Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Triumphal Entry (Pt 2)

John 1:11 (ESV)
[11] He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

Why would Jesus’ own people reject him? They had seen his miracles. They had heard his teaching. They had heard that he raised Lazarus from the dead. In fact John 12:18 says that at the time of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, “The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign,” (i.e. raising Lazarus).  When Jesus rode into Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowd, the chief priests and scribes began to plot his death (see Lk 19:47). They knew his power. They knew his message. They knew his claims, yet they rejected him.

The Pharisees and lawyers (scribes) rejected God’s purpose for themselves because of previous choices they had made. Luke 7.30 says, “the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by [John].” Their early decision to reject John led them to reject Jesus as well.  The choices we make start us down a road that we did not necessarily intend to walk, but the longer we walk it the more convinced we are that we cannot change paths. Our previous choices begin to define us.

The good news is that it is never to late to change paths. Not all the Pharisees rejected Jesus. Nicodemus came to Jesus in John 3. Saul was a trained Pharisee (see Ph’p 3:5) who passionately persecuted the church, yet his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus transformed him. He abandoned the path he was walking and became Paul the Apostle. It is never too late to change paths. Our previous choices do not have to define us.

Neither our passions nor our previous choices and decisions need define who we are. The King who raised Lazarus from the dead, the King who rode triumphantly into Jerusalem to die in order to conquer death through his own resurrection, that King can transform minds, hearts, and lives. It is never too late to switch paths.

A simple expression of faith starts the journey down a whole new road for our lives. “Father God, I know that I do not deserve your forgiveness. I realize that there is nothing I can do to endear myself to you or earn your favor. But I believe that Jesus took all my pain, all my baggage, all my brokenness, all my sin to the cross. I believe that he rose from the dead in victory over sin. I believe that you will accept me because of Jesus. I believe.” It is not the words that save us. There is nothing magical about that prayer. It is simple faith that God will accept you because of Jesus that puts you on a new path. If you are a believer, celebrate God’s victory today. If you are not a believer, trust him today. It is never too late to change paths.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Triumphal Entry (Pt 1)

Mark 11:7-9 (ESV)
[7] And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. [8] And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. [9] And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Each of the gospels records the event we call Palm Sunday. We call it the Triumphal Entry. We often remember the day with palm branches and celebration. It is the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem while the crowds lay cloaks and palm branches on the ground before him and shouted praises. But it was hardly a triumph. The Pharisees rebuked Jesus for letting his disciples act in such a manner (Lk 19:39). The city of Jerusalem “was stirred up, saying, ‘Who is this?’” (Mat 21:10). Following his “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem Jesus cleansed the temple of the money-changers and taught the people. The chief priests and the scribes responded by “seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching” (Mk 11:18).

The Triumphal Entry looked like the coming of a king, and so it was. But it was not a king coming to reign. It was a king coming to be rejected. Jesus had been ministering in the north around Galilee. This return to Jerusalem precipitated his crucifixion. The king had come, but the king had come to die. He was unrecognized by the people of his capital city. He was rejected by his religious leaders. Of course what they did not realize, what the Enemy did not see coming, was that it truly was a triumphal entry. Coming to his death, Jesus knew that his death was the very thing that would establish his kingdom. Thus, when the chief priests told him to rebuke his disciples, “He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out’” (Lk 19:40).

Jesus had come in triumph, but those for whom he came rejected him. “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (Jn 1:11). The Good News is that, “to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Today we have three options before us. We can join the complacent crowds who say, “Who is this?” We can join the chief priests and scribes in opposing him. Or we can join his disciples and believe. The king came. The king was rejected and killed. The king rose from the dead. The king was and is triumphant. The king will come again, and when he comes no one will be saying, “Who is this?”

Revelation 1:5b-7 (ESV)
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood [6] and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. [7] Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
Jesus disciples worshiped while the city wondered who Jesus was. When he returns his disciples will celebrate while the world who rejected him will weep for they will realize that Jesus truly is King. You can believe today, or you can believe with regret when he comes back, but either way Jesus is King.

Friday, March 27, 2020

1 Corinthians 15:58

1 Corinthians 15:58 (ESV)
[58] Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
I have been reflecting on 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 this week. Some refer to it as the resurrection chapter. I challenges believers to reexamine their own beliefs and actions in light of Jesus’ resurrection. The sting of death is gone. Death cannot hold us. There will be a day when we will be raised. There will be a day when, whether we are dead or alive, we will be changed. These perishable bodies will be transformed into imperishable, heavenly stuff that is no longer subject to the curse. But how should that truth change us? How should we live differently because of it?

In light of the resurrection, verse 58 uses two words and a phrase to explain how we should live. Notice that it does not say we should live recklessly. It does not say that this earth does not matter. It says first that we, as believers in Jesus Christ, should be steadfast. It is a word that indicates someone seated firmly in a chair. One source says it like this, “not given to fluctuation or ‘moving off course.’”[1] As believers the truth and imminence of the resurrection should keep us focused on eternity. The question that drives us should not be whether we have completed our “Bucket List,” but whether we have been true to God’s calling on our lives. Have we lived “with eternity’s values in view?”[2]

The second word used to describe how the resurrection should affect us is immovable. It means to be unmoved or firmly persistent. Fear too often drives us. With anxiety we lose our ability to think clearly and make good decisions. The result is the we are open to all sorts of flaky beliefs and ideas. It is in the peace that comes with an assurance of the resurrection that we are able to discern well and listen to the leading of the Spirit. The Corinthians, in their grief, had moved away from a sound understanding of the resurrection. This chapter calls them back to truth, faith, and peace.

