Tag Archives: Resurrection

Fulfilled: Easter Sunday

Read Isaiah 53:7-12

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed.” (Daniel‬ ‭7:13-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

When we read the Gospels, we get a sense that Jesus saw himself as a savior of his people. We can see how he he lived, how he taught, and how he ultimately took on the role of God’s suffering servant. We see that he claimed not only to be a teacher or a prophet, but that he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. What’s more, Jesus claimed to be one with, and the same as, God Almighty, the great I AM.

His disciples not only believed, but were transformed by their relationship with Jesus and, in turn they helped tranform the world. Jesus’ views were not only his own, but ones steeped in his Jewish beliefs and his understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Each day this week, let us look at the prophetic connection between Jesus and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.

 Easter Sunday. He is risen! In Isaiah 53:7-12, the prophet talks about God’s suffering servant. He mentions that the holy sufferer will see what was accomplished as a result of his suffering and be satisified. The sufferer will know that the suffering had not been in vain; rather, he sees that his suffering has brought redemption to many. Many, as a result of him bearing the sins of the world, will find salvation.

Isaiah continued on to proclaim, “I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels” (vs. 12). Thus, the suffering servant suffered death but was honored like a victorious soldier. Isaiah, when writing this, may have seen himself as the suffering servant. He may have seen Israel as a whole as the suffering servant, and that Israel was bearing witness of their faith in God to a hostile world.

The neat thing about prophecy is that that, regardless of the original context, a prophecy comes from God and the visions revealed in them prove themselves true in ways we could have never expected. Even if Isaiah had Israel in mind as the suffering servant, the way this prophecy got fulfilled in Jesus Christ is beyond human comprehension. It is the power of God on full display for all the world! Surely, Jesus came from Israel and through Jesus (the righteous suffering servant), many found redemption from their sins. How awesome is our God!

Daniel also prophesied about the Son of Man, and the glorious victory he would have over the sinful world. In verse 17, he enters onto the scene in glory, in the very presence of the living God. Furthermore, in verse 26, Daniel wrote, “Then the sovereignty, power, and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be given to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will last forever, and all rulers will serve and obey him” (Daniel‬ ‭7:27‬ ‭NLT‬‬). In other words, the Son of Man (aka Jesus Christ) has established God’s Kingdom on earth and that all the kindoms of the earth will be given over to God’s people who serve and obey the soveriegn God.

Daniel’s verse is often seen as a prophecy for the future, for the second coming of Christ. While the future has yet to be revealed, it certainly makes sense being that the world has yet to be fully delivered from sin and evil. It is easy to understand that this prophecy could still have more unveiling to do; however, prophecy is the gift that keeps on giving and, while more may be fulfilled in this prophecy, it is also true that it has already seen fulfillment in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Let me explain. Forty days after resurrecting and showing himself to countless people, Jesus ascends (coming on the clouds) into heaven and is “led into [the] presence “of the “Ancient One”. What happened from there? Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, which outpoured onto the disciples, filling them with God’s Spirit and power. From the day of Pentecost and onward, the disciples healed the sick, took care of the poor, visited the imprisoned, raised the dead to life and preached the Good News of Jesus Christ to all of the known world. Within 400 short years, this little sect of Judaism overtook the Roman Empire, the very empire that executed Jesus and his followers. Holy wow!!! Think about that. The impossible was made possible as a result of Jesus’ resurrection! Praise God!

Certainly, the resurrection was not the end of the story, but the beginning of it. Christians, being human beings, have fallen short and have sometimes put the institution of Christianity above Christ; however, Christ is still unfolding the salvation, redemption and sancitification of this world. What’s more, we are a part of that unfolding! We are a part of the story. We are the ones who, if we are faithful, will do even greater things than that of the disciples if we would only open our hearts to the possibility and to the call. With that said, happy Easter! He is risen! Now, rise up and preach the good news of Jesus Christ to all the world!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

He is risen and you can rise with him!

PRAYER

Lord, you have redeemed me and I choose to live the RESURRECTED LIFE in you! Amen.

