Places

Matthew 28:6 –“Come see the place where He lay.”

We all have our favorite places, favorite rooms in our house, favorite chairs in those rooms, and even favorite places to sit in church.  We also have oyr least favorite places don’t we? Doctors offices and funeral homes just to name a few.

I imagine for the women as they went to the tomb 3 days after Jesus was crucified that they were going to one of their least favorite places.  It was a place they never thought they would have to go.  It wasn’t supposed to be this way.   Jesus wasn’t supposed to be dead.   He was supposed to be alive,  He was supposed to set up a kingdom.  It wasn’t supposed to be like this.  

So they were going to their least favorite place.  Walking up the hill filed with anguish,  pain, doubt, fear,  and bewilderment.   But things were getting ready to change.   When they arrived at the tomb they were greeted with some of the most beautiful words ever uttered, “He is not here but He is risen. ” 

It was their least favorite place but that was changing.  Their least favorite quickly became their favorite.

Jesus was not there.   He was alive.  He was risen.  Come see the place where He used to be.  Come to a place of hope.  Hope that this world is not all there is.  Hope of eternal life.  Hope that God can transform even the most difficult situation.  The cross was the worst event in history but God had taken in and made good come out of it.  In fact He had made the best come out of it, for on that cross He purchased our salvation.

It was a place of hope and a place of assurance.  A place that reminds us that Jesus is alive, that we serve a risen Savior and since He is alive we have the promise of “I’ll never leave you or forsake you ”

It is a place of joy as well.  A place that reminds us that since Jesus was resurrected we can be as well.  We can be resurrected and inherit the gift of eternal life in the presence of Jesus and as the Bible tells us, “in His presence their is fullness of joy.”

It is a place of joy, of hope,  of assurance.  It is a place of grace.   A place of miracle.  It is a place of transformation.  God can turn brokenness into wholeness,  weeping into dancing,  morning into joy,  and darkness into life.   What a mighty God we serve.

Silent

Silent
1 Corinthians 15:17 – “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”
It was the day after Jesus was crucified, and all of the disciples and followers of Jesus had to be feeling like life was futile. All of there hopes and dreams were dashed on Saturday, there hope was gone. The one who had promised a Kingdom and had promised forgiveness was now gone. They were still in their hopelessness and in their sins.
It was a day of silence. There was nothing to say, there was no words. But not only that God was silent as well. Who would they turn too, who would they rely on, who would be there for them? Total absolute silence. It seemed that God didn’t care. What were they going to do now?
God had been silent before in the 400 years after the writing of Malachi and the coming of Jesus. But now to those followers of Jesus He seemed to be personally silent. Where would they turn? Hope was gone. Jesus was buried in a tomb with a stone rolled in front. And as the stone was rolled in place, they felt like life had closed in on them.
We’ve been there before too haven’t we? Thinking that God was silent, thinking that He didn’t care, thinking that hope was gone. Feeling like life had closed in on us. It was the most miserable day for those who were followers of Jesus. I’m sure all they could think was why? And when they weren’t thinking why, they were probably dealing with the question, what now? Where would they go, what would they do? Remember they had left all and followed Jesus and now Jesus was gone, what were they going to do. Why had this happened? It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Life had fallen a part. And God was silent. Why? Of course they had no idea what God was doing behind the scene. They had no idea that He really was working “all things together for good.” All they knew was that God was silent and life seemed hopeless.
In reality however God may have been silent, but He was still working. On the cross, the most horrific event in history, He had secured their salvation and their freedom. On the cross He had given them the hope of eternal life. They didn’t know that at this point, but they soon would. Life had went from the high of Palm Sunday to the terror of the crucifixion to the hopelessness of the day after and they had no idea what was coming next. Hopeless? Imprisonment? Death? They had no idea what tomorrow would hold.
God however did! He knew that Sunday was coming. He knew that Jesus was going to be raised from the dead. He knew that the next day life was going to change again, and that it would never be the same again. He knew that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead was going to be working in and through those disciples and followers. God seemed silent but He wasn’t and He knew what was getting ready to happen.
He may seem silent today, but He’s not. We may enter into very difficult times but God knows whats coming. He not only knows but even in the midst of it He is working good and He is walking through those times with us. All we have to do is trust Him even in the midst of the silence or the difficulty. Because even when we can’t see Him or hear Him, He’s there. Even when we think He’s not there, He is. He is not silent and He is not dead, He is alive and well, and working good in all things. And once again that is beyond amazing.

