Calling all Patriots to Spiritual Vigilance

“Complacency kills”! … Those were the words spoken loudly in my living room four years ago during a men’s Bible study on the book of Revelation.  The brother–in–Christ who said them had served in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Recon Marine on several dangerous covert missions fighting terrorism.  He went on to share that just as complacency can be lethal on the military battlefield, spiritual complacency can be devastating to the Christian disciple intent on daily following in the footsteps of Jesus.

Today we memorialize the sacrifices made by men and women to secure the freedoms we enjoy as citizens of the United States.  It’s also a good day to remember the importance of remaining spiritually vigilant as followers of Jesus.

  • “Be sober–minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

The term “complacent” derives from Latin, meaning “to take the fancy of” … to be pleased with oneself or one’s situation, often without awareness of potential danger or defect.

Jesus wrote a letter to the local church in the ancient city of Sardis (Revelation 3:1–6).  The city itself was a sort of parable used by Him to demonstrate the dire consequences of complacency.  More than 700 years before this letter was written, Sardis was one of the greatest cities in the world, capital of the Lydian empire.  Strategically located on a 1500–foot plateau, it became known for commerce and wealth.  Sardis claimed to have invented the process for dyeing wool, and became the center of that industry.  Legend has it that Midas left gold in the springs of Pactolus, the river that ran through the city.  Sardis was the first to mint gold and silver coins.

Sitting atop protective, precipitous cliffs, “capturing Sardis” became a saying for achieving the impossible.  Yet, on two occasions the city was conquered by stealth, largely because of the complacency of the city guards.

Jesus warns the members of the Sardis church, “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (v. 1).  In other words, their “deeds” consisted solely of their reputation for vitality, but with no evidence to support it.  Like their city, these Christians had grown complacent in their life with Jesus.

To counter their complacency, Jesus employs five imperatives to call them (and us) to spiritual vigilance:

1. “wake up(v. 2) [γρηγορέω] = to give strict attention to; be on the alert; literally, “show yourselves to be watchful.”  This strong phrase echoes similar warnings Jesus gave to His disciples regarding His future return to earth (Mark 13:33–37).

2. “strengthen(v. 2) [στηρίζω] = literally, “stand something on its feet” … to make stable, place firmly, set fast, establish something by making it strong.  One of the best ways to achieve this kind of strengthening is within the context of community.  In fact, spiritual formation … growth in Christ–like character … occurs best within the context of community.  Another member of the same men’s Bible study once shared a proverb he learned in Rwanda while on a short–term missions trip: “If you want to go fast, go alone.  But if you want to go far, go with others.”

3. “remember(v. 3) [μνημονεύω] = constantly bearing in mind … a present tense imperative denoting continual recall … but not merely bringing things to mind, but also putting them into practice.  The apostle Paul similarly charged his young apprentice Timothy:

  • “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:14–15)

4. “keep (v. 3) [τηρέω] = to attend to carefully; to hold fast; to guard.  Written as a present tense imperative, the term is commanding continual action.  This verb means not only to keep or guard, but also to actively obey.

5. “repent (v. 3) [μετανοέω] = to change one’s mind.  This “global aorist” tense covers and summarizes the previous four imperatives.  In reality, when we wake up, strengthen, remember and keep, we will necessarily repent.  Once again, the apostle Paul shows the clear connection between “renewing the mind” and life transformation (Romans 12:2).

Jesus concludes His letter to Sardis with wonderful promises for the spiritually vigilant follower:

  • “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” (v. 5)

The “overcomer” is the person who refuses to rest on past achievements … who eschews complacency … who remains spiritually vigilant … and who refuses to accommodate his lifestyle to the surrounding pagan culture.

On a day when we remember those who sacrificed their lives to secure our nation’s freedoms, let’s also strive to remain spiritually vigilant as we follow the footsteps of the One Who died to secure our eternal freedom … Jesus!