A LOOK BACK: A Forest of Crosses

bflw-devotional-800x490Writing the Life-Giving Water devotionals is not only an important ministry, but is a deeply rewarding spiritual discipline for me as well. With that said, observing Sabbath (aka rest) is an important spiritual discipline as well. So here is a LOOK BACK to a devotion I wrote in the past. Read it, reflect on it, be challenged by it. Who knows how God will speak to you through it and how it will bear relevance in your life today? May the Holy Spirit guide you as you read the suggested Scripture and subsequent devotion.

God’s People, part 25: Joshua

Read Joshua 1

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come.” (Hebrews 4:8 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

JoshuaPart 25: Joshua. Joshua is a very strong character in Bible, in fact, he may be one of the strongest. Sure, there is Samson; however, Joshua is displayed with little to no weaknesses, whereas Samson is filled with weaknesses a plenty. But we’ll discuss Samson at a later time. Joshua was the protégé of Moses. He was the son of Nun, born a slave in Egypt before the time of the Exodus.

Almost immediately following their escape from Egypt, selected Joshua to be the leader of a militia group and was put in charge of fighting and defeating the Amalekites in Rephidim (Exodus 17:8-16). Quickly, Joshua became Moses’ right-hand man. It was Joshua, and Joshua alone, who ascended Mount Sinai with Moses to accompany him as he communed with God “face to face” and received God’s vision for the Israelites in the land of Caanan, as well as received The Ten Commandments.

He ended up becoming the leader who took over for Moses, the one who led them to enter into Canaan and conquer the lands from the native peoples inhabiting it. He led with an iron fist, so to speak. He was a general, a warrior, and a conqueror and he had much blood on his hands.

While Joshua was most definitely a person of strong faith, and one who was faithful to God, he also was someone who saw things only in black and white. You were either for him or against him. You were either Hebrew or not Hebrew, which also translated to you were either allowed to live and flourish in the Promised Land, or you were slaughtered and killed. Even when one looks at the story of Rahab, she proved to be for Joshua and the Israelites and so she was spared.

Upon one’s theology and understanding of God rests how one interprets Joshua’s leadership. Joshua believed that he had been appointed by God to take over from Moses, and he was instructed by God to not turn to the right or to the left from Moses’ teachings (Joshua 1:7). What followed was a campaign to ethnically cleasnse all of Canaan and to build a Kingdom of Israel. This involved the raiding of cities, towns and the countryside and resulted the deaths of countless men, women and children.

I am not writing this to debate, one way or the other, as to the reason or the justification for what Joshua and his army did. We live in different times and, no doubt, the Israelites were not going to be able to just knock on the doors of Jericho, expecting a welcoming embrace and gracious hospitality. Joshua was made leader and, in his leadership, he turned his band of nomadic desert wanderers to a unified army that conquered the land it had in its sights. From that land rose judges, kings, queens, prophets and, ultimately, the Messiah.

What I also know is that Jesus is the english transliteration of the Greek word name for Yehoshua, which is the name Joshua in English. In other words, Jesus (which is Greek) really was named Joshua. That is why the author of Hebrews compares Jesus to Joshua…or rather, the two Joshuas. Joshua, son of Nun, brought them into the land of Canaan where they could rest from their wandering in the wilderness, Joshua (aka Jesus) the Christ, brings us into the Kingdom of God.

Unlike Joshua, Jesus didn’t do this by military conquest, but through unconditional love, compassionate grace, and merciful forgiveness. Rather than slaying his enemies, Christ sacrificed himself and was slain by his enemies. Rather than conquering by the sword, Christ conquered THE ENEMY, by loving those who persecuted them even to the point of forgiveness and he conquered death by resurrecting from the dead into true life. One Joshua led to the other, no matter how imperfectly.

