Alive on Resurrection Sunday

empty tomb

Jesus rose from the dead so we might be spiritually alive. How do we know if we are spiritually alive? An acrostic using the word “alive” will help us identify what it means to be spiritually alive.

 

A – Allegiance to Christ (Luke 14:33). Allegiance to Christ means that Christ is first and foremost in your life. Are your thoughts, words, and actions displaying a loyalty to Jesus and adorning the gospel?

 

L – Love God and others (Matthew 22:37-38). Are you loving God and your neighbor?

 

– Invest into others (Mark 10:45; 2 Corinthians 12:15). This is what discipleship and evangelism is all about. Who are you investing in for their spiritual good?

 

V – Victorious living (1 Corinthians 15:57). The resurrection declares that we do not live out of the desolation of defeat but we soar on the wings of victory. Are you experiencing victory in your Christian life?

 

E – Expectation (2 Corinthians 4:14). This is a way of saying you live with hope. Are you living with hope in your singleness, in your marriage, in your parenting, in your service, and in your retirement?

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Holy Saturday Contemplation

Pilate Before Jesus

  1. How did Jesus die? He died by crucifixion (Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19).
  2. Why did Jesus die? He died to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15; cf. Matthew 9:13).
  3. What will you do with the death of Jesus? Pilate asked a pointed question in Mark 15:12 that is as relevant today as the day it was first asked: what shall I do with the man called the King of the Jews?

How about you? What will you do with Jesus?

On Earth as it Is in Heaven

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10)

on-earth

God’s will is done in the realm of heaven.

  • The Lord sent an angel to guard the entrance to Eden after the fall and he did (Genesis 3:24).
  • The Lord sent an angel to deliver Lot and his family and he did (Genesis 19:15).
  • The Lord sent an angel deliver Israel in battle and he did (2 Chronicles 32:20-23).
  • The Lord sent an angel to announce the birth of His Son and Gabriel did (Luke 1:26).

God’s will is done in the realm of the animal kingdom.

  • The Lord summoned animals to the ark and they did their Creator’s bidding (Genesis 7:14-15).
  • The Lord summoned frogs, flies, and locusts to plague Egypt and they did their Creator’s bidding (Exodus 8:1-15; 20-32; 10:1-20).
  • The Lord summoned ravens to feed His prophet and they did their Creator’s bidding (1 Kings 17:6).
  • The Lord summoned a great fish to transport Jonah to Nineveh and it did its Creator’s bidding (Jonah 1:17).
  • The Lord summoned a fish to bring a coin with which Peter would pay his taxes and it did its Creator’s bidding (Matthew 17:27).

God’s will is done in the realm of the natural world.

  • The Lord commanded light to be and light was (Genesis 1:3)
  • The Lord sent rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights (Genesis 7:4).
  • The Lord displayed a rainbow to represent His covenant with Noah (Genesis 9:13)
  • The Lord caused the wind to blow to take away the swarm of locusts from Egypt (Exodus 10:19)
  • The Lord stopped the sun so that Israel would route their enemies in battle (Joshua 10:13)
  • The Lord appointed a plant, a worm, and an east wind to instruct Jonah (Jonah 4:6, 7, 8).
  • The Lord caused a great darkness to cover the land while His Son died on the cross (Matthew 27:45; cf. Exodus 10:21-29)

While God’s will is done in the realm of heaven, the animal kingdom, and the natural world but God’s will is not yet perfectly done on earth in the hearts of men and women.

  • The Lord commanded Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They ate (Genesis 3:3, 6, 22).
  • The Lord commanded Israel not to have idols (Exodus 20:4; Leviticus 26:1; Deuteronomy 27:15). They had them (2 Kings 17:12).
  • The Lord told Jonah to go to Nineveh (Jonah 1:2). He went in the opposite direction (Jonah 1:3).
  • The Lord invited the rich young ruler to follow Him. He turned the invitation away (Matthew 19:16-22).

So we pray “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This begins in your heart and mine. Maybe we find it difficult to pray because we currently reign on the throne of our hearts. It’s possible that we declare that we have no other king but Caesar and we cherish the earthly kingdom of this world and look for political messiahs rather than God’s messiah, Jesus. There is coming a day when God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. In the meantime, we earnestly pray for it to come, even if we will only experience foretastes now. Christian prayer is a humble commitment to the rule and purposes of God over our lives and all of history.

(Picture credit: I could not find an original source for the image. I will gladly provide credit if/when I obtain the information.)

