After Easter – Doubt ( Part 1 )

Questions are satisfied with answers and good answers create more questions ……………

Gospel of John 20:  24 – 27

24 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”

26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”

This scripture lesson is one of my favorite Bible stories.  It is the story of the disciple Thomas, who somehow missed the first appearance of Jesus after his resurrection to the disciples.  The other disciples told him that they had seen Jesus, and he had been resurrected.  But Thomas responded with words that ring across the ages, words that echo the doubts of many thinking people.  “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”  Seeing is Believing

Even when God meets us day to day in our lives and we in faith understand he is in our lives we are still a very cynical and fact based people. We like for things to not only fit in our logical box of reason but we want to hold it and put it in and take it out on the other side. We by our very nature live out “seeing is believing”. This is what we consider prudent and effective for our lives in that it keeps others honest and allows us a false sense of control.

I have come to accept that I am a person who relies heavily on my brain, who uses reason and logic to solve many of the dilemmas of life.  I have to ask my questions, and express my doubts, and then I can usually find a way to believe.  For me, faith has become an ability to live the questions, to stand in the uncertainty, to hold on to what I know is true, and to focus on what it is I do believe.  It is so much easier to articulate what it is we do not believe – but mature faith asks us to speak about what we do believe.

The dilemma of this text is the resurrection.  That is why we read the story of Thomas with an open heart Like Thomas we wonder: Did Jesus literally become resurrected?  Or did someone move the body, or steal the body, or take the body of Jesus away for a proper burial?  What exactly did the disciples see when they say they saw Jesus after his death? We often get consumed in trying to connect Faith and logic but as we said before not everything will fit into that box and that leads us to doubt. Doubt is not bad in some cases where it moves us to ask good questions but if it paralyzes us with worry and fear it will not strengthen our lives, our faith or our witness………..

After Easter – Part 2

The Return to Daily Life

Text: Luke 24:13-35       The Travelers to Emmaus

The story of the 2 travelers on the road to Emmaus is a wonderful illustration of living our lives inside our day to day circumstances and God finding us in that day to day struggle and opening our spirits to his Word and guidance.

Where Logic and Reason do firmly support our belief in the resurrection it provides us a firm foundation to build on our faith in our lives. From the foundation though we quickly go back out into the world of our day to day lives and we encounter the day to day circumstances that often holds us back and provide the continual flow of urgent happenings in our day to day life.

One of our biggest challenges in life is we think salvation and a relationship with God is a destination – a state in life we will attain to when we are worthy of salvation and a relationship we will share at that point with God one day in Heaven. That may be true but it is NOT what God created us for – the scripture says he created us for his pleasure and his purpose. His pleasure is in a relationship with us where we value him daily and live out his love in our lives to fulfill the purpose he has for each of us. The purpose God has for us is not a destination (although that comes with it ) it is a journey thru this life that he has provided and blessed us with. That life is lived every day and each day we get up and go out about our way and often take on the day by ourselves thinking that God is a final stop for us and not there because the urgent in our daily lives distracts us away from God –  Paul  tells us :

2 Timothy 3:16-17    

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The Bible provides direction, correction, teaching, training – it is a living document and that is what makes it so powerful. It is not a just a history document it has current application and the most powerful attribute is a prophetic guidance into our future. This living power of God’s word assures us that He will not only be with us in our darkest hour but he will search us out to be with us and provide for us through our relationship with him. God seeks a daily relationship with us where we look to him for our day to day guidance and he meets us where we are like the two on the road to Emmaus.

We on our best days are slow to maintain our faith – we read the scriptures for the value we can glean but as Paul said  –

1 Corinthians 13:12     (NLT)

12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

The Spirit will bring us and if we draw to God he will be with us.           VS 25-35

When he finds us along the way he will seek to clarify his path and direction in our lives. He will peak our interest in his Word and path and if we seek him he will become clear to us ( the breaking of bread ) in a very normal place in our lives – if we can find him there we can more easily build on it in the other areas of our lives. 32 – Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us along the way –  Do our hearts burn within us as he talks to us from his Word ? Do we seek his Word in our daily lives ?

After Easter – Part 1

Easter is Over  –  The Return to Good Friday

Easter is over, the Easter Bunny has come and gone with only bits and pieces of the sweets he blessed us with left to finish. Easter baskets have been stored and we have moved on past the resurrection !

Our spiritual joy that we experienced last week in celebrating the resurrection in fellowship and worship with our friends and neighbors has been replaced with our return to the “real world”. We very quickly had to return to our day to day lives and the challenges that we face every day. The struggles of the day bring us to relate better to Good Friday or “Black Friday” than to the Joy of Easter morning. We feel like we are so involved surviving every day that we put Jesus back into the tomb with plans to celebrate him coming out next year. This can be difficult for us but it matches the cycles of our lives between Joy and Struggle. We experience Joy in celebrating our lives through marriages, births, anniversaries and yet these are joined simultaneously with the Struggle of sickness, financial shortfalls and broken relationships. This cycle can often lead us to a cynical view of life that leaves us living in Black Friday with a once a year break at Easter.