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

Navigating 40 Days of Doubt

This year, more than ever before, I’ve been meditating on the forty days after Jesus’ resurrection.  Focusing on what Jesus DID and what He SAID to His followers during this time period yields significant take–aways for how we follow Jesus twenty centuries later.

In spite of Jesus’ repeated revelations of His resurrected body, His followers persistently doubted and refused to believe (Mark 16:11).  Thomas, known as “the twin,” usually shoulders most of the shame for this community of confusion.

  • “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” John 20:25

But the rest of Jesus’ followers share equally that blame.

  • Luke records that when women returned from the empty tomb with the amazing news that Jesus had risen, the disciples received their report as nonsense and would not believe them.” (Luke 24:11)
  • Jesus Himself called two runaway followers en route to Emmaus, foolish and slow of heart to believe.” (Luke 24:25)
  • When these same two made a quick turn–around trip back to Jerusalem to share how their “hearts were burning within” (Luke 24:32) once they realized that Jesus was alive in their midst, the disciples did not believe them either.” (Mark 16:13)

Probably the most startling example is found within the context of what Christians affectionately call the “Great Commission” in Matthew 28 … “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations …”  The preceding verses reveal the condition of His audience.

  • “But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated.  When they saw Him, they worshiped; but some were doubtful.” (Matthew 28:16–17)

Excuse me?! … are you kidding?! … some of the eleven were doubtful?!

After more than three years of near–daily contact with Jesus, witnessing amazing miracles, hearing prophetic teachings … followed by more than a month of face–to–face encounters with the resurrected Jesus … and they’re wavering in their opinions of Him!  The root word for “doubtful” in the Greek language means “twice,” indicating they were having “second thoughts” about Him.  Incredible! … right? … but don’t we act the same way sometimes?

So far this blog post has been fairly negative … but here’s the Good News …

Doubting didn’t deter Jesus from commissioning!

What makes the “Great Commission” great is not only the One Who does the commissioning, but those who get commissioned … doubters!

Matthew’s Gospel is no isolated text in this matter …

  • Mark records that after Jesus “reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart …” He commissioned them (Mark 16:14–15).
  • Luke reveals the “Great Commission” coming right after Jesus questions His followers, “… why do doubts arise in your hearts?” (Luke 24:38).

The apostle Paul gets it right in Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  And then Jesus proceeds to commission us for His Kingdom purposes … even when we’re confused or doubtful.

Let’s face it … we may be confused about how God works in our world.  We may be hard–hearted toward matters of faith.  At times, we might even feel like following Jesus is “nonsense.”  But our doubts will never deter Jesus from accomplishing His purposes for our lives … IF we let Him.

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

Enjoying a Grace–filled Breakfast @ the Beach

We are now just past the half–way point between Resurrection Sunday and Pentecost … only 14 more days until the Ascension of Jesus.  This 50–day period emerges as a focal point for disciple-building … “equipping & mobilizing men to follow Jesus.”  There’s much to learn from what Jesus said and what He did during this post–Resurrection period with His followers … Clues for how we might follow Him, too.

One of the most popular passages describing words and actions directed toward Peter is found in John 21:15–23.  Thrice–repeated questions of Jesus … “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” … have sparked innumerable interpretations of what Jesus said, how He said it, and how Peter replied.

This post will focus on the larger context of what was going on during that “grace-filled breakfast @ the beach” … specifically, what happens when we follow … or fail … Jesus?

  • The first clue this final chapter in John’s Gospel reveals is that Jesus meets us at our point of greatest need. (John 21:1–3)

Peter declares to some of his friends, “I am going fishing” (v. 3) … of course he is! … and Thomas, Nathanael, the “thunder–brothers” James & John, plus two unnamed disciples immediately join him.  They’re in the right place … angels and Jesus Himself had instructed the disciples to head to Galilee … an action they had delayed.  But now that they are there, and unsure of what to do next, they do what comes naturally … they go fishing.

