Category Archives: Resurrection

Sacrifice, Suffering and Something Worth Living For

Jesus’s sacrifice insures our salvation. That sacrifice started in the Garden of Gethsemane and ended on the cross. It culminated in the Resurrection where God validated and accepted the sacrificial payment by raising Jesus from the dead through the power of the Holy Spirit on that first Easter morning.

The sacrificial experience of Jesus was comprehensive as it touched him physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We are very aware of the physical aspects regarding the scourging and the crucifixion. He was physically beaten beyond recognition—“marred” is the word Scripture uses. He was abused so that we might be redeemed from our sins, healed of our diseases, and delivered from our torment. That physical suffering began in the garden and ended as he gave up his spirit and died.

In my last blog I detailed the mental suffering Jesus endured. The stress and pressure was so great that his sweat was mixed with blood. The capillaries in the sweat glands of his forehead burst. The awfulness of the cup he would drink was mentally overwhelming.

But sometimes we forget his emotional suffering. Rejection, abandonment and betrayal are three of the deepest—most damaging wounds that can be inflicted on the human heart and soul. These triple torments cut far deeper and bruise even the human spirit. One of his intimate friends—one of the twelve, Judas, sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave. Then he betrayed him with a kiss—the symbol of love and relationship.

As Jesus was arrested and seized, the other eleven disciples fled and abandoned Him. Their past bravado did not match their present need to survive. Most ran away and hid—fearing their own impending death. A couple—Peter and John followed at a distance, hiding in the shadows and hoping they would not be recognized.

Later, the crowd that had hailed Jesus as king on Palm Sunday shouted for his crucifixion on Friday. Christ was rejected by religious leaders and the common people, and his own disciples abandoned him in the moment of his greatest vulnerability. Jesus suffered alone—there was no one who made the journey with him through this hellish experience.

Jesus also suffered spiritually. Many have attempted to describe this, but how can a finite one describe what is infinite in its scope? We can’t really grasp his spiritual suffering because we can’t pull back the veil much less understand how the Holy One could become our sin. The Bible is very clear—Jesus not only suffered for our sin, he became our sin so that we might become the righteousness of God.

During this mysterious span of time, the earth became dark and the Son of God experienced what being forsaken by the Father is all about. I can’t explain this because I can’t even grasp it. I can’t conceive it in my mind. But, Jesus experienced hell so that we would not have to. He experienced being cut off from the presence of God and that spiritual suffering was beyond our capacity to understand. Each time I read the words of Jesus, just prior to his death, in Mark 15:34—“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani? (which translated means “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?)—my soul cringes. It clutches something deep inside my spirit and forces me to contemplate the depth of how much the Son of God loved me and his willingness to endure this depth of spiritual suffering so I might experience that love. I can’t grasp its full meaning but I hunger for that kind of love.

Jesus suffered so that we might be spared an eternity of suffering. He died so that we might live. Therefore we should live in a state of constant celebration. We should stand up for our faith. We should be tenacious if we really believe what we say we believe. Jesus was willing to die for his beliefs! Are you willing to live for yours?

Standing Firm (Part 7)

The Victory Parade!

Positioning is everything and our position on the battlefield and every other area of the Christian life is in Christ. At the moment of salvation, every believer was placed into Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:4-7 paints this picture of security: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, in order than in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness for us in Christ Jesus” (NASB). Our position is fixed. Therefore we must war from this position to enjoy the victory Christ has already won.

Satan’s war is against us. He rebelled against God and was cast out of heaven with a third of the angelic host that become the demonic forces. He exists only because God allows it, and  God allows it to show his glorious power that is at work in us through our relationship with Jesus. Therefore, the enemy hates us and we are his mortal enemies.

In the Incarnation, God became man. Jesus took on flesh and went to war against Satan, not as God, but as a man filled with the Holy Spirit, living in total obedience to God. 1 John tells us that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. The Gospels use the language of a stronger man (Jesus) binding the strong man (Satan) and pillaging his house. Jesus came to show that Satan and his demonic forces could be defeated by a man through the power of the Holy Spirit in simple obedience to God. Jesus defeated him. He devastated and destroyed the Devil’s power. In fact, Paul puts it this way in Colossians 2:15: “When He (Jesus) had disarmed the rulers and the authorities, he made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through him.”

This amazing picture is drawn from the imagery and language of a military parade that could have been seen in Paul’s day. When Jesus ascended into heaven, he disarmed or shook the enemy off like someone taking off a garment, the same power he had battled against from his birth to his death on the cross. He stripped the enemy of his power and made a public spectacle of him. Jesus exposed the enemy like a conquering king stripping his vanquished enemies, shackling them in chains, and dragging them through the streets of his capital city in a triumphal procession as trophies of war. Jesus also took the keys of death and the grave. He plundered his house and set the captives free. This my friend is total victory.