With a final phrase believers are called to be, “always abounding in the work of the Lord.” The resurrection does not lead believers to hide away and hope for Jesus to come back. The resurrection leads us to serve. It calls us to super-abound in the work of the Lord. Why? Because with the resurrection comes reward. “Your labor is not in vain.” Setting aside our own will in order to serve others is the heart of God. Stepping into dangerous or vulnerable situations in order to serve or protect others is what resurrection minded people are willing to do. Giving up my peace and prosperity for the sake of those less fortunate honors our Creator. It will not be forgotten.

If, in this life only we have hope, then we might as well party, chase after our Bucket List, and get everything out of life we can, because this is all there is. If, on the other hand, the resurrection is certain because we serve a risen Lord, then let us serve. Let us super-abound in the work of the Lord. Here and now is not all there is. Praise God!

[1] Copyright © 1987, 2011 by Helps Ministries, Inc.
[2] From a chorus penned by Alfred B. Smith, who was born on this day (March 27) in 1916.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

1 Corinthians 15:56-57

1 Corinthians 15:56-57 (ESV)
[56] The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. [57] But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Over the past few days it seems that every one of my blogs have been about death, but they were not really about death. They were about victory and life. The resurrection of Jesus robbed death of its sting. The verses above go on to explain that more fully. “The sting of death is sin” (1 Cor 15:56a). It is sin that holds the world captive. It is sin that brought about death. It is sin that causes hopelessness in the face of death. Death is an enemy to be destroyed, but it is not the real enemy. Sin is the enemy. But what is sin?

“The power of sin is the law” (1 Cor 15:56b). We tend to think of sin as breaking God’s laws. God put the boundaries of the law in place and we view breaking those boundaries as sin. But that’s not quite accurate. The boundaries of the law were not put in place to find us guilty. They were put in place to reveal our sin. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The word for sin used in this verse is an archery term that means we have missed the mark. But what is the mark? It is the glory of God. God’s glory is the visible expression of his nature, character, and purpose. It is the outward expression of his greatness. The definition for sin, then, is not breaking God’s law. It is anything contrary to the nature, character, and purpose of God.

Adam’s act of rebellion in the Garden of Eden moved all mankind outside the nature, character, and purpose of God. The purpose of the law was to reveal that to us. Galatians 3 argues that the law of God was temporary. “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith” (Gal 3:24). It is in the death and resurrection of Christ that the power of sin was broken. The law was inadequate to break the power of sin. It could reveal it, but it could not deal with it. The resurrection releases us from the power of sin.

Galatians 2:20 says,
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Romans 6:4 explains that.
[4] We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Because of the resurrection, those who have put their faith in Christ have come to possess the very life of Christ. We no longer live by law, but “by faith in the Son of God” (Gal 2:20). By trusting Christ we were placed into his death and resurrection. We have been raised with him to a new life. The power of sin has been broken. The victory is found in Christ. That victory is available to anyone who will put their faith in Christ.

This is significant because it means that as believers in Jesus Christ, we do not just wait for our future resurrection. It means that we live each day in the power of the resurrection. Salvation is not just about forgiveness of sins and a promise of a future life. Salvation is also about a present power to live out the nature, character, and purpose of God in this life here and now. Eternal life begins the moment we put our faith in Christ. Victory is found in him. “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:57). These blogs are not about death. They are about life. May you find life in Christ.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

1 Corinthians 15:53-55

1 Corinthians 15:53-55 (ESV)
[53] For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. [54] When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
[55] “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

People were never intended to experience death. Death was the result of Adam’s sin. We were designed to live and rule. That is what makes death so painful. It is unnatural. It is against our nature. Added to that is the social aspect of our nature. We were created for community. Death robs us of those to whom we are closest. It is painful and unnerving, and it shakes our world. Death is not a good thing and never has been.

Evidence of that truth is all around us. People facing death do everything they can to hang on to life. They fear death. Those who choose to die or attempt to die often speak of their life as a living death or a living hell from which they want to escape. Biblically, death was the consequence of eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God warned Adam, “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen 2:17). Death is the consequence of that action.

The good news is that while death itself has not yet been done away with, for the believer in Jesus Christ the sting of death has been taken away. Death is still painful. Believers still grieve. But we do not grieve with the same sense of hopelessness as those who have no hope. Speaking of the coming of our Lord and the resurrection of believers, 1 Thessalonians 4:13 says, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” He does not say that we do not grieve, but that our grief is not the same as those who have no hope.

Their grief is a grief if finality. Ours is a grief of hope and expectation. We don’t like to be apart from those we love. I remember the first time I went to camp as a young boy. I enjoyed the week, but the last day as we were anticipating our parents return I was suddenly struck with the fear, “What if I don’t remember what my Mom looks like?” That reunion was important. It gave safety to being apart. The fear of not being able to reconnect was what caused fear. Thankfully, I further reasoned that even if I didn’t remember what she looked like, she would remember me. That gave me peace, and there was an overwhelming sense of relief when I saw Mom and remembered her.

It is the finality of loss that is unbearably painful. But in Christ we have hope. That is why believers through the ages have been willing to place themselves in jeopardy for the sake of others. It is why believers value life. It is why we can experience peace in the midst of an anxious society. One day our perishable will put on the imperishable, our mortal will put on immortality, and death will be swallowed up in victory. Death is not the end for those who have trusted Christ. Don’t keep this Good News to yourself.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

1 Corinthians 15:51-52

1 Corinthians 15:51-52 (ESV)
[51] Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, [52] in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

The Corinthian believers had come to believe that death was so significant that it robbed their brothers and sisters of the kingdom after they died. Paul told them they were mistaken. The dead will be raised just as Jesus was raised. Now, lest they go out of balance the other direction in their theology, he reminds them that the Kingdom of God is not primarily in this world. Whether they live or die, they will be changed.