Even though they had already experienced two personal encounters with the resurrected Jesus (v. 14), it appears like they’re still confused, or sorrowful, or maybe lost in their own unfulfilled expectations of Who Jesus was … or is.  Sound familiar? … even though we have twenty centuries of historical hindsight to draw from, we frequently fall into the same “funk” while following Jesus.

  • This is why the next observation (vv. 4–11) is so important … Jesus sustainsexceeds! … our every need.

Verse 3 records, “… that night they caught nothing” … which reminds us of a similar scene when Jesus first met Peter in Luke 5.  And just like then, Jesus now performs the miraculous.  He prepares a charcoal fire, complete with grilled fish and bread!  He provides a catch of fish exceedingly abundant and beyond capacity … 153 to be exact! … without tearing the fishing nets!

But He is about to perform even deeper miracles beyond the physical … miracles of the heart.

  • The third thing we notice in this miracle–filled story is that Jesus invites us into relationship and fellowship with Him. (vv. 12–14)

“Come, dine!” [KJV] … two short imperatives in Greek … usually translated, “Come and have breakfast” … an invitation, really, into relationship …  “Let’s share a meal together, this morning, here on the beach of the Sea of Galilee, where we’ve invested so many precious times together during the past three years.”  The invitation was a normal, expected element of the First Century hospitality culture; yet Jesus is about to turn this impromptu meal into a platform for so much more!

In verse 10, Jesus had already invited His disciples to “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught” … also an imperative … an opportunity to participate in providing the breakfast entrée.  In Jesus’ native tongue, to “participate” essentially meant to enjoy “fellowship” with one another.  His commanding invitation applies to us as well, living in the 21st Century, to join Him in close community, and to participate in His post–Resurrection life, even during something as basic as an everyday meal.

These first three clues set the stage for the conversation with Peter that follows in vv. 15–22.  It is from this dialogue that we learn two results from meeting Jesus, being sustained by Jesus, and coming into relationship and fellowship with Him.

  • Jesus repeatedly offers to forgive our failed attempts to follow Him. (vv. 15–17)

“Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?”

“Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

“Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

Without diving into the details of specific terms used by Jesus and Peter to describe “love” … ἀγαπάω vs. φιλέω … it’s clear that Jesus is offering His thrice–denying disciple three new opportunities for restoration.

I wonder if Peter recalled an earlier dialogue with Jesus about the nature of forgiveness?

  • “Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’  Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’” (Matthew 18:21–22 … see also Luke 17:4)

The text then states that Peter was “grieved” because Jesus had asked him the same question three times.  The word literally meant “to throw into sorrow” to the point of “making one uneasy.”  It’s used 36 times in the New Testament, always in reference to a heavy emotional response.

Forgiving a person who has wronged us, as well as receiving forgiveness from a person we have wronged, can be equally difficult.  Jesus is teaching with His words, as well as modeling with His actions, the true nature of biblical forgiveness.  It appears from Peter’s last written correspondence that he grasped what Jesus revealed to him.

  • “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.  Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.” (2 Peter 1:2-7)

 

  • A final clue for following Jesus based on the reality of His forgiveness is … Jesus commissions us for future service. (vv. 15–17)

Coupled with Jesus’ three questions are three commands:

“Feed My lambs” … “Shepherd My sheep” … “Feed My sheep”

In the Greek language, all three are present tense, active imperatives … indicating a direct command requiring an ongoing, obedient response.  Peter’s obedience to God’s purposes for his future will be tied to Peter’s acceptance of Jesus’ forgiveness.

Jesus concludes the conversation with His favorite invitation/command … Follow Me!” (v. 19).  And when Peter gets side–tracked by his buddy John’s presence, Jesus repeats and focuses His invitation/command on Peter … You follow Me!”

What, then, can we expect when we follow … or fail … Jesus?

  • Jesus meets us at our point of greatest need.
  • Jesus sustains … exceeds! … our every need.
  • Jesus invites us into relationship and fellowship with Him.
  • Jesus repeatedly offers to forgive our failed attempts to follow Him.
  • Jesus commissions us for future service.