To play upon Joshua’s own advice, we need to choose this day whom we serve. Will we serve a black and white mentality? Will we serve the imperfect Joshua who conquered by the sword? Or will we serve the Joshua who died because he loved instead of hated, who rose so that we might rise to life in him, and who calls us to conquer evil through unconditional love and divine grace? Choose this day whom you serve.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The glory of Christianity is to conquer by forgiveness.” – William Blake

PRAYER
Lord, remind me daily that I am a servant of love. Let love be my ultimate campaign. Amen.

SON OF GOD: Easter Sunday

Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-10

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, ‘I have seen the Lord!’ Then she gave them His message.” (John 20:18 NLT)

jesus-Is-laid-in-a-tomb-tomb-03-1800Happy Easter Sunday! This is the day to which all of the previous days and devotions of Holy Week have been pointing to. This is the day when the power of God was fully displayed in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. It’s not enough that he lived the life of a prophet. It’s not enough that he lived the life of one who had compassion on the “least of these.” It’s not enough that he held to his beliefs even unto death. It’s certainly not enough that he bore his cross and died on it. For if that is how the life of the Son of God ended, if that is the end of the story, then what hope is there that evil will ever be overcome?

If the Jesus movement were to die with him at his death, then he would go down in history as just another poor peasant who dared to defy the powers that be and paid the ultimate price for it. What’s more, his teachings would go down as nice but unrealistic. His miracles would go down as nothing more than magic tricks, and his claims of divinity would go down as nothing more than an egotistical delusion. Yet, the story did not end there; rather, on the third day following his passion and death, the Son of God was resurrected from the tomb. What’s more, his resurrection was experienced by countless people, at least 513 people according to the Apostle Paul who was writing about 24-27 years after Christ’s death and resurrection.

The resurrection is not about a dead body becoming resuscitated back to life. The resurrection isn’t about faith that goes against reason, nor is it about believing in something ludicrous that cannot be seen or experienced. If it were about those things, no one would have believed Paul or the countless others who preached the resurrection of the Son of God to others. In fact, Paul would have never believed it either were it merely about belief in what cannot be seen or experienced. What’s important to note is that belief in the resurrection of Christ is not about blind faith, but about an experiential faith. The question is not about whether or not the Son of God resurrected from the dead, the question is about whether or not you have witnessed the resurrected Son of God, and whether or not you have experienced that resurrection in your life as well.

Whether you are celebrating Easter Sunday or not, ask yourself this question, have you experienced the miracle of the resurrection? If not, why not? Perhaps it is because you have not died to anything or, if you have, perhaps it is because you have not let that experience go. I can tell you that I have experienced both the risen Son of God in my life, and I have experienced the miracle of the resurrection too. But what I have experienced can only intrigue you, if that. You need to open yourself to experiencing it too. I pray that on this Easter Sunday, the power of the resurrected SON manifests itself in you and that you are aware and open to it. If you are, NOTHING will ever be the same again.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“People have been told so often that resurrection is just a metaphor, and means Jesus died and was glorified – in other words, he went to Heaven, whatever that means. And they’ve never realized that the word ‘resurrection’ simply didn’t mean that.” – N.T. Wright

PRAYER
Lord, reveal your resurrected self to me and a produce in me the resurrected life. Amen.

SON OF GOD: Holy Saturday

Read Matthew 27:62-66

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“’Go out and stand before Me on the mountain,’ the LORD told him. And as Elijah stood there, the LORD passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.” (1 Kings 19:11-13a NLT)

Jesus in the TombToday is Holy Saturday, which is the day in between Jesus’ death and his resurrection. It is on this day that his disciples sat in hiding. It is on this day that the uncertainty of death hung over them like a shroud, clouding them with the fear of the unknown and paralyzing them in that fear. They had followed Jesus for three long years and had invested all of their hopes and expectations in him. Now he was dead, gone, and the silence of the tomb echoed in their psyche about as loudly as a shrill scream in the night.

On the flip side, the powers that be that opposed Jesus were scrambling to keep the silence from becoming to uncertain. Caiaphas and other religious leaders were holding a meeting with the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, regarding what they were going to do with this dead trouble maker named Jesus. The religious leaders were claiming that his disciples might come and snatch the body in order to make false claims about some sort of bodily resurrection. Out of fear that the body might disappear, they all decided that it would be best if guards were posted at the tomb to ensure that nothing happened to the body.” These men, too, were disturbed by the silence of the tomb, for they were afraid it might remain silent. So they did everything they could to ensure that it would.