This is normal for our human spirits and aligns us to God’s people in the Old Testament. The writer of Hebrews described this in view of the historical perspective of how the recurring mentality of our Joy and Struggle matched our view of forgiveness.

Hebrews 10     (NLT)

Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All

10 The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared.

But instead, those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. That is why, when Christ came into the world

God knew it would be difficult for us to grasp the Truth of the resurrection and the forgiveness offering that was provided once for ALL of our sins and shortcomings. Jesus is not a one time a year priest to offer a sacrafice for our sins. He was the sacrafice that was offered one time for our forgiveness and to set us right with God.

12 But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 13 There he waits until his enemies are humbled and made a footstool under his feet. 14 For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.

Easter is not a one time a year event for Christians. Easter is celebration of Jesus death for our sins and his resurrection by Gods Power to confirm our eternal life. When we gather together any time we represent His living body of the Church. The Church is living proof of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness and Hope of Easter should be present every day on our hearts and our lives.

 

Easter

Well, Easter 2018 has come and gone yet our prayers that the Holy Spirit will continue a work and ministry in our lives continues on. Our time in Lent found us working on isolating, ourselves from some of our day to day distractions to focus on improving our relationship with God.

James 4:8  (NLT)

8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.

We have looked at our perception of where we are today as Christians and our perspective and vision on where God may have us to be tomorrow. The journey into tomorrow is our opportunity for ministry and service to God, others and ourselves.

Easter was a great experience this year coming in early April with many of Gods flowers and trees in bloom it brought forward the message of renewal and resurrection in a wonderful way. The resurrection of Jesus is the cornerstone of our faith and our promise of eternal life provided by God on our acceptance of faith in forgiveness of our sins under the blood of Jesus on the Cross. The resurrection under God’s power escapes our ability to understand and moves us to Faith in His word and Promise through Jesus. Easter brings us to a remembrance of His love for us and the grace of the final sacrifice for sin in His death providing our forgiveness. One of our challenges at Easter is moving forward in the age of Grace under the power of the resurrection and living our daily lives so that the resurrection and the Easter story can be lived lived out in our daily lives. Please join me for the next few weeks as we go on a post resurrection journey from the gospels on Jesus ministry after His death and the message it provides for us to apply in our lives.

Beginnings …..

New Beginnings

Genesis 1    (NLT)       The Account of Creation

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

Revelation 21      (NLT)       The New Jerusalem

21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

From Genesis to Revelation God is all about New Beginnings ….. This is the beginning and start of my blog and communicating the message of Jesus Christ as God has provided it and applied it to my life. Usually a beginning or starting point comes after an ending point of completion or maybe failure?  God is a God of beginnings and never allows an ending without providing a beginning. Our struggle is the narrow scope of our human vision on life. The scope itself is not good or bad it simply defines our limit in seeing and understanding God’s plan. We many times see our failures as final because they will force us into a change and change has a negative connotation in our culture. We like for things to stay the same so we don’t have to expend the energy on change and we are ok if things stay just like they are in our lives. God is a God of increase not decrease and he moves forward by steady and continuous change. God is not bogged by change, failure on our part or any other ending that we might personally wish to see. Thankfully God has a longer term plan and view of things and he will not allow an ending without providing a beginning. We also see our plans and our beginnings from the perspective that each beginning will result in an ending that fulfills those plans.

Proverbs 16:9   (NLT)

9 We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.

John the Baptist knew who Jesus was yet his plan from Matt 11 looks like he planned to be a part of the ministry and his “decrease” would be over time while Jesus “increased”. When John realized he was in deep trouble he sent messengers to Jesus to make sure that Jesus was on the right plan ……. He asked Jesus are the one we were looking for or do we need to look for another one ? Our translation today would be that God is in control as along as He matches our plans. We try to make sure God is on the right track like John but  Gods plan, like for John, is often different but our faith should lead us to understand that God will  always establish a path to a beginning just as certain as he allows an ending.

Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden brought and end to the immortal life of our body but it provided the beginning of a nation of Gods people and also the introduction of forgiveness.

Noah – The people of Noah’s day walked continually contrary to God and he decided to end their existence but his love provided a link forward in human life thru Noah and his family.

Paul’s plan was to persecute Christians and either get them to jail or kill them. While on his way to Damascus God ended that part of his life and opened up a beginning for Paul as God’s evangelist for the Church .

Simon Peter who carried the plans to be Jesus right hand and provided the confession of Faith that the Church still rests on to this day …. “ You are the Christ the Son of the living God.” From here it looks like Peter gets it but then he turns around and following the typical human pattern he tells Jesus the plan to make sure that Jesus is still on track and Jesus has to rebuke him. On the night Jesus was killed Peter confesses his loyalty to Jesus only to deny him 3 times before morning. This seems like a tragic ending of Peter’s ministry in many ways yet God finds Peter on the beach after his resurrection and reassures him that his ministry and the message are yet to come and will be according to Gods plan up even to Peters death. God provided a beginning that launched the NT Church from what appeared to be a disappointing ending. God is a God of New – New Life, New Direction, New Opportunity, New Relationships ……..