Here are four questions to ponder as 21st Century followers of Jesus:

  1. As I follow in the footsteps of Jesus, what is my current greatest need?
  2. In what areas of my life do I need Jesus to sustain me?
  3. Where do I most need to experience Jesus’ forgiveness?
  4. How might Jesus want to use me in the future?

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

Are you Settling for an “85% Hermeneutic” of Scripture?

A close friend confided a few years back that he applied the “85/15 Rule of Learning” to studying the Bible.  I sat in stunned silence as he described how a person can learn “pretty much everything that needs to be learned” … or 85% … of any subject matter, by using only 15% of one’s mental effort.  When applied to studying Scripture, he didn’t see the point of expending another 85% effort to extract the final 15% that biblical truth may have to offer.

That conversation spurred a wide range of emotions … confusion, frustration, anger, disappointment, disbelief, etc.

I’ve pondered his theory for many hours, plus I’ve prayed long and hard about its implications for Bible study, both individual and corporate. My initial emotions have settled into a stronger conviction …

  • The Bible is worth 100% of our effort to hear, read, study, memorize, meditate, unpack, teach, apply and obey!

“Can I get an Amen”?!

God did not create us and then turn us loose to try and figure out how to live this life on our own.  He carefully prepared an “Operator’s Manual” to show us the way and provide the necessary guidance.  As followers of Jesus we must focus our full attention and effort on His Word.  How can we, or why would we settle for anything less?

For nearly six decades of following Jesus, I’ve been involved with innumerable in-depth Bible studies, including hard-to-decipher books like Daniel, Malachi, Galatians and Revelation.  For example, during a 14-month group study of just the first 11 chapters of Revelation, there were ample illustrations of what can be uncovered in that final 15% of God’s truth.  Prior to this in-depth study, I had never seen the primary emphasis on God’s grace in this final book of the Bible.  His grace far overshadows the “shock & awe” of His judgments yet to come!

During one of the first post–Resurrection encounters that Jesus had with two of His disciples … on the road to Emmaus … Jesus harshly rebuked these two for not believing ALL that the Old Testament scriptures revealed.

  • “He said to them, ‘How foolish and slow you are to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Wasn’t it necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and enter into His glory?’  Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted for them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” Luke 24:25–27

Jesus calls them “foolish” [ἀνόητος] … a very negative term meaning ignorant, unwise, not understanding.  He also calls them “slow” [βραδύς] … translated as dull, inactive, slow to believe.

Cleopas and his colleague were angry, frustrated and confused because their expectations regarding the Messiah had not been met.  Today, as 21st Century followers of Jesus, we continue to create expectations of Jesus based on our needs and desires, instead of on the full revelation of God’s Word.  This is why the apostle Paul stated,

  • “For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose [counsel] of God.” Acts 20:27

To repeat something I wrote in a blog post on March 25th, instead of practicing a weak and shallow Christianity, based on our personal opinions and misconceptions of Who Jesus is … He invites us to “Whole-Bible” Discipleship!

“Christ–like character is not formed from a random collection

of favorite texts and personal experiences;

But by digesting whole books of the Bible;

Allowing the Holy Spirit, Who inspired these books,

to determine our spiritual diet.”

This is also why I urge you, exhort you, encourage you, and strongly recommend that you follow the example of the “noble-minded” Bereans who …

  • “… received the Word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”  (Acts 17:11)

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

Remembering a “Redeemed Obedient Personality”

Four years ago, God called “home” one of my mentors, Dr. Newton Wilson.  Newt hired me to teach at Belhaven College (now Belhaven University) in Jackson, Mississippi back in the summer of 1981.  What an amazing opportunity!  Those five years teaching in the departments of Bible and Christian Ministries remain as a significant and enjoyable block of time in my 45+ years in vocational ministry.