The silence of death and the tomb affects each of us in many different ways. It seems so final, yet so uncertain, and we are left feeling not only loss by a sense of hopelessness. And I need not be talking about the physical death of any one person, but death in the broader sense. Throughout life, aspects of our lives die off. We come to identify ourselves one way, or another, and for a season that identification endures; however, there comes a point when that identity, that aspect, that part of us dies off and we are with a tremendous sense of loss and of fear. Who are we? How do we respond to this particular loss? Do we, like the disciples, hide in the shadows afraid of what lies next? Or do we, like the religious and political leaders of Jesus’ day, place guard over the tomb to make sure nothing is out of our control?

Both of the above questions are pathways that we can take? Both seek to hang onto whatever control we have left. Paralysis and overreaction are on the opposite side of the same coin of control. However, there is a third option. We need not hide in the shadows or overreact in some outlandish way or through some sort of crazy power grab; rather, we have the option of letting go. We have the option of allowing the silence of the tomb to speak for itself. We have the option of letting go of control and allowing God to work resurrection in our lives. The reality is that no matter what we do, whether we hide in the shadows or stand guard over the tomb, that stone will be bursting forth with or without us. The question is not “if”, but “when.” When the Son of God sparks resurrection in your life, will be open to it or will you let it pass you by? The silence of the tomb gives you ample time to reflect on that very question. May that reflection be rich in the darkness and the silence of the tomb.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.” – Steve Jobs

PRAYER
Lord, prepare me for the death in life, and for the death of life, for I know that all ends are the beginnings of something new. Amen.

SON OF GOD: Good Friday

Read John 19

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
When the Roman officer who stood facing Him [heard His cry and] saw how He had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39 NLT)

2014-NIUE-AUGUSTUS-FEATUREUp until now, it might not be clear why I entitled this series of Holy Week devotions, “Son of God.” I mean, sure, I am writing about Jesus of Nazareth who is known by billions of Christians to be the “Son of God.” That much is self-evident; and sure, I am writing about the activities, suffering and death of “the Son of God” because it is Holy Week and that is when billions of Christians celebrate the last days of Christ. But, other than that, why entitle this SON OF GOD?

What most people don’t realize is that the title, “Son of God”, was not held exclusively by Jesus during his lifetime. There was another person who was known to the world at the time as son of god and his name was Tiberius Caesar, just as Augustus Caesar was before him. Because Julius Caesar was divinized following his assassination, Augustus (whose birth name was Octavian) took on the title divi filius, aka son of the divine one, aka son of god. When Tiberius succeeded Augustus, he took on the same title, as did the Caesars that followed him. And, honestly, who was going to argue with them. They were truly the most powerful men in the known world and to argue their divinity with them was to order your own death.

When Jesus’ followers, and later the Gospel writers, started hailing the peasant carpenter from Nazareth as “the Son of God,” this instantly put him in immediate competition with Caesar, who did not take kindly to such competition. What’s more, Jesus wasn’t being called the equivalent of divi filius; rather, he was being called the equivalent of Dei Filius, which put him above the son of a deified mortal and made him the Son of the immortal God. Also, this Jesus claimed that being the Son of God meant conquering people with love and truth, as opposed to Caesar’s way of conquering people with fear and force. It was on this day, nearly 2,000 years ago, that this peasant Nazarene came face to face with the Roman Empire. It was on this day, nearly 2,000 years ago, that the Son of God challenged another son of god. It was on this day, nearly 2,000 years ago, that LOVE and brute force crossed paths in such a dramatic way that the world would never forget it. While brute force may have won the battle, three days later it totally lost the war!