Beyond Amazing

Beyond Amazing
Romans 8:28 – “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”
Our world is filled up with a lot of amazing sights and sounds. A lot of amazing and wonderful things. People today are always fascinated with new things. In the world of sports if a player has a good year then the question inevitably arises, “are they the greatest of all time?” If a great play happens or a close well played game, the question – “is it the greatest of all time?” We are fascinated with greatness, especially new greatness.
And yet the greatest, most amazing event in all of history happened almost 2000 years ago. It was the resurrection of Jesus Christ and it is an event that changed the course of history and was so amazing that it is still changing the course of history today.
On that Friday Jesus underwent such humiliation, such torture, such anguish and pain, that the Bible says “His appearance was marred beyond that of a man.” In other words He was not only unrecognizable, He was unrecognizable as a human being. Even the most graphic description of the cross doesn’t fully show us what He went through.
Then the cry of “It is finished”, and He was gone. Dead. They took Him down, they buried Him, a stone was rolled in front of His tomb. It was over. I imagine how horrid it must have been for His followers. They had placed their trust in Him. They had hope, and now it was over. He was buried and their expectation and hope was as well.
But then…..Death could not hold Him. God the Father, raised Him from the dead. The darkness burst forth into life. Hopelessness turned to hope. Weeping to joy. Fear to peace. Jesus was alive and that changes everything.
The resurrection of Jesus truly does change everything. It makes all the difference in the world. God took the worst event in history and made good come out of it. The worst event was the cross and the good is our salvation, our forgiveness, our reconciliation to the Father. Without the resurrection those things don’t happen. The resurrection changes everything, and it shows us that God the Father is so power, so amazing, so filled up with love and glory that He can take something horrible and make good come out of it. He can take the worst and make the best come out of it. And that is why He is beyond amazing.

Complete!!

Complete
Ephesians 1:7- “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished on us…”
Today is Good Friday,and to be honest I used to cringe when I said that term. Good Friday, how could it be good when it was one of the darkest, if not the darkest day in history. It is painful to say Good Friday, yet that is precisely what it is. It is good, not because of the horror of crucifixion, but because of what Jesus accomplished for us through His crucifixion. It is good because of what Paul says in Ephesians, “In Jesus we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses,…..” It is good because without the cross we are still in our sins and not forgiven. It is good because without the cross we are still enslaved to sin, to death, and ultimately to hell. That is why we call it Good Friday, but still when you consider the horror of crucifixion those are hard words to say.
Jesus made many statements as He hung on the cross:
*Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing
*Woman behold your son, and to John the disciple, behold your mother
*Today you will be with me in paradise
*I thirst
*My God, my God why have you forsaken me
*It is Finished
*Father into Your hands I commit my Spirit
No greater words have ever been spoken, for as He spoke those words He spoke them for us, and because of that they become transformational words to us. As the hymn says, “beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.” And that is truly what they are, words of life to us, words that significantly and eternally change our lives today.
As Jesus uttered “Father forgive them….” He gives us a courageous example of forgiveness. He is forgiving those very people who are crucifying Him, the ones who are putting the nails in His hands and feet, the ones who have mocked Him and humiliated them. He is showing us that we as His followers should be forgiving as well. But even more than that He is showing us that we need to be forgiven, and that regardless of our sins, we can be forgiven through His blood.
As He said, “woman behold your son….”, He is showing us the importance of the family. He is demonstrating to us how we are to love one another, and He is fulfilling His duty as a son. As He looked at the cross and said, “Today you will be with me in paradise”, He was declaring that we have hope beyond this life but that that hope doesn’t come from our own works or religious actions, after all the thief on the cross had none. What He is saying and demonstrating is that salvation and eternal life are only possible through the grace of God, grace that Paul says, God lavished on us. Truly He did on the cross.
He also thirsted and in taking the drink offered to Him hydrated Himself and prolonged His own agony, torture and death. Why? Because He had to take the full cup of the wrath of God. He had to be the propitiation, which means Jesus took the full wrath of God in my place.
During the darkest moment on the cross He cried out, My God, My God why have you forsaken me? And God the Father had truly turned His back on Him. Habakkuk says God is too holy to look on sin, and Paul says, “Jesus became sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus became sin and God the Father turned away, He was ultimately forsaken so that you and I will never have to be.
And then the cry of It is Finished. Not a cry of defeat, but a cry of victory. The forsakenness of the Father was complete, the plan of salvation was accomplished, it truly was and is finished.
And then Father, into Your hands I commit my Spirit. Jesus died as He lived, 100% devoted and committed to God. Today is a day to be thankful, as one of my friends said, “it is thankful Friday”, and that it is, but it is also Good Friday. Good because without it we are still lost, hopeless, unloved, and under the wrath of God. The c