In June of 1986, Newt became president of this historic institution of Christian higher education, which was also his alma mater, and where he had met his lovely bride, Becky.  According to the school’s website … “His nine-year term saw the greatest growth in College history, from just over 600 students to more than 1,100.”

Newt coined the phrase … redeemed obedient personality… to describe what it takes to be an effective witness for Jesus Christ.  Since these three words characterized him as well, it was not surprising to see such growth.  More importantly, the depth of spiritual character in the student body grew dramatically, too.

Most importantly for me personally, Newt became a mentor.  He epitomized all the good of what it means to be a “southern gentlemen” … with an easy–going manner, a disarming sense of humor, a thoughtful and engaging intellect, a generous and warm heart … all capped off by a deep–seated passion to follow Jesus.

The apostle Paul indicated that a primary method for “equipping and mobilizing men to follow Jesus” is through mentoring …

  • “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” ~ 2 Timothy 2:2 (CSB)

What makes for a solid mentor, and what gets produced via solid mentoring are men (& women) with a redeemed obedient personality.”

~ ~ ~

On a lighter note (but just as significant), Newt also taught me how to fish! … Mi’ssi’pi style!

I learned that large–mouth bass, holed up in the shallow ponds and lakes dotting the Mississippi landscape, are not attracted one bit to all the multi–colored lures and plastic worms you throw at ’em … unless … you first light up an extra–long Churchill cigar!

This was all new to a young, conservative Baptist from southern California! … but Newt’s calm and matter–of–fact Presbyterian demeanor convinced me to try.  Very early, one balmy Spring morning, the two of us were floating in a flat–bottomed skiff in the middle of a multi–acre pond out in the country.  There was barely enough light to make out the shoreline.

Eager to wet my line, I hurriedly tied–on a three-inch Rapala “top-water bait” with three grappling hooks attached to the underside.  Newt calmly cautioned me to “slow down a bit” as he reached into his tackle box and fished–out two cigars … each more than half–a–foot long!  Frankly, I had no clue what to do with it! … so he coached me how to remove and dispose of the wrapper … how to “cut, lick & light”  the thing … and most importantly to me … how to avoid inhaling the smoke!  This young Baptist’s lips had never even touched a cigarette!

What happened next still AMAZES me to this day!  With a warm mist rising off the still, smooth pond, and just before sunrise, Newt explained (with his gentle Southern twang):  “Ti’im … the bass won’t bi’ite until the smoke hi’its the pond.  Watch it now!  Let it curl off the end of your ci’igar.  As soon as it kisses the pond, make your first cast.”

Now, I’m thinking (but not saying!) … “Say what?! …really?! … you’ve got to be kidding me!” … but I did as I was told!  We were about 25 yards from the nearest shore, with lots of underbrush and tree branches hanging out over the water.  As soon as the curl of smoke from my cigar made contact with the water, I straightened up my spine, pulled my forearm back, then flicked the top–water bait over my head toward the shore.  I was extremely proud of myself as I watched the lazy arc of that first cast put the bait on target to splash down within a foot of the shore … but that never happened!

Just before my lure hit the water, a huge, large–mouth bass exploded out of the pond and swallowed half of it before crashing back down into the water.  Fortunately, one of the grappling hooks was securely stuck into its lower lip, otherwise I would have lost this 2 lb. (3 lb?) trophy.  So stunned by what just happened, I momentarily forgot to start reeling in the fish … until Newt coached me what to do next.

What a memory! … What a man! … What a mentor!
  As I mentioned earlier, our Heavenly Father called Newt home four years ago … to his gain and our loss … but the legacy of his “redeemed obedient personality”  lives on in the lives of countless men and women influenced by his life.  My “eyeballs keep sweating” as I re–write this tribute originally posted to the OC Bereans blog in April, 2013.