Just as there was a day in space and time when the Son of God became man, so there will be a day in space and time when the Son returns and calls us all up. “The dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor 15:52). What we do on this earth is important. We were created to be caretakers of creation and commissioned with the Good News of salvation. We will answer to God for whether we were good stewards of both, but there is more. The kingdom is more, as Paul wrote in the previous verse, because “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Cor 15:50).

The point of these verses is that death is, in fact, not all that significant. It separates us here on earth for a time. But it changes nothing about our future hope. My wife was gone for a couple weeks recently. In 46 years of marriage we have probably never been apart for more than two or three weeks at time. Death certainly changes that. In death there are no phone calls, no chats, no emojis to say, “I love you,” or “I understand.” But just the same, death is temporary. In the end the real issue is not whether someone died, but whether someone had faith in God to save them because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As believers our hope of eternal life is greater than the power of death. “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” (1 Cor 15:51). “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor 15:26). But even before death is destroyed, its power and its sting has already been removed. Back in the 70s, Larry Norman sang of the resurrection of Jesus, “You can’t keep a good man down.” Jesus is far more than a good man. He is God, and his resurrection promises the hope of eternal life for all who believe. Death cannot stop that promise. Its power and its sting are gone. Live with that hope in mind.

Monday, March 23, 2020

1 Corinthians 15:50

1 Corinthians 15:50 (ESV)

If we have bodies in Heaven, why does Paul make such a point of flesh and blood not inheriting the Kingdom of God? The answer lies in the fact that the Corinthian believers had begun to believe that there was only hope in Christ as long as they lived. They knew Jesus was coming back to establish his kingdom, but they were still thinking from an earthly perspective. If you died, you wouldn’t see the kingdom. Paul tells them that just the opposite is true. The cannot see the kingdom unless they die.

There is a caveat to that later in the chapter when he tells them that they either need to die, or be changed at Jesus’ coming. But either way, they do not enter into the kingdom with this perishable body. Their perspective was far to narrow. They were looking for the kingdom, but they were thinking that it was an earthly kingdom. There is a now and not yet aspect to the kingdom. The kingdom is here now among those who are believers, yet the kingdom will only be completely fulfilled in the New Heavens and New Earth after Jesus returns. Still, at least they were looking for his return.

For many today, I fear that we talk about eternity, we hold to the promise of Heaven, but we live as though this life is more important. We live in the fear of death and the process of dying. We try not to think about it, but aging comes knocking at the door before we realize it. We live in the fear of losing control of our bodies and minds as we get older. We fear loss of mobility. So here we are facing a pandemic that has many of us stuck at home. We have lost our freedom of movement for fear of getting or passing a potentially deadly virus. We face loss or we face illness and possible death. How are we going to respond?

Are we going to maintain the earthly perspective that leads to anxiety and fear, or trust that even this is simply a part of that process of dying which precedes something better? Martin Luther, in a letter to John Hess regarding the Bubonic Plague, wrote that it is appropriate to “seek to preserve life and avoid death [if] this can be done without harm to our neighbor.” But he went on to warn, “A man who will not help or support others unless he can do so without affecting his safety or his property will never help his neighbor.” Then, referring to several passages including 1 John 3:15-17, Luther harshly warns, “Anyone who does not do that for his neighbor, but forsakes him and leaves him to his misfortune, becomes a murderer in the sight of God.”

Those are harsh words. He was reminding Hess and others that this life is not all there is. We must live in light of the imminent return of Christ. My Grandmother believed that Jesus would return in her lifetime. That didn’t happen, but she was right to live as though it might. When our hopes and dreams are in this life we have become idolaters. When our hopes and dreams are in the Kingdom of God we are willing to set aside our own will and even safety when necessary, to serve in the name of Christ.

Let us be prudent, but may fear never keep us from service. Let us serve in a way that honors and protects those we serve. For us, as believers in Jesus Christ, there is something more permanent than the here and now. Protect yourself if you can. Protect others. Trust God and serve, for “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Cor 15:50). We have a hope that goes beyond this life.

Friday, March 20, 2020

1 Corinthians 15:45-47

1 Corinthians 15:45-47 (ESV)
[45] Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. [46] But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. [47] The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.

When Paul writes “The first man Adam became a living being,” he is quoting from Genesis 2:7. God formed man from dust and breathed into him the breath (spirit) of life and man became a living being (soul). The contrast in the verses above is between soul and spirit. In Adam we became a living soul. In Christ we become a life-giving spirit. “Life-giving” is the same word used several times earlier in this chapter. For example, in 1 Corinthians 15:22 “In Christ shall all be made alive.” The words “made alive” are the same word translated “life-giving” in verse 47.

Notice the three contrasts in these verses above. First is the contrast between Adam and Christ. That contrast runs through this whole chapter. We are talking about our source of life. Adam received life from God in Genesis 2, but there is a sense in which we receive our life from fallen Adam. “In Adam all die” (1 Cor 15:22). In contrast, as believers our life is sourced in Christ who shall never die since he conquered death in the resurrection.

Second is the contrast between soul and spirit. We could spend a lot of time debating the differences. Mankind has both a soul and a spirit. It is significant in the creation account of Genesis 2 that God breaths the spirit of life into man and he becomes not just a soul, but a living soul. It was after Adam’s sin at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that death entered into the process. We are living, but it is a life that is dying. In contrast, the life we receive in Christ is a life of the spirit. It is the same word used by Jesus in John 3 when he was talking to Nicodemus. He said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (Jn 3:6). That is exactly what Paul is talking about here in 1 Corinthians 15.