Center

Center
Deuteronomy 6:5 – “You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
The movie “Rise of the Guardians” is about the mythological guardians of children, things such as the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, the Sandman, the man in the moon, and the tooth fairy. These guardians are always looking out for children, especially after the appearance of the protagonist, the boogeyman, who they call “Pitch”.
I admit I watched some of the movie with my oldest son, but did not finish all of it. There was one scene that jumped out at me however, Santa Claus was talking to the new guardian, Jack Frost while he held one of those wooden matryoshka dolls (a doll within a doll). He twisted away each doll revealing a smaller doll, and a smaller doll, and a smaller doll, until he got all the way to the center of the doll. Santa then said, “I’m kind at loving at my center (or something close to that) Jack, what about you? What’s at your center?”
It was an especially well done scene and I loved the question, “what is at your center?” It is a good question for us to ask today isn’t it? What is at our center? What drives us? What motivates us? But even more than that who are we? What is the center of our lives?
Some people would say their jobs or their bank accounts, or their accomplishments. Others might say there children, or their hobbies. Others might say their center is their spouse, as they smile and think of the “you complete me” scene from Jerry McGuire. Other people might even say their good deeds are their center, their church work, or the things that they do for other people. There is another group of people that would say their center is found in their favorite sports team. And a growing number of people would probably say they have no center at all.
So what is your center? What drives you in life? How do you define yourself? What controls what you do? What is your center? For the Apostle Paul his center was Jesus as he said “for I am persuaded to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” The crucified and resurrected Lord was Paul’s center. He must be ours as well. If we build our lives on anything else our lives will not stand.
Last year in Vacation Bible School we sang a song about having a foundation in life. “A wise man built his house upon the Rock, his house upon the Rock, the wise man built his house upon the Rock and the house on the Rock stood firm.” The next verse says, “the foolish man built his house upon the sand, and the house on the sand went splat.” If we are going to stand whatever life throws our way we must build our house on the Rock. Jesus must be our center.
If He is, if we cherish Him and trust Him because He has went to the cross and died in our place, then we can survive whatever life throws our way. If He is our center and we have built our lives on Him, we can not only survive but even thrive in the midst of whatever. But for that to happen Jesus has to be our center.
He cannot be an afterthought in our lives. He cannot be something that we tack on if we have time. He cannot be just another of our many responsibilities. He has to be our Lord. One of my seminary professors described it this way, “the challenge is for Jesus to shine into every area of our lives, because He is worthy and He changes everything.” In other words He has to be our center. When the Bible talks about Jesus being our Savior, it also talks about Him being our Lord. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “the Bible knows nothing of a Christianity without Jesus as Lord.” He must be our center.
Santa pulled back the layers of his life and discovered that his center was kindness and gentleness in the movie. But what about us? When the layers of our lives are pulled back, what is our center. What would we say? What would others around us say? What is truth? What is the center of our lives? It has to be Jesus. After all we are commanded to “love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of our soul, and with all of your might.”

