An Even Better Story Coming

1 Thessalonians 4

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

I have always enjoyed reading the Chronicles of Narnia.  As I read them, I love to compare the story to what is written in the Bible.  Of all the books in the series, my favorite is The Last Battle.  I love seeing the old characters, the Pensieves, returning to the series.  1st Thessalonians 4 is describing the time when people come back into the story, just like the Pensieves coming back into the Chronicles of Narnia.


Verse 17 says, “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.”  Can you imagine being able to see the dead in Christ?  There will be the reunions to loved ones and the meeting of the heroes of faith.  In The Last Battle, those who were still alive at the very end are excited to meet Lord Diggory and Lady Polly because they were in Narnia in the very beginning.  But, even more, they loved meeting their old relatives and friends.


While seeing the dead in Christ will be great, there is an even better promise in verse 17: “We shall always be with the Lord.”  We get to spend eternity with the Lord!  That is a great promise that we can look forward to the fulfillment of.  We know that when the kingdom comes, it will be a life beyond comparison.  A life that none of us will ever be able to even start to imagine.  


The Last Battle ends with these few sentences: “[T]he things that happened after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them.  And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after.  But for them it was only the beginning of the real story.  All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”


The lives of Peter, Edmund, and Lucy as they were written in the earlier books, with the amazing adventures in the land of Narnia, was nothing to compare with their life in the new Narnia.  They were beginning an even better book which no one on earth will ever read, where life just gets better and better.  We have this to look forward to where we also will have such amazing lives in the kingdom that they will be nothing to compare to this life.  There is an even better story coming that we can’t even begin to fathom!

-Kaitlyn Hamilton

Questions to Discuss and Reflect Upon

  1. What order of events does Paul relate to the Thessalonians in chapter 4 so that they will not be, “uninformed about those who sleep in death” (verse 13) ? Is this the same or different as what you hear at most Christian funerals? Could it be there are many today uninformed about those who sleep in death?
  2. What are you most looking forward to at the time of Jesus’ return? Remembering this, how will it change your day today?
  3. After telling the Thessalonians what they have to look forward to, Paul said to, “Encourage one another with these words” (vs 18). How can you do that today?

Witnesses

Mark 16

Sunday, August 7, 2022

After numerous chapters devoted to preparing for the death and subsequent sacrifice of Christ, we finally reach the glorious reward of the Resurrection! Mark chapter 16, compared to the other gospels, is quite sparse in descriptive details of the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus. However, what it does depict breathes a message of hope and love for the future of the church, as well as a final instruction.

               When Mary and Mary were given the message to tell the remaining disciples that Christ had risen, the disciples couldn’t believe it. “When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.” Mark 16:11. In fact, it seems like one of the things the disciples are best at is not believing something until they see it. They did not have faith that the thing they had been listening to Jesus predict for the past several years would come to fruition. Don’t worry because Jesus rebuked them for not believing when he found them again. Do you struggle to believe what Jesus has promised us? Sometimes it’s difficult to imagine a world where we all get along, where there is no longer pain. But without faith, we will never see this world; not because it won’t exist, but because we lack the faith to see it. Have faith!

               The final message Jesus gives the disciples is to “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:15. That is our grand mission! What are you doing today to increase the Kingdom of God? Some of us are not called to verbally preach the word, and some of us are blessed with such a gift. But not being good at public speaking is no excuse to not spread the word.

               Actions can speak significantly louder than words. In fact, that’s often the best way to spread the word; by living it out. To speak the message of Christ with empty words whilst living a life completely contrary is almost worse than to have never spoken a word at all. It is by watching the lives of those who follow Christ that we will be living examples of the love he provides us. In your joy, in your struggles, in your sadness, and in your blessings, praise God that you have been given this life to live. Focus on becoming the people that God has instructed us to become and devote your successes to Him. Live your life with the purpose of praising and worshipping Him, and He will reward you. As Christ commands it, do not simply speak the word; live it. Amen

-Mason Kiel

AND

2 witnesses are better than one! Today we have TWO writers for you – so below is your second devotion on Mark 16. Thank you Mason AND Jeff for writing for today. Keep sharing the good good news! Jesus is Alive!

            Have you ever been a witness who was called on to testify in court?  I have.  It was an interesting experience.  I had seen a crime committed, I reported it to the police, the criminal was arrested, I was asked to give a written statement to the police and I was later called on to testify at their trial.  I will say that when you witness something that causes excitement, gets your heart pounding, and puts you in “fight or flight” mode, it affects your thinking and perspective.  Everything seemed to be going faster than it really was.  Normally it’s more believable when several people give their eyewitness testimony.  Of course, no two witnesses agree on every detail.  Each person sees different things from different vantage points.  Each person remembers different details.  Each person recalls the sequence of events in a slightly different order.  These variations in detail are actually normal and good.  If every witness testified exactly the same details in the same way the lawyers for the other side would be arguing that they were unreliable because they obviously got together and rehearsed their testimony, which is a big no-no.

            When people read the Gospel accounts of Jesus they are seeing the story of Jesus unfold through the eyes of a variety of different witnesses.   The Spirit of God is the inspiration behind each of the writers, but God works through human beings and through different witnesses.  So it should come as no surprise when we read the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and also the writings of Paul, Peter, James, and others, that while they are telling basically the same story, they do so from different perspectives.  The Gospel writers are either reporting what they themselves witnessed or what other eyewitnesses reported to them.  They tell the same story with different perspectives and often emphasize different parts of the story or place the events of the story in slightly different orders in keeping with the overall theme of their account.  Each story has different audiences in mind, different themes, and is not carbon copies of each other.