Third is the contrast between living and life giving. As natural humans beings we are living. Paul wrote earlier that even as we are living however, we are in the process of dying. But in Christ we are not only living, we are life-giving. We have the privilege of truly living no matter what this world throws at us. Whether we are believers in a land where we face death because of our faith, or in a world where we face the imminent threat of a pandemic, we still live. Our life goes beyond the grave, but more than that. In this life we have the gift of life to offer others. We have the Good News of life for a dying world. “We are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Cor 2:15). In these days of fear and anxiety may we, as believers who possess in Christ a life-giving spirit, truly be the fragrance of life to a broken and dying world.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

1 Corinthians 15:42-44

1 Corinthians 15:42-44 (ESV)
[42] So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. [43] It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. [44] It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

In my previous blog I indicated that 1 Corinthians 15 teaches that in Heaven believers will have heavenly bodies that will far surpass that of their earthly bodies. The verses above build on that thought. In what way do they surpass their earthly bodies? These verses list four contrasts. First, our earthly bodies are perishable. In fact, verse 22 indicates that we are all, as descendants of Adam, in the process of dying. We fear the Corona virus Covid-19. But let’s be honest; if the virus doesn’t get us, something else will. According to webmd.com “The CDC estimates that as many as 56,000 people die from the flu or flu-like illness each year.” The World Health Organization estimates that over 157,000 people die every day in the world; over 157,000 a day. We all die sometime. It is inevitable. Our bodies are perishing. But our heavenly bodies will be imperishable. The death process will never touch us.

Second, dishonor and glory are contrasted. Other passages translate this word vile or shameful. It is a word used to describe a deteriorating, dead body. When we look at each other we don’t necessarily see dishonor. We see health and beauty, at least in some of us. But the truth is that compared to our heavenly bodies, our earthly bodies are pretty despicable. We will be so much more. We will have bodies of glory. That word refers to honor, renown, and splendor. It is the word used for the brilliant light that expresses the greatness of God. Compared to the body believers will have in heaven, this earthly body is much like the deer carcass on the side of the road.

Third, our earthly bodies are weak while our heavenly bodies will have power. As we age, we tend to lose muscle mass, height, stamina, and more. The process of death makes us weaker and weaker. But the heavenly bodies Christ followers receive are characterized by power, not weakness, by health not death, by strength not feebleness and frailty.

Fourth, our earthly bodies are natural while our heavenly bodies are spiritual. I will likely write more about this in a following blog as the following verses build on this thought. Suffice it to say that our earthly bodies are made of dust (see verse 47 and Genesis 2:7). Our heavenly bodies will be made of heavenly stuff (see verses 47-48).

As I write this we are all exercising social distancing for fear of contracting or passing on Covid-19. And that is wise, but the truth is, one day we will all die. Believers in Jesus Christ have imperishable, glorious, powerful, heavenly bodies to look forward to. Let me challenge you, if you have not put your faith in Jesus Christ as your personal savior, please do so today. Call someone you know is a believer and ask them to help you understand what that means. If you have trusted Christ, be safe, but don’t let fear control you. We have so much to look forward to.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

1 Corinthians 15:39-40

1 Corinthians 15:39-40 (ESV)
[39] For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. [40] There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another.

I have had fellow Christ followers get upset with me when I talked about heaven as a physical place, a new heaven and new earth (see Revelation 21) in which we would have a body. To them Heaven is a spiritual place not a physical place. They would even point to this chapter in First Corinthians as proof. “See,” they would say, “there are earthly bodies and heavenly bodies. Verse 44 even calls them ‘spiritual bodies.’ Heaven is a spiritual place.” But the emphasis on the spiritual is more Greek philosophy than biblical theology. Notice two things about verses 40-44. First, they refer to bodies not spirits. Second, when verse 44 speaks of spiritual bodies it does so in contrast to natural bodies, not physical bodies.

From these verses in the middle of First Corinthians 15 let me suggest three thoughts about our heavenly state. First, Paul’s argument starts with the fact that there are different kinds of bodies. He compares humans, animals, birds, and fish. They all have bodies, but they are not the same. Still, they are bodies. Our heavenly bodies might take a different form, but we were not designed to be bodiless spirits. God is a spirit, but humans have a physical component to them.

Second, the glory of our heavenly body will far surpass that of our earthly body. I referred to C.S. Lewis in an earlier blog when he indicated that if we would meet our heavenly selves we would be tempted to fall down and worship. I think he is right. We cannot fully comprehend what our heavenly bodies will look like. To use Paul’s metaphor from First Corinthians 15, our heavenly bodies will surpass our earthly bodies similar to the way a grain of wheat is surpassed by a stalk of wheat or a kernel of corn surpassed by a stalk of corn. There is a connection, but the latter is far superior to the former. So it is with our heavenly bodies.

Third, our heavenly body will be like that of Jesus. As eternal God, the Son is a spirit, but at a point in time the Son took on flesh and became human as well as deity. He is fully God and fully Man. That’s a mystery we have a hard time wrapping our head around, but we believe it to be true. Theologically we call that the hypostatic union. The Athanasian Creed says it like this, Jesus is “existing fully as God, and fully as man with a rational soul and a human body.”[1] Once Jesus took on the form of humanity he never stopped being human though he has always been God. For eternity forward Jesus has a body. The disciples saw it and touched it in the upper room after the resurrection. Mary clung to it near the tomb after the resurrection. His was a resurrected body, but a body. Like Jesus, we too shall have resurrected bodies.

