Sunday, April 4, 2021

Easter Monday?

Easter Monday?


Anything is Possible

Easter is a time where anything is possible. It's the day believers celebrate Jesus' resurrection. If he can pull that off, he can do anything... right? Easter Sunday has come! But, what about Easter Monday?

Interpreting the Resurrection

Jesus said something rather curious just before he raised his friend Lazarus from the dead. He said, “I am the resurrection.” But, what he meant always seems to be open to interpretation.

At Lazarus’ tomb: “I Am the resurrection and the life!”

At the cross: “I don’t look much like the resurrection right now!”

At the empty tomb: “See, I really am the resurrection!”

At various times in history: “Jesus WAS the resurrection!”

At the door of current circumstances: “???????”

Plugging Into the Resurrection

Paul found a group of folks who he commended for being full of faith, the Ephesians. Yet, he prayed for them (and for us), that they would come to better know the power of the resurrection:

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead…” (Eph 1:17-20 NIV).

24/7 Resurrection

Paul lets us know that for those who believe, there is also a Resurrection Monday, and Tuesday, and Wednesday, etc.. So tomorrow, or whenever you read this, think about what Paul has to say about this and how he continues his thoughts on the matter a few verses later:

“… God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:6-7 NIV).

Guess what? We're in those coming ages now. 

Eternally Yours

For when Jesus ascended into heaven, he didn’t take the power of his resurrection with him to pack away for safe-keeping — he left it here for us.

“With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God's grace was so powerfully at work in them all” (Acts 4:33 NIV).

“…Through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord…. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…” (Ro 1:4, 16 NIV).

From Death to Resurrection

It is worth noting that resurrection requires that some things die off. Paul spends a good amount of time talking about this in the third chapter of his letter to the Philippians. But before you cringe at the thought of having to lose something, check out Paul’s language. His resurrection Monday was filled with joy in knowing that what he left behind was nothing in comparison to what he had gained the day before. His experience taught him that the power of the resurrection makes dying more than worth while. 

A Week’s Worth of Resurrection

Resurrection Monday is worth it. That’s the message of the Gospel! We seek… we find… we move forward past Resurrection Sunday, taking with it the promise that we must shed some things along the way, but that the power of the resurrection has the miraculous power to make tomorrow even better.

The Christian Life is About Resurrection

Christians are famous for showing their faith two days a year, on Christmas and Easter Sunday. This fact isn’t always as much about a lack of consistency or commitment as it is a lack of experiencing Resurrection Monday through Saturday. We need to know that there is more, and if there is more, we can have it. It is not asking too much to receive what we’ve already been given.

Today is a Good Day to Die, and a Good Day to Come Alive!

For Christians, today is the day that we affirm Jesus’ status by recalling his profound invasion into human events and human history. Are you seeing a need for more of the resurrection? Seek and you will find! That’s a promise from Jesus! He, after all, is the Resurrection, and the Life we seek. Just start asking for more.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Watch Out for the Fleischmann’s



Yeast

Today, (if we are bread-makers) we throw a touch of Fleischmann’s, Red Star or some other brand of yeast into the dough so that it rises us and fluffs up bread the way we like it. Biblically speaking, however, yeast is mostly symbolic of sin which infiltrates and alters bread in a bad way. This is why Jesus warned his followers to be watchful for the yeast of the Pharisees. 

Pharisees
The greatest problem with the Pharisees was their inability and sometimes unwillingness to believe what Jesus was doing and who he said that he was. And while anyone who believes in Jesus today might feel they are immune to the effect of a little Fleischmann’s, Jesus did not seem to think so.


Bread of Life

Jesus was all about the bread! Think about it! He multiplied bread along with fish at least twice. He made it part of his very last meal before his death, and was known to eat it at least once after that… which is quite a feat. And of course, he let us know that he is the bread of life. That makes what he said about leaven even more important. It doesn’t take much yeast rolled into the dough for it to spread through, infiltrate, and interact with it. That’s just how yeast works. 