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

P.S. Michael Hyatt, “Your Virtual Mentor,” has written an insightful blog post about the benefits of fishing … “9 Reasons You Need More Fishing in Your Life

50 Days … Following Jesus’ Footsteps Toward Pentecost

We are now only two days removed from Resurrection Sunday … 48 days until the next major Christian holy-day … Pentecost … the “Feast of Weeks” … celebrated 50 days after the Resurrection of Jesus. Originally set aside as a harvest festival (Exodus 23:16), Shavuot, as the Hebrews called it, commemorated the day that God gave the Torah to the people of Israel, indicating that they were now a nation committed to serving Him (Leviticus 23:15–16).

Too often we descend from the high point of celebrating Resurrection Sunday, only to get “tyrannized by the urgent” … that spring-cleaning project at the house or yard … booking vacation plans for the summer, etc.  We ignore the significance of the 50 days between the Resurrection of our Lord and the fulfillment of a promise made by Jesus Himself.

Jesus had repeatedly promised a gift … the Comforter, Helper, Paraclete … literally, “one summoned to come alongside to render aid” (John 14:16–17, 25–26 • 15:26–27 • 16:5–15 • Acts 1:4).  Unfortunately, His early followers seemed to forget this promise.  Or maybe they were too distraught and confused … too slow or dull to believe … that they didn’t recognize their risen Lord, even when He was in their presence (Luke 24:16, 25, 36–37).

What thoughts swirled in the minds and hearts of the men and women who had followed Jesus during the previous 3+ years?  Were they as lost and confused as the two disciples on the road to Emmaus?  [Read about those details in two previous posts, “Pursuing Jesus” and “More Details to a Pursuing Jesus”].  Did it take a personal, tangible encounter with Jesus to open their eyes, minds and hearts to the truth, as in the case of Thomas (John 20:24–29)?

Let’s be honest … we struggle with similar doubts, confusion and disbelief … even though we possess a complete 66-book Bible, and a host of online tools at our fingertips.

During the first 40 days after His resurrection, Jesus met with a lot of people, performed some extraordinary miracles, and taught many transforming truths.  Read through the following post-Resurrection accounts to see for yourself.  As you read, keep asking these two questions:

What did Jesus SAY?       &       What did Jesus DO?

  • Matthew 28:1–20
  • Mark 16:1–20
  • Luke 24:1–53
  • John 20:1–21:25
  • Acts 1:1–2:1
  • 1 Corinthians 15:3–8

Former pastor, professor and prolific author, Eugene Peterson, wrote about what we can learn from Jesus during this 50-day period between Resurrection Sunday and Pentecost:

  • “To follow Jesus implies that we enter into a way of life that is given character and shape and direction by the One who calls us.  To follow Jesus means picking up rhythms and ways of doing things that are often unsaid but always derivative from Jesus, formed by the influence of Jesus.  To follow Jesus means that we can’t separate what Jesus is saying from what Jesus is doing and the way that He is doing it.  To follow Jesus is as much, or maybe even more, about feet as it is about ears and eyes” (The Jesus Way, p. 22).

Do we also need personal, tangible encounters with Jesus to enable and empower us to follow Him?  I believe the answer to that question is a resounding YESThis is why we invest time with Jesus, in His Word, each and every day.  Like the prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah, and the apostle John, we “Eat the Word”!

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

The Tomb is NOT empty … it’s Full of Evidence!

When celebrating Resurrection Sunday during the second half of the First Century, Christians would greet each other with “He is risen”!  The usual reply would be, “He is risen indeed”!  We continue that tradition today … in fact, 2 billion+ believers on our planet will exchange that greeting with each other throughout today … but

  • “What does this really mean”?
  • “What difference will it make in our everyday lives of following Jesus”?

“He is risen” points to the fact that His tomb is, in fact, empty of His body.
  Because He has conquered death and the grave, He lives! … He now sits at the right hand of the Father … and He intercedes on our behalf.

But His empty tomb is, therefore, full of corroborating evidences to this historical fact.  Click on this link for a helpful article published by Koinonia House … Evidence for the Resurrection.