This brings hope for those who are Christ followers. This life is not all there is. Too often we fear that we must do everything and experience everything in this life or we will miss out. But such is not the case. We have eternity to experience more than we can ever imagine in a world without loss, pain, or death. At a time of fear, when the world is locked down by a virus, Christ followers have this hope that these bodies are not the end. They are just the kernel that leads to something much better, much greater, much more glorious. We live not just in the now, but for eternity. Therein lies our hope.

[1] https://christianity.fandom.com/wiki/Athanasian_Creed_(text), accessed March 18, 2020.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

1 Corinthians 15:35-36

1 Corinthians 15:35-36 (ESV)
[35] But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” [36] You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.

We are in the midst of an international crisis, a pandemic. It has filled many with fear and has raised anxiety around the globe. One little virus has crashed the stock market and brought much of the world to a standstill. It has spread quickly largely because the world has become so interconnected and mobile. It has spread unreasonable panic because we live in an age of unprecedented connectedness and communication. So, what does that have to do with the verses quoted above?

1 Corinthians 15 is a chapter on the resurrection of both Jesus and his followers. A naturalist will argue that there is nothing after death. That leads many to an unhealthy panic. In the face of something like a pandemic they are filled with fear and reflect on all their hopes and dreams that seem to have vanished. A mystic, on the other hand, sees their hope in a mystical union with he spirit world or with some universal spirit or energy. But Christianity sees hope beyond this life in a physical resurrection.

Belief in the resurrection does several things for the believer. First, we lose that fear of “what if.” What if I don’t get to do . . .?  What if I don’t get to go . . . or see . . . ? We understand that life is more than just here and now. There is so much more beyond this life that the “what ifs” lose their power.

Second, we believe that when we die we do not lose our identity. We do not simply merge with a universal energy. We are not disembodied spirits looking for a home. We do not cease to exist becoming part of a black nothingness. Abraham continued to be Abraham after he died. Elijah continued to be Elijah. Moses continued to be Moses. Jesus continues to be Jesus. You continue to be you.  

Third, you enter into the fullness of what you were created to be. Redemption is just that. It is redemption. Romans 8 teaches us that all creation is groaning as it waits for the redemption. This earth will be burned up and be recreated. Revelation 21 starts out, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1). At the center of that new creation is a city from which the glory of God shines. “By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it” (Rev 21:24). In the resurrection we will find purpose as we care for God’s new creation for his glory.

Fourth, our new bodies will be so superior to our old one that C.S. Lewis indicated if we would encounter our future self we would be tempted to bow in worship. Jesus transfiguration described in Matthew 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9 reveals Jesus transfigured and talking with Moses and Elijah. Their presence was so impressive that Peter thought it only appropriate to build three tabernacles for them. Jesus resurrection body was identifiable to the Apostles and yet it does not seem to have been bound by the same restrictions as our earthly bodies. In John 20 the disciples were hiding in a locked room when suddenly Jesus was there and yet his body was one that could eat, speak, and be touched. We do not know exactly what our resurrection bodies will be like, but they will be spectacular.

The pandemic called Covid-19 has thrown the world into a panic. Let me encourage you, if you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, to consider him. Reach out to someone you know is a believer and ask them to share their hope and their faith with you. Trust Jesus. For those of us who are believers, do not give in to the fear. We need to take rational precautions. But we must not allow fear to keep us from ministering to others. Neither should it fill us with the panic of the world. If we do catch the virus our future is in God’s hands. If we live through it, we live for a purpose. If we do not live through it, we die with hope. That is the power of the resurrection. Because of our hope in a resurrected Lord, let me leave you with his words found in John 14:27,
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Job 42 (Pt 2) The final post on the book of Job

Job 42:7 (ESV)
After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.

I find it fascinating that God did not say to Eliphaz, “you have not spoken of Job what is right.” He said, “You have not spoken of me (God) what is right, as my servant Job has.” God is here affirming Job’s innocence. Throughout the book, Job asserted his innocence. In this last chapter one might question whether Job’s estimation of himself was correct. His response to God was, “I despise myself and repent” (Job 42:6). Yet here God says Job was innocent. Job spoke what was right concerning God. Given Job’s innocence, it would have made sense for God to say to Eliphaz, “You have not spoken of Job what is right.” Reading back through Job, their theology seems fairly accurate. It was the application concerning Job where Eliphaz and his friends were off. Yet God says that they have not spoken what is right about God. Why does he say that?

Jesus said that in the final judgment “the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’” (Matthew 25:40). Have we considered that what we say to others and about others, we are saying to God and about God? Could that really be true? What we do to the least in society we do to God? Really!? How often, then, have we ignored God? How often have we spoken disparagingly about God? How often have we been rude to God? How often have we dismissed God out of hand? What Job’s friends said about him, they were saying about God. How we treat others cannot be divorced from how we treat God.

Too often we love God; we worship God; we would never speak disparagingly about God, yet we turn around and mistreat, or ignore others, and speak disapprovingly and unsympathetically toward them or about them. How is that possible that our lives can be so compartmentalized that we can love God and hate others at the same time? Yes, I know . . . hate is a strong word and we would never hate another person. So, we must be okay, right? But the Apostle John wrote these words,

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother (1 John 4:20 ESV).

God doesn’t just require that we not hate our brothers. He requires that we love them. We cannot separate loving God from loving others. Life just doesn’t work that way. Job’s friends found out that if you disparage and disrespect others, you disparage and disrespect God himself.