Jesus breaking bread
And so when Jesus declared himself the Bread of Life, he gave us context for where this leaven likes to grow. So while we might rightly recognize Jesus' identity, it is possible that we might choose to overlook the fullness of that identity through doubt, cynicism, and even pride… all things associated with the Pharisees. 

Consider this! Saul was a Pharisee and it took a knock to the ground, temporary blindness, and miraculous healing to undo the effect of yeast within him and transform him into Paul. Once we determine that phariseeism is something that only someone else can “catch,” that we are somehow immune, it is likely that at least a speck of yeast has somehow found its way into our own belief system. If spiritual yeast were not that pervasive, Jesus would not have put out the all-points bulletin that we should beware (Mt 16:6, Lk 12:1, 1 Co 5:6).

Prove It!

Thomas and Jesus
What things about Jesus do each of us raise our heads and discount in someone else’s spiritual walk or in ours? Likely, that’s an area where something has risen and has begun to spread. Consider Thomas! After Jesus had appeared to the rest of the disciples in Thomas’ absence, Thomas declared that the only way that he would believe that Jesus had risen from the dead is if he would be given substantial proof. This is reminiscent of the Pharisees who saw miracles performed in front of them, yet continually asked Jesus for specific signs to prove himself to them. Could it be that Thomas picked up a bit of that yeast along the way? It’s not hard to do.

Self-Check

Check mark
Am I more adamant in denying Jesus’ activity in the world today and in my own life than I am about recognizing Jesus' desire to intervene as he did in the New Testament? Do I discount God’s action in those I disagree with because I’m convinced that my views, positions, and standing are “more right?”


Solution!

Fortunately, Jesus is very accommodating and reaches beyond our unbelief and judgmentalism declaring, “Do not be unbelieving, but believing (Jn 20:27).” It’s our choice; yeast just makes it more difficult to make the right choices, but it's definitely not impossible. That change is what the Bible calls repentance and that simply means changing from our position to God’s position. 


Sunday, January 3, 2021

Who Moves God’s Hand?

Who Moves God’s Hand?



Resurrection Power Makes Sadducees Very Sad (and Tired)

In Acts, Chapter 4, Peter and John had just been arrested for healing the lame man at the temple. You know, that's the one where they had no silver or gold, but called on the name of Jesus and the man was healed. This made many happy, but it made the Sadducees very sad, you see (sorry, I couldn't resist). But because it was late in the day and their actions literally wore out the priests and the Sadducees, Peter and John were thrown into prison for the night. Why were these Jewish leaders so overcome, or as some translations render it, annoyed, disturbed, or distressed? Actually, these descriptions merely scratch the surface of the Greek word diaponeomai, which The Helps Word Studies defines as depleted by grief and pierced by fatigue. How could these folks be so tired?

See, these people in authority had been quite busy for a number of days beginning with the death of Jesus—the one who said that he would rise from the dead. These are the same Jews, appointed by and in league with Roman power who sought to squelch the power of the resurrection. Remember that the Sadducees vehemently disbelieved and denied the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:8).

Upon Jesus’ death, they requested that his tomb be guarded to squelch any attempt that might give credence to resurrection claims. Then they had to deal with reports of not only his resurrection by paying the guards to lie saying that Jesus’ body had been stolen, but also reports of more resurrections (Matthew 27:51-53). Denying that which we disbelieve takes a lot of effort and the Priests and Sadducees had been facilitating damage control concerning their reign of disbelief for quite a while.


Needing a Second Wind

But, finally, even after the recent events of Pentecost, they must have believed that their battle would soon be coming to an end. That is, until two unschooled and common men began operating in the same resurrection power that Jesus had used, attributing that power to his name. When would this nightmare ever end? 

But despite their exhaustion, they took advantage of a good night’s sleep, having devised the perfect plan for the following day. They would use the same overwhelming authority that they had wielded up to this point and quickly squash and intimidate these two common men.

As an aside, you may have noticed that despite their common opposition to Jesus, there is no mention that the Pharisees joined the Sadducees in this mission to eradicate the demonstration of resurrection through Jesus’ name. Perhaps the Pharisees’ sympathy towards the resurrection of the dead caused them to part ways during the current kerfuffle.