I love the lyrics to the classic hymn, “Hallelujah! What a Savior,” written by Philip P. Bliss in 1875.

Man of Sorrows! what a name

For the Son of God, who came

Ruined sinners to reclaim.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

~~~

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,

In my place condemned He stood;

Sealed my pardon with His blood.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

~~~

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;

Spotless Lamb of God was He;

“Full atonement!” can it be?

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

~~~

Lifted up was He to die;

“It is finished!” was His cry;

Now in Heav’n exalted high.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

~~~

When He comes, our glorious King,

All His ransomed home to bring,

Then anew His song we’ll sing:

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

But what difference will this evidence-filled, empty tomb make in our everyday lives of following Jesus?

Fortunately, the apostle Paul answers this question for us.  In 1 Corinthians 15, he invests 57 verses to strongly define his case for the So what?” of the empty tomb.  I urge you to invest time today reading and contemplating Paul’s conclusions.

Verse 58 begins with the word “therefore” … and we know what that means … stop and ask, “What’s it there for?”  In this verse Paul simply lays out the Now what?” of the Resurrection … his Spirit-directed recommendations for our lives today.

If you want to dig a little deeper, then check out this online article, What Difference Does the Resurrection Make? by Thomas Schreiner, a Pauline scholar from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Three books to take you deeper still are …

  • Risen: 50 Reasons Why the Resurrection Changed Everything, by Steven D. Mathewson
  • Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, by Russ Ramsey
  • Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, by N.T. Wright

*Don’t read the article or any of these books, until you have first read 1 Corinthians 15!

“He is risen indeed”!

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

Resources for Following Jesus during Passion Week

Not long after Jesus fed 5000 men and their families on a hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee, the narrator Luke writes a brief, but powerful statement.

“When the days were approaching for His ascension, Jesus steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51)

Jesus’ ministry in the region of Galilee is quickly drawing to a close, as is His time on earth. He must now return to Jerusalem one final time. He knows the pain, suffering and bloodshed that await Him there, yet He steadfastly set His face … the terminology speaks of determination, resolve and purpose.

Jesus was determined, resolute, purposeful and intentional about His approach to what we now call Passion Week.” Daily following His footsteps in our life of discipleship also requires determined, resolute and purposeful intentionality … particularly during Passion Week … while learning from His words and His actions.

Here are several resources to aid this daily process for this next week. Many of the titles listed below will link directly to the resources.

1 – All four Gospel writers include lengthy accounts of this final week in the human life of Jesus:

  • Matthew writes nearly 8 chapters
  • Mark includes 5.5 chapters
  • Luke records the equivalent of 5 chapters
  • John devotes 8.5 chapters.  Amazingly, John’s Gospel covers only 22 days of Jesus’ 3.5 years of public ministry.  Six of his 21 chapters are devoted to just one week.  One-third of the verses (237 of 878) are sharply focused on the final 24-hours of Jesus’ life.
  • Click on this link for a handout … Passion Week … to immerse yourself in one of these Gospel accounts, seeking to answer the two questions:  What did Jesus SAY?  What did Jesus DO?

2 – It’s not too late to benefit from Biola University’s The Lent Project, which includes devotions for Passion Week, plus nine days after Resurrection Sunday, focusing on the marvelous accounts of Christ’s post-Resurrection appearances.

3 – Trinity Church, in Greenwich, Connecticut, has produced three outstanding 4-minute videos about aspects of Passion Week.

4 – John Piper, founder & teacher of desiringGod, created devotional readings for this week … love-to-the-uttermost.

5 – Logos Bible Software has produced a fascinating interactive video titled “What Was Jesus’ Tomb Really Like?”  *NOTE: This is an ad designed to sell a software package, but there’s enough good info on the page to warrant taking a quick look.