Rio 2016 and ‘the Gigantic Figure of One Person’

Rio 2016 and ‘the Gigantic Figure of One Person’

I love watching the summer Olympics. The winter Olympics are fun to watch too but I much prefer the summer games over the winter games (perhaps a bit ironic since I live in Minnesota). I get caught up in the wonderful drama that plays out in this competitive theater. The fight and the determination of the athletes is inspiring to watch. Some magical moments are immortalized, like this one and this one. 10,500 athletes from 206 countries will participate in the Games of the XXXI Olympiad at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this August.

I came across a quote from Ravi Zacharias in my recent studies,

Behind the debris of these self-styled, sullen supermen and imperial diplomatists, there stands the gigantic figure of one person, because of whom, by whom, in whom, and through whom alone mankind might still have hope. The person of Jesus Christ (HT: Justin Taylor).

Zacharias’ insight follows a quote from Malcom Muggeridge who observed that nations and rulers are fleeting, and with them any promises of hope they offered. You may wonder what the connection is between Rio 2016 and this citation. Rio de Janeiro is the location of Christ the Redeemer statue. It was completed in 1931. It is an immense statue: 98 feet tall and the arms span 92 feet. It overlooks the city of Rio from a height of 2,300 feet. Its magnitude has led to its inclusion as one of the new seven wonders of the world. It is an imposing image when seen from below. It depicts Christ with open arms who is at one and the same time both sovereign Lord and inviting Savior. It is a reminder of what Zacharias observed. The world will see during the Rio 2016 Olympic games that indeed, “there stands the gigantic figure of one person in whom alone mankind might still have hope.”

Christ_on_Corcovado_mountain(Image source)

 

Devotional Ruminations: 1 Timothy 1:3-7

My devotional ruminations are just that–devotional thoughts that come from my personal time in Scripture. These ruminations include basic observations and questions (some of which will remain unanswered). Today, I want to make a handful of basic observations from 1 Timothy 1:3-7. Incidentally, my prayer to the Lord was to spend time in a book that will help me cultivate a love and passion for the church and pastoral ministry.

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, [4] nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. [5] The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. [6] Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, [7] desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions (1 Timothy 1:3-7 ESV)

  1. Paul left Timothy, his apostolic delegate, in Ephesus. Why Timothy? The answer is not in this text but Philippians 2:20 sheds some light on why Paul left Timothy.
  2. Paul did not assign and abandon. He continued to mentor Timothy.
  3. Like Timothy, pastors do not go into a ministry as a pre-packaged finished product. They too need to continue to grow and develop and minister in their shortcomings. As Paul said later in the letter, “…so that all may see you progress” (1 Timothy 4:15). Pastors minister with encumbering inadequacies but we can minister with empowering grace (2 Corinthians 4:7; 12:9).
  4. Paul left Timothy at Ephesus to perform two key shepherding tasks: preserve pure doctrine (v. 3) and practice pastoral love (v. 5). There is both a firmness and a gentleness that is required in carrying out these tasks.
  5. The pastor serves most effectively when he serves from his inner life: a pure heart, a good conscience, a sincere faith (v. 5). These qualities that should be cultivated and displayed in the shepherd. Are “a pure heart,” “a good conscience,” “a sincere faith” synonymous phrases or are they pointing to nuances of spiritual formation?

Six Ways to Pray for Your Church

How do we pray substantive prayers for our church when we don’t know how to pray specifically for them? Paul’s prayers for the churches provide some of the best ways to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Here are six ways a Christian can pray for his/her church family from Colossians 1:3-14.

  1. We can pray that faith in Christ, love for one another, and hope for the life to come would be evident in our church (vv. 3-5a).
  2. We can pray that the word of God would have free course and would bear fruit in our church (vv. 5b-6).
  3. We can pray that those who teach and preach would have an effective ministry of the word (v. 7).
  4. We can pray for the knowledge of God’s will by knowing His word (v. 9).
  5. We can pray for a fruitful Christian life that “walks” in the knowledge of God (v. 10).
  6. We can pray for the divine strength for perseverance characterized by patience and joy (v. 11).

Spurgeon’s Encouragement to Church Planters and Small Churches

sun breaking throughI came across these words from the “Prince of Preachers,” Charles Spurgeon. He first delivered these words 144 years ago but they provide fresh encouragement today.

Thank God, there are many workers here tonight, and maybe they will put themselves down as feeble. May the words I utter be an encouragement to them, and to feeble workers collectively. When a church begins, it is usually small; and the day of small things is a time of considerable anxiety and fear. I may be addressing some who are members of a newly-organised church. Dear brethren, do not despise the day of small things. Rest assured that God does not save by numbers, and that results are not in the spiritual kingdom in proportion to numbers (“Encouragement for the Depressed,” a sermon preached on Sunday evening, August 27, 1871).