It’s a Bit of a Stretch (of the hand)

But things did not brightened up for the Sadducees. Peter and John left the proceedings even more determined to preach and demonstrate the resurrection for they understood something that the Jewish leaders did not… God’s hand was now available to believers. Just as Jesus declared that Pilate’s authority was designated and not innate, the apostles understood that God had orchestrated the authorities to:

“… do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (Acts 4:28 ESV)

God had been using his powerful hand to lead the Sadducees where he wanted them to go, his hand even participating in the decision-making process to carry out his plan (Acts 4:28). The apostles understood this and they also understood that now, post-resurrection, ascension, and giving of the Holy Spirit, that God’s hand and his plan was proceeding forward, becoming available to believers. This realization caused the apostles to pray:

“'And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.' And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness…. With great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.” (Acts 4:29-31, 33 ESV)

Indeed! Why do the nations’ rage a losing battle—one destined to wear them out—now that the hand which once used them as puppets to fulfill God’s plan, is now turned against them… unless they repent?


The Hand that Dealt a Sadd Defeat

How is it that Peter and John were able to walk free with only a “stern warning” from the authorities? The priests, elders, scribes, and Sadducees could not deny what the power of the resurrection had accomplished as the man who was healed stood as overwhelming proof of resurrection power. 

You may not have stopped to consider that this lame man was over 40 years old, yet God healed him. It was not simply that he had been lame for a long period of time and that everyone was familiar with this fact, but everyone, especially the officials knew well that 40 is the number of trial and judgment. 

Just as the Israelites had spent a complete 40 years in the wilderness, and just as the flood rains extended a full 40 days and nights, these 40 years of incapacity meant to them that this man had undergone a complete 40 years of trial and at the end, had been judged by God as sinful, deserving his physical handicap. To these people, that was the end of the story! He had either been judged for his own sin, the sin of his family, or a combination of both, doomed incapable of undergoing redemption. 

And yet, the power and authority in the name of Jesus Christ had raised him up, superseding the curse of the law. Until now, the Sadducees had come to believe that by their designated and acquired authority, that they were the hand of God, or at least, that it was by their authority that that the hand of God would move, especially in rendering judgment and determining righteousness. But here, their power had been stripped away for they had nothing to say being unable to deny that, outside of their authority, God had performed this miraculous sign.

“What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.” (Acts 4:16 ESV)

Up until this time, they had been exhaustingly able, with varying degrees of success, to squelch and effectively deny the resurrection. Now, at least amongst themselves, they admitted defeat.


Keeping His Power Handy 

And so, instead of punishing Peter and John, they sent them away with a powerless warning to cease their actions. But the apostles pressed in all the more for they understood that the hand of God was inclined towards them, as it is to all believers. God’s hand was no longer moving to fulfill Jesus’s earthly ministry, sacrificial death and resurrection, but to perpetuate the power for believers which his actions procured for the Church. 

Paul understood and communicated this readiness of God’s hand to move through his people, praying for the Ephesians (and for us) that we would come to know and embrace the power within us—the same power which raised Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1:16-23) That’s a prayer worth revisiting on a regular basis. 


Moving the Hand of God

He is the potter and we are the clay, and so he puts his power in these vessels of clay as he did Peter and John, to make it apparent that the power comes from God alone (2 Corinthians 4:7). While the power is sourced unmistakably from him, he invites us to draw upon that power, so that his glory might be manifest, or so says the call of the Great Commission.

Consider for a moment the interplay between humility and boldness which played out in the apostle’s prayer in Acts 4. Led by Peter, the apostle who so eloquently preached for us to humble ourselves that God might lift us up (1 Peter 5:6), their prayer of humility was a very specific prayer that God would embolden them with his power—in speech and in action.

Humility is not about lowering ourselves down to inactivity, but it is about letting God lift us up. Anything else is a false humility, or a false sense of authority and power in which we seek to glorify ourselves. Our only hope is to rely on his love, his grace, and his power that we, like those who went before us, serve the Gospel according to the power of his hand, within the confines of the power of his plan.