6 – Finally, Passion Week is not without some controversy.  For example, if Jesus was crucified on “Good Friday,” how could He be in the grave “three days and three nights” (Matthew 12:40) and still be resurrected on Easter Sunday?  Bible scholars have debated this question for centuries, falling into three basic camps:

  • Jesus was crucified on Friday.  *Click on any day for a link to a basic explanation of that viewpoint.
  • Jesus was crucified on Thursday.  *Conduct an online search for additional links.
  • Jesus was crucified on Wednesday.  *Click on The-Passover-Feast for an interesting chart supporting this theory.

In summary, whichever day of the week Jesus was crucified is not as important as the fact that He did die on our behalf … and that He physically, bodily rose from the grave on Resurrection Sunday!

Jesus was determined, resolute, purposeful and intentional, when He secured our salvation … but He also knew the glory that awaited Him once His mission was completed.

  • “Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:6–11)

So then, what is our response as followers of Jesus?

  • “… let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

P.S. What “best practices” will you employ this Passion Week to better equip you to follow Jesus? Write about them in the Comments section.

Fulfilling precise prophecies on Palm Sunday

Celebrating Palm Sunday means much more than children’s church parades and waving palm fronds. Let’s remember that this day not only …

… Marks the “Triumphal Entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11  •  Mark 11:1-10  •  Luke 19:28-40  •  John 12:12-19)

… Sets in motion the events of Passion Week”

But this day also …

… Commemorates the precise fulfillment of numerous Old Testament prophecies … even to the specific date on the calendar!

Check out Zechariah 9:9

  • “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!  Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!  Behold, your king is coming to you.  He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

In Daniel 9:21–27, the angel Gabriel delivered a precisely detailed timetable for the future. Based on what he predicted in verses 25–26, we know that the specific date for the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem would be the 10th of Nissan in the year A.D. 32 … exactly 173,880 days from the Decree of Artaxerxes (see Nehemiah 2:1)!

We are loved by … and we serve … an AMAZING God! … Who has delivered to us an “integrated message system from outside our time and space domain” … revealing His character, His will, and even His calendar!  Click on the link that follows for an insightful article by Chuck Missler titled “Palm Sunday Surprise.”

“Hosanna to the son of David.  Blessed is the King Who comes in the name of the Lord. 

Hosanna in the highest!  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

Remembering who we are & Whose we are

Ask any of our three grown children about my favorite goodbye phrase … the one I’ve signed off with since they were young children. They will reply: “Remember who you are & Whose you are!”

Sound advice for all of us as we face a multitude of uncertainties in this unpredictable world where we live. The Bible says a lot about both imperatives … which in turn speaks to being equipped and mobilized to follow Jesus.

The apostle Paul wrote about who we arein his letter to 1st Century Christians in Ephesians 1:3–14. Among the many blessings and attributes listed below, take several minutes to ponder the ones underlined:

 

  • “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 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. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”

Notice, also, the causal reality behind these blessings and attributes … the Triune God … God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. In other words, God defines our identity … not our parents, not our geography, not our income, not the culture, nor anything or anyone else … God alone determines “who we are”!

Regarding Whose we arePaul again makes it clear and succinct in 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 … notice the context in the preceding verses, beginning with verse 11.

  • “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”

I professed faith in Jesus as a young boy of eight-years-old, and then proceeded to live a “comfortable” Christian lifestyle through high school … active in church groups, assuming roles of leadership, and learning a lot about God’s Word … thanks largely to a strong Christian family environment. It wasn’t until my freshman year of college that God used circumstances and experiences to confront me with the reality that He owned me and my future. He had purchased me with the blood of His Son, yet I had been thinking and acting like I had control of my life.

“Remember who you are & Whose you are!” … tape it to your bathroom mirror, on your vehicle’s dashboard, at the top of your computer screen, or someplace where you’ll look at it often.

As men seeking to daily follow in the footsteps of Jesus, let’s draw our identity and our purpose from Him!

How about you? Leave a comment expressing ways that knowing “who you are & Whose you are” have impacted, or will change your daily experience.

Peace & Joy!

~ tr