On this Good Friday, we are being called by the Son of God to reflect on the ways we oppose walking the path of LOVE. How often have we tried to force our way on others? How often have we put ourselves above the Son of God through our thoughts and through our actions? Christ is calling us to search our hearts and our souls. The Son of God is calling us to acknowledge his Sonship, his divinity, and his Lordship over our lives. The Son of God is calling us to abandon our ways for his ways, and he is calling us, at all costs, to return to the pathway of LOVE. While this is not always easy, it is what the Son of God calls us to do and his death on the cross is a reminder to us all of the extent to which he was willing to go in order to see that pathway through. The Christ on the cross is waiting for us to join him in his mission.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many.” – Jesus of Nazareth (Mark 10:45 NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, precious Son of God, thank you for your sacrifice. Stir up in me a sacrificial love that reaches far and wide to those in need around me. Amen.

Doubting Thomas

Read John 20:24-29

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find Me.’” (Jeremiah 29:11-13, NLT)

The Tomb of St. Thomas. Mylapore, India.Do you remember learning about the twelve disciples in Sunday school? To be honest, I don’t remember learning about the twelve disciples. I remember learning about the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Only two of them were were named after one of Jesus’ disciples. I remember learning about Peter and Andrew as well as John and James. They were the two pairs of fisherman in the group. There was Matthew (formerly known as Levi the tax collector) and Phillip (though I am not sure what he did prior to joining Jesus). And, of course, there was Judas Iscariot. Everyone knows Judas as he is the disciple who infamously betrayed Jesus with a Kiss.

The other disciples are largely skipped over and not taught about, in my experience, with the exception of one: Doubting Thomas. He was the guy who is infamously known for his doubt. Ironically, Thomas is only shown in one Gospel to portray that “doubt”, and only in one place. What’s more, that Gospel, John, was the last of the Gospel’s to be written and does not follow the same format or chronological timetable that the other three (Synoptic) Gospels follow. Thomas is seen in John 20:24-29 as not believing the other disciples when they tell him that Jesus had risen from the dead. Thomas says, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in His hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in His side.”

As a result, Thomas has forever gone down in history as the guy who DOUBTED the resurrection. Jesus chastises him following his sudden change of heart upon seeing the risen Christ: “You believe because you have seen Me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing Me” (John 20:29). Poor Thomas, upon seeing Christ, had let go of his doubt and chose to believe, only to receive a cold shoulder from “[his] Lord and [his] God” (John 20:28). It’s as if Christ is saying, to all believers everywhere, “Do NOT doubt. For if you doubt your faith, in the end, is worth less than those who believe in me without doubting.”

For many people, these words have been a stumbling block to faith. To be fair to the text, they were meant to encourage people who had not been eyewitnesses to the resurrection to continue believing even though they had not seen; however, since then, they have become words of admonishment for those who DARE question the veracity of the resurrection, let alone any other matter of faith. The clear message that is taught to children in Sunday school is, shut down your questions lest you be found to be like doubting Thomas. Unfortunately, that fearful message has hindered the growth of many people who have suppressed the urge to question.

Yet, people fail to realize where Thomas’ “doubt” led him. He may or may not have questioned the resurrection; however, he did, without question, find himself in India preaching the Good News of his resurrected Lord. It is there, thousands of miles away from home, that he was martyred for Jesus and it is there, in Mylapore India, that his body lays at rest. Thomas’ doubt led him to be grow into a great proclaimer of the hope, healing and wholeness of his risen Lord and Savior.

Don’t let fear stop you from questioning and, even, from doubting. Doubt is neither good nor bad. It exists whether we want it to or not. Even as a pastor, I doubt. It is not doubt that is bad, but what we do or don’t do with it. Embrace your doubt, ask the tough questions, and allow the risen Christ to appear to you. Then it will be come REAL for you and you will grow in leaps and bounds in your faith. Christ does not admonish you for your doubts; rather, he calls you to embrace them, rise above them, and grow beyond them!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Modest doubt is called the beacon of the wise.” – William Shakespeare

PRAYER

Lord, teach me to not deny my doubts, but to rise up and grow as a result of, and in spite of, them. Amen.