And Ephesians 2:4-7 tells us we have been made alive with Jesus, raised up with Jesus, and seated with Jesus in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Where Jesus is we are. What Jesus has accomplished we share in. Jesus has defeated the devil and our position in Christ is a position of victory.

The key to victory is position and if we will remain seated in the heavenlies in Christ we will win every battle. The enemy wants us to come down because he cannot come up. Satan is defeated—Jesus defeated him! That means he is defeated yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Therefore fellow warrior, stand firm! Or perhaps an even more biblical metaphor might be, “Stay seated in Christ!”

God-Sizing Your Dreams (Part 11)

God is always on time even if you or I think he’s late or not coming. God-sized dreams are totally dependent on the timing of God. Timing is everything in the Kingdom of God. You can do the right thing at the wrong time and you will always reap less than what God intended. Thankfully, when God acts the timing is perfect.

God-sized dreams are by nature miraculous. They cannot be achieved through our strength or ability alone. They are one step passed our capability—in the realm of what we would call impossible. But surround the category of impossible with God’s timing and miracles happen.

Just look at our childless couple camped out in Canaan. They are far passed the point of having children. Biologically, it ain’t never gonna happen (bad English but it certainly communicates). The old reproductive clock chimed its last time years before and the dust of impossibility has covered the chimes. In the human realm, age has taken its toll on both ability and capability. Abraham—the father of a multitude—is almost one hundred years old and his chances of producing a son with Sarah is slim and none, with the emphasis resting on none. For Sarah, the want to—the desperate desire to be a mother—is no longer enough, because her reproductive system has surrendered to the natural processes of age. Add Abraham and Sarah together and you are humanly speaking, left with nothing. It would be a miracle.

That’s the kind of odds God loves working with. Miracles are by their very nature acts which set aside the natural way things work or happen. Only God can suspend the laws of nature so that a man and a woman can conceive, and that woman could then carry a baby to term and birth it. Timing is everything. Just when it appears time has run out on this dream, God super-sizes it by making the impossible possible. Genesis 21:2 puts it this way: So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him. God said, “It is time for a miracle—now!

Don’t miss what the verse says. Abraham and Sarah participated and God provided. They acted in faith—and God answered with a miracle. There was a resurrection in their reproductive systems. Don’t you just love it? God is the God of resurrection—he can breathe life into what’s dead and death must flee!

The key to Genesis 21:2 is timing—“at the appointed time.” A genuine God-sized dream always has an appointed time—a moment chosen by God to become a reality. The promised son could not appear until the promised time—until it was impossible for Abraham and Sarah to have gotten him naturally. At the appointed time the impossible became possible—what was no longer natural became supernatural. At the appointed time the dream of a lifetime became reality as little Isaac—the son of laughter—the miracle baby from God emerged from the miraculous womb of his mother.

A Life-Changing Moment (Part 4)

Village School Playground

Some life-changing moments grab hold and won’t let go. They affect you deep within and their memories seem to haunt you like a bad dream. That moment demands that you do something, but what has yet to be determined. Let me share one and perhaps it will seize your heart as it has mine.

One afternoon, we took a ride out into the countryside east of Parras to see some of the villages. The scenery changed very little on the trip out, with the landscape dotted by mesquite and cactus framed by the jagged peaks of the Sierra Madras. Twenty miles out, we turned off the main road and pulled into one of these villages.

Every village of any size has a small one or two room school with a playground. There is usually a soccer field of some description and the houses are made of adobe brick with most left unpainted. This particular village had been the recipient of some of their tax money at work. A new bridge had been constructed by the state and a half block of black top paving installed on either side. To me, this seemed a little out of place since the road leading to and away from the bridge was dirt, but oh well, the politician who secured this was pleased.

That’s when I saw something that still gnaws at my heart whenever I think about it. On the south

The Ruins of Ebenezar Baptist Church

side of the village was a building without a roof, doors, or windows. It was in ruins—seemingly abandoned, while its white washed walls were slowly deteriorating under the hot Mexican sun. What I was looking at were the remains of the Templo Bautista Eben-Ezer (the Ebenezar Baptist Church). It reminded me of a bombed-out building you might see in Iraq or Baghdad.

Every scene has a story and this one is heart-breaking. At one time there was no Protestant evangelical church in the village. The only church there had a policy of taking rather than giving, and these people had nothing to give. One of the churches in Parras took this village as a mission field and established a fledgling body that began to grow. In time, they moved into this building owned by two men, one was a believer and the other was not. The church began to impact the village and Satan began to lose the hold he exercised through witchcraft, drugs, and alcoholism. Things were changing.