The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul, a book review

The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul, a book review
1 Corinthians 2:2 – “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
We instantly recognize symbols in our world today. If you see some Golden Arches you know immediately that you are looking at a McDonald’s. A swoosh means that you are looking at something Nike. An apple with a bite taken out of the left side means that you have some sort of Apple product. A bowtie instantly directs your thoughts to Chevrolet, as a blue oval does to Ford, or a Ram does to Dodge. We are a visual culture and one that instantly recognizes symbols.
Early on in the history of the church, the cross became the symbol of Christianity. If you saw a cross you thought about Jesus, and that is the way it should be, after all Paul when writing to the church at Corinth says, “I am determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” In other words that cross that Jesus was crucified on is the central and defining symbol of Christianity.
Dr. R.C. Sproul in his excellent book, The Truth of the Cross discusses exactly what that cross means to us in our world today. He deals with the necessity of the cross and with the justice and righteousness of God. He discusses not only why Jesus died but also what it means to us and how it impacts our lives today.
The cross of Christ means that we are ransomed, that we are saved, and that we are made to be a part of the family of God. Because Jesus went to the cross we are blessed by Almighty God. And because Jesus suffered the wrath of the Father on the cross and became the propitiation for us (1 John 4:9-10), you and I don’t have to suffer God’s wrath if we repent and believe.
The cross is good news for us today. Spoul uses several Old Testament and New Testament Scriptures to drive that point home. The cross is good news and its gives to us all of the aforementioned blessings because through the cross we are reconciled to God and our sins are forgiven. Before we repented of our sins and placed our faith in Jesus’ saving work on the cross Sproul reminds us that we were debtors to God, enemies of God , and criminals in His sight. Now however we are righteous before God, friends of God and part of the family of God. How? Through the cross and the forgiveness that we are offered there.
The cross of Christ shows us the love of God and satisfies the justice of God. Both of which have to happen for us to be saved. God accomplishes that for us through the cross and through sending His own Son to die in our place. Thankfully Jesus willingly went because He loves us that much.
Sproul points out that the cross of Christ was not a plan B. God did not say well those people down there made a mistake and ruined my creation and ruined their lives with sin, now I’ve got to step in and do something about it. No instead, the cross was the plan of God all along, even before the foundation of the world. That is how much He loves us and desires for us to be saved.
One of the things that I enjoyed most about the book was its readability. It is a book that anyone can read and benefit from, but as with most of Sproul’s writings it is also a book that contains enough depth to challenge those who have been Christians for many years and those who are seasoned Bible scholars and theologians.
Sproul, who is Calvinistic in his theology, even takes time to explain the Calvinistic position on the Atonement. Calvinism is a huge debate right now in many churches because it teaches that God “elects” some to salvation. And because it is such a hot topic, when it is discussed it is usually discussed with such passion that debate usually ensues. Sometimes these debates rage to the point where a Calvinist might say that someone who is not Calvinistic (an Arminian) is not a true believer or vice versa. Sproul certainly doesn’t get into that here. He affirms that there are good Christians on both sides of the debate and in the books closing chapter he states what his position and his belief is. However he does not attempt to sway the reader in any way. He simply states his views. This chapter will be controversial for many readers but it is a chapter worth reading. After closing the main body of the book, Sproul also includes for us an appendix with questions and answers regarding key points of the doctrine of the cross.
The Truth of the Cross is a very short book, but it is one that is packed with the beautiful truths of the Gospel. It is a book that I would encourage every one to read. Skeptics would be convinced by the vast amount of evidence that is presented for the truth of the cross, unbelievers would be convicted as they see the beauty and the depth of the love of God, new Christians would be built up in the faith, and those who have been followers of Jesus for a long time would be struck afresh by the power of the cross. Pick it up and read it. (9 out of 10 stars)

