our Lord is also present with all of us right here in this world today. He’s right here with us.

As he’s ascending, Jesus promises his disciples:

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” ~Acts 1:8

And then it happened. Peter and the apostles experience it on the Day of Pentecost and then they proclaim it:

“God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” ~Acts 2:32-33

Jesus could not send God’s Spirit until he had returned to the Father. He could not be present with his followers and live inside his followers until the ascension. And what it means for us right now is that Jesus is right here with us!

Before the ascension, you had to go where Jesus was. If you wanted to be healed, if you wanted to ask for something, if you wanted to eat with him, if you wanted to be taught or to be in his presence, if you wanted to be saved, you had to go to Jerusalem or Galilee; you had to go where Jesus was. But now he ascends to his throne in heaven at the right hand of God and he rules in a cosmic, universal way. Jesus is still in his physical body, but because of the Spirit, he’s no longer restricted by the barriers of time and space and matter. Our Lord Jesus is everywhere!

RightHandGoingUpChristians do not have a mecca. We don’t believe there’s a place on earth where God’s power and the presence of Christ is more concentrated. We don’t believe the power of God resides in stronger ways or better ways in some places than in others. Not even at ACU, no matter what people from Abilene may tell you. Christ Jesus is no more present with you in the mountains of Angel Fire or at the temple mount in Jerusalem as he is right now at your desk or your kitchen table. Or inside your soul. Jesus is both reigning physically at the right hand of the Father in heaven AND reigning spiritually, and just as real and powerfully, inside us. Here with us. It’s both.

Now, there’s a lot of theology to be done here. This is physical AND spiritual, it’s right now AND future. There’s a lot of deep thinking and reflecting that needs to happen. The ascension of Jesus is a foundational doctrine of the Christian faith, and what we believe about where Jesus is and what he’s doing has far reaching implications for us. What we believe about this will truly impact how we behave. It’s vitally important.

We’ve talked this week about where Jesus is and what he’s doing. Now, where are we in this? What are we doing? Let’s address that tomorrow.

Peace,

Allan