In time, the job of one of the building’s owners took him away and he (the believer) sold his half to the unbeliever. A few weeks later, the new owner evicted this body of believers, tore the tin roof off, removed the doors and windows and sold them for scrap. Today the shell of a church building bakes in the sun as a reminder that our enemy is real and he is busy guarding what he considers his. Today this village is once again filled with drugs, alcoholism, abuse, and witchcraft and the local church that remains still takes and takes and takes, while offering nothing in return.

My heart was broken as I stood and imagined what could have been. This village was being

Adobe Village House

transformed. Lifestyles were changing. Bondage was being broken. Generational poverty and ignorance were being eradicated. Was and were (past tense) are the key words right now. The building is now empty and that body of believers is gone—but God is still waiting on someone who will take a stand against the enemy, love these people, and proclaim God’s glory. As I stared God began to stir within me a “what if.” What if a body of believers in America were to invest themselves in this little village twenty miles east of Parras, Mexico? What if indeed!

I’m not sure what will happen or what I can do, but God will show me. This scene out in the mesquite and cactus is an ongoing life-changing moment for me. It continues and who knows what its outcome may be. Who knows? God does and he’s looking for some life-changers!

An Unbelieving Believer

I once thought I understood God—who he is and what he does. After several years of undergraduate and graduate level study in the theological disciplines, I thought I had God figured out. Unaware that I was constructing a box far too small to hold God (no box is big enough)—I developed my own ideas of what God could and/or would do, or not do. In other words, I made up a god in my own image and replaced the real One with a poor limited imitation.

Oh, I knew a great many facts and figures that related to God—I just didn’t know God very well. I had met him early in my life and he had forgiven me of sin and given me eternal life. But, the problem was relational—He knew me—but I only knew about him. Facts and figures, theologies that make excuses for God, and countless other pursuits that should lead us to God, but often leave us lost in the high grass—filled my life. It was by all accounts a very dry, frustrating time. I was seeking wisdom…just not searching for God.One sacred rabbit trail after another finally led me down a dead-end passage way into a crisis of faith—a God-wall erected to eliminate my ability to flee. It worked…God got my attention. I realized I was dry and dead on the inside—full of knowledge, but possessing little wisdom. I was in effect an unbelieving believer.

I knew all the arguments and could quote them from memory as to why God no longer acted in our day like he had in the distant past. They were well-thought out theologies, just honed in the fires of unbelief instead of faith. They were human attempts to explain “why,” when the “why” rested on the threshold of a faithless church rather than a faithful God.

A crisis by nature forces you to choose. The definition of idiocy is doing the same thing and expecting something new to happen. I may be a lot of things, but I choose not to be an idiot. I cried out to God. I confessed my pharisaical and religious tendency to try and explain an otherwise unexplainable God. I repented—that is, I returned to the God of my childhood—the God who had saved me with supernatural power through grace, and became like a little child again. My only request was, “God, I hunger to know you!

Today, almost fifteen years later, God has yet to disappoint me. The God of the Bible, the One who brings life out of death has not changed one iota. He is still just as powerful today, as he was in the days of Moses or Elijah. He is still doing the things today that he did in the early days of the church. His power is limitless. The difference is I have accepted the plain truth of the Scriptures—God is God and I’m not—I don’t have to know why, when, or how anyhow. Instead I choose to believe the impossible because the God I am in relationship with does not have that word in his vocabulary. With God all things are possible.

Are you an unbelieving believer? Do you have a nice, neat theological system that can explain everything about God? Do you worship a god who lives in a little box of your own construction? If so, then the god you are chasing does not exist and the sooner you recognize that, the better off you will be. Go ahead mash the gas as hard as you like, but you will crash into that God-wall at some point. Perhaps then…like me you will become a believing believer.

Keepers of the Flame

A flame of fire is filled with tremendous power. That power cannot be extinguish as long as the fuel lasts, the flame is protected, and oxygen is plentiful. There are few things in existence that can stand against a flame that has all three. But, take away the fuel and the fire dies on its own. Take away the flame’s protection and it can be blown out by a puff of wind. Take away the oxygen and the flame is extinguished by suffocation. To be so powerful, that fiery flame is also extremely sensitive.

So too, is the disciple of Christ. That individual is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. But like fire, that follower must tend the flame of passion burning within or the power will wane and the passion grow cold.

Every believer must learn to feed themselves with God’s Word. The Scripture is like high octane gasoline. Read it, feed on it, memorize it, meditate on it, and apply it, and that fiery passion for Christ will explode. But—a sermon on Sunday or a Bible study every once in a while is not nearly enough. Though important, they will not sustain the flame, and quickly there will be only a few scant embers glowing. There is no shortage of fuel for the fire only a shortage of one’s desire to feed the flame. Fire without fuel dies, and likewise, passion without relationship burns out.