Blessings and the Curse

Blessing and the Curse
Deuteronomy 28:2 – “And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God.”
It was January of 2011 and I was running a 10k at Warrior’s Path State Park. It was not one of my better races, I had mistakenly chosen the wrong pair of socks and as I ran my left foot blistered pretty severely so I had slowed down considerably by the time the finish line was in sight. I thought I can make it, I can make it, I can make it, and then it happened right at the finish line, someone ran me down and overtook me.
I was somewhat disappointed. But the disappointment turned to joy as I sat down in the passenger’s seat of the car, while my lovely wife drove home. I had just ran 6.2 very steep and hilly miles and I was happy because of it. Sure being overtaken at the end wasn’t very fun but that was ok.
Sometimes being overtaken is not a good thing, but sometimes it is. God says in His word that if we obey all of the commands that He gives to us that His blessings will pursue us and overtake us. In other words we will be blessed with the blessings of Almighty God, and that is a good thing. There is however an if in the promise of God, if we obey all of God’s commands then we will be blessed. It is what many theologians call the Deuteronomic covenant and it sounds good. In fact it is beautiful and poetic, if we obey all of God’s commands then we will be blessed.
It does sound good doesn’t it? But then you have to ask the question, have we obeyed all of God’s commands? We might ask ourselves that question and answer it in a variety of ways:
*Well I’ve kept more of them than the man down the street
*I’ve kept more than I’ve broken
*Well at least I’m trying
*I’ve done good today at least
There may be variety in those statements but they all say the same thing, and it is “I’ve not kept them at all.” We may try and we may do pretty well but none of us have ever kept all of the commands of God. In fact we have probably broken more than we know and even care to admit.
But there is one who hasn’t. Jesus Christ lived a perfect, sinless, holy life. He kept all of the commands of God and was obedient to the Father in going to the cross. Does that mean that Jesus is blessed? Yes He is definitely blessed by God the Father but the Bible also tells us that He was cursed.
That seems almost blasphemous to say, but its true. Jesus was cursed, cursed by God the Father in fact. If you read the Bible it tells us very directly, “cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” As RC Sproul points out it doesn’t say, “cursed is everyone who is stoned to death, or who is beaten, it says cursed is every one who hangs on a tree.” It is a very specific statement, and Jesus was specifically cursed by God. Cursed because He willingly took on our sins. Cursed because as the Bible says, “He became sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). He became cursed for us.
Think about that transformational truth, the one who was ultimately blessed by God, willingly became cursed because He willingly chose to take on your sin. That is amazing isn’t it? He became cursed so that we could be forgiven. We see the extent of the curse on the cross as Jesus says, “my God, my God why have you forsaken me.” The curse meant that ultimately Jesus was forsaken by God the Father. He was cursed and He was forsaken for us.
Through His sacrifice on the cross we are forgiven and we don’t have to fear being forsaken by God. He will never “leave us or forsake us”. He is with us always and as Paul triumphantly declares in Romans 8, “nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.”
But it goes even beyond that, Jesus was cursed so that we can be blessed. We could not keep the laws of God perfectly, it is not in our nature because we by our nature are sinners, born into sin. However Jesus perfectly kept the law and the commands of God for us, so that when we are covered with the blood of Christ, when we are “in Him” as Paul describes it in Colossians we are declared righteous. God the Father, looks at us as if we have never sinned and because of that we are blessed by God (go back to the Deuteronomic covenant – if a person keeps all the laws then that person will be blessed by God). We haven’t perfectly followed God, the Father, but Jesus has. He has taken our place and in doing so, He took God’s punishment for us and He also took the curse for us. He was cursed so we don’t have to be.
Paul says in Ephesians 1:3, “blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” We are blessed in Christ, with all the blessings of God. How? Because Jesus has taken the curse for us and because He has given us His righteousness. As Paul says, “He made Him who knew no sin to become sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God.” We are righteous (read that as sin free) and because of that we are blessed. Blessed because Jesus was cursed in our place. What a beautiful, powerful, and humbling thought.
As the song says, “To God be the glory great things He has done….” And the greatest is the cross and the empty tomb.