Father, today may I see Jesus in every person. May my words, thoughts, and actions reflect love for you that overflows into love for them. Lord, I can’t do that by myself. I’m not resolving to live in such a manner, I am pleading. Only by your grace can that happen. Fill my vision and let me see only you.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Job 42 (Pt 1)

Job 42:10-11 (ESV)
And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold.

Job 42 is a short chapter, but it raises so many questions. Why did God mention Job’s three friends, but not Elihu? Why did Job’s family not come to him with gifts and help earlier when things first fell apart, instead of waiting until after the fact? Are Job’s children supposed to be replacements for those he lost? That seems to be a harsh thought. No child can replace a child who has died. I don’t believe they are replacements. Rather, they are further blessings. Verse 10 says that God restored Job’s fortunes, but then verse twelve says that God blessed Job’s latter days more than his beginning. He children are not replacements. They are simply blessings.

This chapter raises a number of questions, but gives few answers. But, there is one interesting statement that takes further consideration. Verse 10 says that “the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends.” Job’s fortunes weren’t restored first, and then he prayed for his friends. He prayed for his friends, and then his fortunes were restored. Three thoughts occur to me as I consider this verse. First, this was an act of faith on Job’s part. It would have been much easier for Job if his fortunes had been restored first, and then he was asked to pray for his friends. We often think that we need to have everything together in our lives before we can minister to others. But ministry is ultimately an act of faith. It is trusting that God can use a broken pot to deliver water to a thirsty soul. It is trusting that ultimately the ministry is about God, not about us. It is trusting that I don’t have to have it all together in order to minister to others.

I think that sometimes we expect or assume that pastors are able to minister to others because they have all the answers, and they have their life all together. Things could not be further from the truth. Pastors are just people. They have their struggles. They get weary and frustrated. They are far from perfect. We must not expect that pastors and those in ministry somehow live on a different level of spirituality that is unattainable to the ordinary person. Neither must we fall for the lie that until we attain that level, we are not really worthy or able to minister. God uses broken vessels. Ministry is always an act of faith.

The second thought that occurs to me as I consider verse 10 is that this was an act of humility and repentance on his friends’ part. In verses 7-9 God spoke to Job’s friends and told them to take an offering to Job and ask him to pray for them. Job didn’t initiate this prayer. Eliphaz and company initiated. They had to come to Job with gifts in hand. They had to come to the one they had just been trying to convince of sin in his life. They had to lay aside their own ego, and their own need to be right in order to humbly ask this “sinner” to pray for them. That is not easy to do, but they did it. How often has our own pride kept us from restoring relationships, admitting wrong, and finding God’s blessing. What an incredible experience to have Job’s self-righteous friends come, gift in hand, and ask him to pray for them. How much healing could occur in relationships if we would lay aside our pride and ask those we have offended to pray for us.

That brings me to the third thought, which is that this was an act of love and forgiveness on Job’s part. Job could have been easily offended. He could have decided that he never wanted anything to do with his friends after how they had treated him. They had assumed the worst of him without evidence. They had pushed, prodded, and insisted that there was sin in his life. Who wants to hang out with friends like that? Yet Job was quick to pray for them, even before his own fortunes had been restored. In our own brokenness, we can often see the brokenness of others better. Job was willing to offer to his friends the grace and acceptance that they had failed to offer him. But that is where restoration begins; not with responding in kind, but with responding in grace.

We can’t always expect the story of our life to end like Job’s. Not all of us will become wealthy. Not all of us will live a long and full life after tragedy. That may be the experience of some, but that is hardly the point of Job. At its heart, Job is about God, and it is about humility. Eliza Hewitt’s words come to mind in her 1887 hymn, More About Jesus. It must be more about him, and less about me. That is the lesson Job and his friends had to learn. It is a lesson that is essential for each of us to learn. May the first verse of this hymn become our prayer:
More about Jesus would I know,
More of His grace to others show;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love Who died for me.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Job 40-41

Job 40:1-2 (ESV)
And the LORD said to Job:
“Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
He who argues with God, let him answer it.”

The word translated “faultfinder” means to complain or argue with another. The word translated “argues” means to judge or argue a case in court. The NIV reads, “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” Job’s friends, including Elihu, insisted that some hidden sin was at the root of Job’s troubles. God never accuses Job of sin. He does accuse him of complaining against God and accusing God of wrongdoing.

Job 40:6-8 (NIV)
Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm:
“Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
“Would you discredit my justice?
Would you condemn me to justify yourself?

There was no sin in Job’s life at the root of his troubles, but his response to his pain was less than stellar. What Job and his friends failed to consider was that the whole issue really had nothing to do with Job. It was really about God. The rest of Job 40-41 describes God’s power. God asks, “Who has a claim against me that I must pay?” He then goes on to say, “Everything under heaven belongs to me” (Job 41:11 NIV). In these chapters God uses the weather, and a description of two creatures, Behemoth and Leviathan, to demonstrate his power.

Job 41:10 (ESV)
No one is so fierce that he dares to stir him up.
Who then is he who can stand before me?

Here are two creatures, a land animal and a sea creature, that are apparently impervious to man’s weapons and powerful enough to never be tamed. They are just creatures. Their power is greater than man, yet God created them. They yield to his will. Even the weather, something man has never been able to tame, yields to the will of God. In all creation, only man stands and argues with his creator.

The more I read Job, the more convinced I am that Job is not about Job. Job is about God. Is God sovereign, or is he not? Is God Lord, or is he not? Can we trust him, or not? We live as though life is about us. We challenge God as though life is about us. We even present the gospel as though life is about us. Maybe what we really need is to see behind the veil and realize that we are not the center of the universe. Life and death, pain and ease, wealth and poverty…it’s just life in a broken world. Despite what our parents taught us, life does not revolve around us or around them. It revolves around Almighty God.