Like the flame, a passion for Christ must be protected. If you persist in this pursuit you will be called a fanatic. Many in the church will try to pour water on your flame to quench the heat you are producing or smother it with a blanket of innuendos or accusations. Protect that passion for Christ, for he is the one who has lit the wick that burns so hot within you. Protect it from the legions that are shamed by its exposing light and must flee from its purifying heat. Protect the flame and tend it carefully—don’t throw this precious pearl to the swine, for they will trample it in the mud. Tend this flame and it will burn hotter and grower higher. Ignore its care and it will be extinguished and emptiness will fill your soul.

As oxygen makes a fire burn hotter, so too the Holy Spirit will take the passion of your hungry heart’s flame from blue to white hot. Surrender to his leadership and he will guide you into places you never thought accessible, into glory unimaginable, and into a relationship with Jesus that is inconceivable, yet all very biblical. It is the Holy Spirit who knows the mind of God, and in our pursuit of God, he alone will reveal the secrets of relationship with God. Give the fire oxygen and it will consume everything in its path. Live life surrendered to the Holy Spirit and he will carry you into places of intimate relationship with God that are indescribable.

The flame was lit by God when you met Christ, but its care rests with you. Feed it, protect it, and give it the holy oxygen it needs and you will find the heart of God. Ignore it, leave its care to someone else, or starve it from the air it hungers for and all you will have is an empty, religious looking heap of ashes.

Destination Israel: The Assurance of the Empty Tomb (Part 13)

I had hoped to post this blog on Easter Sunday, but God had other plans. Perhaps it would have been too seamless in its timing (I thought it couldn’t be any more perfect) or it might have been too easily forgotten due to all the activity of the day. After all, Easter Sunday is a huge day when we (as the church) pull out all the stops—unleash all the bells and whistles—because we know we have an opportunity to share the gospel with people who may not return to our churches again until next Easter. In retrospect, I think God wants to remind all of us that Easter is not a day we celebrate once a year, but a quality of life we are to experience every day for the rest of eternity as believers.

The greatest event of human history took place in a tomb in Jerusalem in those moments where darkness gave way to light and another day dawned. Except on this day—something occurred that had never happened before—God raised His beloved Son Jesus (who had been crucified three days earlier) from death by the power of the Holy Spirit. That one act changed everything. Death and the grave were defeated and Satan’s back was broken as Jesus stepped forth from the tomb—alive! That resurrection, that transforming act of God’s power, declared that the full payment of sin’s debt offered by Jesus was sufficient and accepted by God the Father. O, what must it have been like to be the first to look inside and hear those amazing words: “Why do you look for the Living One among the dead? He is not here; He has risen!

The Empty Tomb

Every pilgrim who travels to Israel longs for that moment when they will see the empty tomb. It is the highlight of not just the trip but a lifetime. Faith becomes sight and praise erupts from deep within your spirit and soul. But…there is one tiny problem. No one is 100% sure where the tomb is exactly located. In fact there are four or five locations that claim to be the one and only true site. Just a note here, no matter which location is the true one—the reality is they are all empty. Jesus is not there; He has risen!

It is my own personal belief that the tomb is probably located in the Church

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher

of the Holy Sepulcher, a site venerated since the 4th century. This is the same church I mentioned in an earlier blog about the site of Golgotha or Calvary. Eusebius, an early church father, claimed this spot had been a place of veneration since the first century, but that Emperor Hadrian covered the site with earth and desecrated it in the 2nd century by building a temple to the goddess Aphrodite. Emperor Constantine later ordered the temple

The Tomb inside the Church

demolished, the soil removed and a church constructed which connected the sites of the crucifixion and the resurrection. Tradition says that much of the rock face surrounding the tomb was removed, and today within the church is a marble rotunda (a small building) which supposedly encloses the tomb. Currently the veracity of that claim cannot be verified due to the site being covered in marble. Though this is probably the true site, it is impossible to visualize what it looked like that first Resurrection morning.

The Garden Tomb

Anglicans and a few Protestant groups claim the Garden Tomb (another site) as the place of the Resurrection, but this site has no historical patina before 1883—no tradition to back up the claim. But if you want to see what an actual first century tomb looked like, this one fits the biblical description, and here you can celebrate a memorable communion. It is a wonderful place to contemplate, pray and travel with your imagination back in time 2,000 years to that fateful moment when Christ arose.

Gordon's Calvary

In the end it’s not the site that proves the event. We don’t worship sites—we worship the Risen Lord Jesus! That assurance of the Resurrection is voiced throughout the whole realm of Christendom, whether Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox, in these simple words—“Jesus is not here. He has risen!”