Blessing and the Curse
Deuteronomy 28:2 – “And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God.”
It was January of 2011 and I was running a 10k at Warrior’s Path State Park. It was not one of my better races, I had mistakenly chosen the wrong pair of socks and as I ran my left foot blistered pretty severely so I had slowed down considerably by the time the finish line was in sight. I thought I can make it, I can make it, I can make it, and then it happened right at the finish line, someone ran me down and overtook me.
I was somewhat disappointed. But the disappointment turned to joy as I sat down in the passenger’s seat of the car, while my lovely wife drove home. I had just ran 6.2 very steep and hilly miles and I was happy because of it. Sure being overtaken at the end wasn’t very fun but that was ok.
Sometimes being overtaken is not a good thing, but sometimes it is. God says in His word that if we obey all of the commands that He gives to us that His blessings will pursue us and overtake us. In other words we will be blessed with the blessings of Almighty God, and that is a good thing. There is however an if in the promise of God, if we obey all of God’s commands then we will be blessed. It is what many theologians call the Deuteronomic covenant and it sounds good. In fact it is beautiful and poetic, if we obey all of God’s commands then we will be blessed.
It does sound good doesn’t it? But then you have to ask the question, have we obeyed all of God’s commands? We might ask ourselves that question and answer it in a variety of ways:
*Well I’ve kept more of them than the man down the street
*I’ve kept more than I’ve broken
*Well at least I’m trying
*I’ve done good today at least
There may be variety in those statements but they all say the same thing, and it is “I’ve not kept them at all.” We may try and we may do pretty well but none of us have ever kept all of the commands of God. In fact we have probably broken more than we know and even care to admit.
But there is one who hasn’t. Jesus Christ lived a perfect, sinless, holy life. He kept all of the commands of God and was obedient to the Father in going to the cross. Does that mean that Jesus is blessed? Yes He is definitely blessed by God the Father but the Bible also tells us that He was cursed.
That seems almost blasphemous to say, but its true. Jesus was cursed, cursed by God the Father in fact. If you read the Bible it tells us very directly, “cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” As RC Sproul points out it doesn’t say, “cursed is everyone who is stoned to death, or who is beaten, it says cursed is every one who hangs on a tree.” It is a very specific statement, and Jesus was specifically cursed by God. Cursed because He willingly took on our sins. Cursed because as the Bible says, “He became sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). He became cursed for us.
Think about that transformational truth, the one who was ultimately blessed by God, willingly became cursed because He willingly chose to take on your sin. That is amazing isn’t it? He became cursed so that we could be forgiven. We see the extent of the curse on the cross as Jesus says, “my God, my God why have you forsaken me.” The curse meant that ultimately Jesus was forsaken by God the Father. He was cursed and He was forsaken for us.
Through His sacrifice on the cross we are forgiven and we don’t have to fear being forsaken by God. He will never “leave us or forsake us”. He is with us always and as Paul triumphantly declares in Romans 8, “nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.”
But it goes even beyond that, Jesus was cursed so that we can be blessed. We could not keep the laws of God perfectly, it is not in our nature because we by our nature are sinners, born into sin. However Jesus perfectly kept the law and the commands of God for us, so that when we are covered with the blood of Christ, when we are “in Him” as Paul describes it in Colossians we are declared righteous. God the Father, looks at us as if we have never sinned and because of that we are blessed by God (go back to the Deuteronomic covenant – if a person keeps all the laws then that person will be blessed by God). We haven’t perfectly followed God, the Father, but Jesus has. He has taken our place and in doing so, He took God’s punishment for us and He also took the curse for us. He was cursed so we don’t have to be.
Paul says in Ephesians 1:3, “blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” We are blessed in Christ, with all the blessings of God. How? Because Jesus has taken the curse for us and because He has given us His righteousness. As Paul says, “He made Him who knew no sin to become sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God.” We are righteous (read that as sin free) and because of that we are blessed. Blessed because Jesus was cursed in our place. What a beautiful, powerful, and humbling thought.
As the song says, “To God be the glory great things He has done….” And the greatest is the cross and the empty tomb.