When he is the center of our universe, our perspective changes. That is what Job was learning. It is what Elihu needed to learn. It is what Job’s friends desperately needed to understand. So much pain has been caused, and so much damage has been done because we have the wrong person at the center of our little world. We are like the wheel on a clown bicycle where the axle is off-center. Our world is filled with ups and downs that make riding the bike difficult at best. The ride smooths out when our lives are centered on Christ.

I don’t mean that everything becomes good. I don’t mean that nothing bad happens. I don’t mean that pain disappears. Just look at Job. But when life is not about us, those things take on a different look and a different experience. In the midst of our pain, we find the comforting peace of God. In the storms of life, we find his calming presence. When bad things happen, we look to a God who can be trusted even when things don’t go our way. When God is at the center, our perspective of everything changes. After all, it is no longer about us. Life is about something much higher and grander than we can imagine, and He is at the center of it all. Life is about Him. In all creation, only man stands and argues with his creator. Perhaps it is time to stop arguing, and trust him.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Job 38-39

Job 38:1-4 (ESV)
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.”

It occurs to me that when we read Job we make the same error that Job and his friends made. They speak as though the issue was about Job. Job cries out for justice and an explanation. Job’s friends insist that the explanation is that there is unconfessed sin in his life. When God speaks, he doesn’t reference either Job’s physical condition or his spiritual condition. The truth is, it is not about Job. And that is what bothers us the most.

We want life to be about us. It isn’t. We want Job to find relief, but what he really needs to find is God. Like Job, we think and act as though we are the center of the universe. If there is pain in our lives, it must be the consequence of some great sin. If there is pleasure in our lives, it must be that God is pleased with us. “Why me?” is one of the most common prayers uttered around the world. Perhaps God’s answer is, “Why not you?” After all, life is not really about us; we just think it is.

God never answers Job’s question of why. That leaves us feeling unsatisfied. We want to know why. We want to know that Job’s suffering had some higher purpose. We read Job as though it were about suffering, but I am beginning to think that it is not about suffering at all. It is about theology. It is about who we believe God is, and what we believe about him. If we believe that he is the Celestial Servant of mankind, then that question of why Job suffered is the ultimate question of life. If he is the Sovereign Creator, then the question of Job’s suffering is hardly the point. The real question is, who is God?

There is the bottom line. When we insist on answers and explanations, then we have put ourselves in the place of God. When we insist on a gospel that is primarily about feeling good about ourselves, then we have placed ourselves at the center of the universe. Granted, we are the only part of creation that was said to be made in the image of God. Granted, God placed people over the rest of his creation. Granted, we were designed to rule and oversee creation. But, we were not designed to oversee creation as gods. We were designed to oversee creation under God. Ultimately it is all about him.

Does that make him a megalomaniac? Hardly! It makes him creator, designer, sustainer, and upholder of all that exists. Without him we would not be here. Without him this universe would not hold together. The Apostle Paul quotes two Greek poets in Acts 17:28 to make this point. “For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’” Colossians 1:16 says it like this,
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Bottom line? Life is not about us. Maybe that is the real message of Job. Maybe we would be better off if we could just learn that simple lesson. I am not the center of the universe; nor will I ever be. Bishop Noel Jones wrote a simple chorus around these words, “It's not about us, But it's about Jesus.” His response to this truth follows:

I present my body
A living sacrifice
Holy, acceptable
Unto You now
Everything I am
And everything I'll be
I lay it all at Your feet

May that be my prayer today!

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Job 36-37

Job 36:4 (NIV)
Be assured that my words are not false;
one perfect in knowledge is with you.

This phrase, “perfect in knowledge,” is used to describe God in the next chapter.
Job 37:16 (NIV)
Do you know how the clouds hang poised,
those wonders of him who is perfect in knowledge?

Job 36-37 contain picturesque and powerful descriptions of the supremacy of God. Yet something feels just a little off about these chapters. This is Elihu’s final speech in Job, and I’m just not sure what to think of Elihu. He is a young man driven by passion and frustrated by Job’s friends’ inability to convince Job of his sin. Elihu speaks much truth about the greatness of God, yet it is built on a foundation of arrogance that colors everything he says. Ultimately his conclusion is no different than that of Job’s friends.
Job 36:11-12 (NIV)
If they obey and serve him,
they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity
and their years in contentment.
But if they do not listen,
they will perish by the sword
and die without knowledge.

Elihu falls right back into the argument that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. He then goes on to challenge Job’s appeal to God.

Job 37:14, 19-20 (NIV)
“Listen to this, Job;
stop and consider God's wonders.

“Tell us what we should say to him;
we cannot draw up our case because of our darkness.
Should he be told that I want to speak?
Would any man ask to be swallowed up?

He is telling Job that he should not be so bold as to ask to speak with a God who is powerful and unapproachable. Yet in the very next chapter God will respond directly to Job. Elihu understands that to approach God is to invite death. God is unapproachable. Yet here is Elihu claiming to have the same kind of perfect knowledge that God has. It makes me wonder how many times I have had my theology slightly tilted and yet was arrogant enough to think I had it all right. Probably more than I care to know.

There must be a humility to our faith that we too often fail to embrace. Truth is important. Correct theology is vital. What we believe about God matters. Yet we can have our theology almost perfect, and still have it tainted by arrogance. In chapter 38, the unapproachable God draws near to the very one Elihu and company claim is undeserving of God’s attention. Elihu’s theology was pretty accurate, although I wouldn’t call it “perfect knowledge.” Any time we think we have it all figured out, we are standing in dangerous waters. Humility is preferred above theology in God’s economy. That is what separates Elihu from Job. Jesus said, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). Nowhere has God said that he exalts those with perfect theology. Humility is preferred above theology. I think we often have that backward.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Job 35

Job 35:9-10 (ESV)
Because of the multitude of oppressions people cry out;
they call for help because of the arm of the mighty.
But none says, ‘Where is God my Maker,
who gives songs in the night,

Elihu’s observations here are correct. I believe that his assessment of Job is faulty, but his assessment of mankind in general is right on. People cry out for help when they are oppressed, but few actually seek God. I’ve watched this in the political debates regarding elections and the good of the country. I heard little discussion about what is good for the country as a whole. Most discussion was about what is good for me, for those I love, or for those like me. What about those who are different from you? Most people seem to be oblivious to the hurts, needs, or realities of anyone other than those in their own little circles.

Similarly, our focus in evangelical Christianity has too often been more about me, those I love, and sometimes those like me. Evangelism and discipleship have been about a personal relationship with God, but it should be much more. We seek peace. We seek relief. We seek a better life. We seek comfort. But do we seek God? Being a believer is Jesus Christ is about a personal relationship with God, but it is also about a corporate relationship with his people. It is about being the presence of Christ in a broken world. It is about dying for the good of others. It is not about us.

That is the issue that both Job and his friends seem to have lost sight of. Life is not about us. In the early days of the United States of America the founders of this country put their lives, their fortunes, and their reputations on the line for the sake of others. Many of them lost everything for the sake of others. Today, my impression is that most politicians are about power and position. The idea of sacrifice for the good of others is foreign in our political world. But it’s not just politicians. It is rare to read or hear anything these days about personal sacrifice for the good of others. We are quick to take offense for ourselves and our friends, but we are unwilling to serve those who are different. Yet that is exactly what God has called us to.

Discussions of Biblical principles of marriage, for example, almost always focus on what we “have” to do. Do wives really have to submit? Isn’t that demeaning? How can we hold to such an old fashioned, outdated perspective of gender roles? What if our discussions around these passages asked a different question? What if they focused on what we are being asked to sacrifice for the good of another? What if we didn’t ask about what we must give up? What if we asked how to better serve others? What if a husband quit worrying about whether his wife was submitting, and concerned himself with how to best die to his own will in order to serve his wife’s best interest? What if a wife quit worrying about whether she was being loved as she desired, and concerned herself more with how to die to her own needs in order to serve and show respect to her husband? Isn’t that what those marriage passages are really about?

As believers who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, it is time we stopped worrying about whether we will be safe. It is time we stopped worrying about whether we will be comfortable. It is time we stopped worrying about whether we are finding joy. C. S. Lewis reminded us that when we search joy we never find it. Maybe that is why we have churches full of grouchy people. Because we’re all trying to find happiness. What a different world it would be if we sought to serve others instead of seeking to be served!

Elihu is right. Everyone seeks relief from pain, but nobody really seeks God. In the name of following Jesus we have become incredibly self-centered people. My challenge for today is to seek the good of others and stop worrying about me. Try it. It might just change your world.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Job 34

Job 34:10 (ESV)
“Therefore, hear me, you men of understanding:
far be it from God that he should do wickedness,
and from the Almighty that he should do wrong.

Job 34:34-37 (ESV)
Men of understanding will say to me,
and the wise man who hears me will say:
‘Job speaks without knowledge;
his words are without insight.’
Would that Job were tried to the end,
because he answers like wicked men.
For he adds rebellion to his sin;
he claps his hands among us
and multiplies his words against God.”

A little bit of theology can be a dangerous thing. It is amazing that Elihu can understand everything correct about the character of God, yet totally misapply it to Job. Everything Elihu says about God is correct. There are some powerful words in this chapter. Speaking of God, Elihu observes, “If he should set his heart to it and gather to himself his spirit and his breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust” (Job 34:14). What an amazing picture of the power of God and the absolute dependence of every living thing on that power.

Elihu takes his understanding of God and misapplies it to Job. He accuses Job of speaking without knowledge and rebelling against God. Elihu applies eternal principles in a temporal way that brings him to faulty conclusions. In one article attacking Christianity, the proof the author offered that Christianity is ignorant and evil was several verses taken out of context and misapplied. Yes, there are some difficult verses in the Bible, but everything must be understood in context. Similarly, Elihu takes his theology and misapplies it.

We get upset when people put words in our mouths that are not accurate. Yet, we do the same thing. We turn around and draw conclusions about our brothers and sisters in Christ based on our understanding of Scripture and theology. But do we truly know their heart? Aren’t we doing the same thing we accuse our attackers of doing? Perhaps the problem lies in the reality that we have turned Christianity into a series of truth statements that we all agree on. If you agree with me, then we can fellowship. If you disagree, then we cannot worship together. But Christianity is more than that.

The real problem occurs when we agree on all our theology, but disagree on its application. Or, perhaps more correctly, when we agree, but realize that none of us have arrived at maturity yet. So, when the areas in which I have matured are different than the areas in which you have matured, I take that as evidence that you are not as mature as I am. We neglect to understand that common faith is not about agreeing on every point of theology. It is about coming together around the essential theology of the gospel. Maturity is not about looking like me. It is about believers working together to become more like Christ. When we start with our understanding of theology, it often involves arrogance, pride, and a judgmental spirit. Theology is important, but true faith starts with humility and grace.

Reflections on Psalms 77-78

Psalms 77:7 (ESV) [7] “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?   The first nine verses of this psalm express abso...