            One very important rule that is repeated throughout the Bible is that there must be a minimum of two or three witnesses. (See Deuteronomy 19:15, Matthew 18:16, John 8:17, and several other passages).  We’ve already noted that there are four Gospel accounts in the New Testament which fulfill that important principle.

            It is also interesting to note the background of who is qualified to be a witness.  Jewish law has a list of different types of people who are not permitted to be called as witnesses: “women, slaves, minors, lunatics, the deaf, the blind, the wicked, the contemptible, relatives, and the interested parties (Yad, Edut 9:1).” https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/witness .  The Talmud, which is a Jewish Commentary from ancient times gives more details about who the “wicked” are who cannot testify.  At one point in ancient Jewish history, shepherds were included in the list of people disqualified from witnessing. “As a class, shepherds acquired a bad reputation as being lawless, dishonest, and unreliable, above all because of their habit of trespassing on other people’s lands to graze their flocks.” https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2015/20-february/regulars/out-of-the-question/shepherds-character-reference.

            Here’s what I find very interesting: two categories of people who were not permitted to act as witnesses were shepherds and women.  I’m not interested in debating the fairness of those exclusions, but simply note that at the time of Jesus’ birth, life, and death, some of the people who were not accepted as reliable witnesses were shepherds and women.  Why is this important? Consider, who were the first eyewitnesses who heard the angelic announcement about the birth of Jesus?  Luke says it was “Shepherds living out in the fields keeping watch over their flocks at night” (Luke 2:8).  It was to these “unreliable witness” shepherds that the angels appeared.  And it was these unreliable witness shepherds who went and reported to Mary and Joseph all that they had seen and then went out and “spread the word” about all that they had seen. (Luke 2:17)

            Now, maybe that was just a fluke… but maybe not.  In today’s reading, Mark 16, we fast forward to just after the death of Jesus.  Who is it who first go to the tomb after Jesus died?  Once again, it was to “unreliable witnesses” – this time it was women.  To whom did the angel appear announcing that Christ had risen?  “Unreliable witness” women.  Maybe it wasn’t a fluke after all.  Maybe it’s a part of God’s deliberate plan to choose people to be witnesses of these important saving acts of God, which the world normally rejects.  Does God choose to reveal His great acts of saving to the lowly people the world rejects?  It seems He does.  In fact, now that you know to look for it, pay attention when you read the Gospels and notice how many times the witnesses God uses come from the ranks of the supposed “unreliable witnesses.”  How many times does God use women, or tax collectors (another category of unreliable witness) or slaves, the blind, the deaf, or just plain sinners to be His witnesses?  You’ll find that from beginning to end, the Gospel is filled with “unreliable witnesses” who turn out to be very reliable.  And in a giant flip-flop of societal expectations, it is the lawyers and religious professionals from the reliable witness class who are the ones who bring false charges against Jesus.

            But the real question that each of us needs to ask ourselves today is, am I a reliable witness for Jesus?  Am I willing to tell the truth about what I have seen, heard, and known firsthand about Jesus in my own life?  Am I willing to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” about Jesus?

-Jeff Fletcher

Questions for Discussion:

  1.  Why do you think God chose “unreliable witnesses” to be the witnesses to Jesus’ birth and resurrection and other key events?
  2. When was the last time you told someone else “witnessed” what you have seen,  heard, or experienced about Jesus?
  3. Who is someone whom you could witness to today?

Paul Before Felix

Acts 24

May 12

Once again Paul is calmly stating the facts against his false accusers.  He stresses “there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked” (v.15).  Felix likes to listen to Paul, probably hoping for a bribe.  He’s a willing audience until Paul starts stepping on his toes.  When the subjects of righteousness, self-control and the coming judgment come up, Felix suddenly has better things to do.

Take care not to listen to God just when it’s convenient.  Or stop fellowship if someone steps on your toes.  Proverbs 27:17 tells us “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”   God wants us in fellowship for a reason.

-Annette Osborn

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Have you ever been in a “bad situation” (before your accusers or in custody for two years or something else) that was an opportunity to share about Jesus and a coming resurrection for the righteous and wicked? (Hint: the answer is yes) Did you seize the opportunity? How could you see the opportunity and be bold to do so next time?
  2. Are you easily offended or avoid further contact when your toes are stepped on? What is a healthy attitude to take?

Do You See?

John 20

April 17

Do You See? Have you recognized Jesus’ resurrection? Is it a foreign idea to you?

Here’s the issue: In verse 8 it says, “Then the other disciple [John], who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed” (John 20:8). What did he see? What did he believe? Jesus wasn’t there—just some cloths that he left behind.

Compare this to Mary in verse 18: She has met Jesus in the garden and spoken to him. She returns to the disciples and says, “I have seen the Lord” (John 20:18). We don’t have Mary’s direct evidence. We are more like John in the tomb—there is evidence, and either we see through it or we don’t. The issue is: Do you see? The issue is: Do I care? Do I find that idea helpful? Do I feel that it helps me flourish as a human being? And if it seems like it doesn’t, then I will just view it the way I view UFOs and possible life in some distant galaxy—I just don’t need to bother with it.

Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’ followers, goes to His tomb only to find that He’s not there! Jesus appears to Mary and several others, fulfilling all that He had said about rising from the dead.

Either you see Christ risen and that changes you or Christ’s death is some obscure event that happened in the past.

The reality is Jesus is alive! He is risen! He can change us like he promised. We have no hope of changing ourselves. The only way we can put away sinful habits is through a relationship with Jesus made possible by His death and resurrection.

On the cross, Jesus clothed Himself in our sin. When Peter and John looked into the empty tomb, they saw Jesus was not there and He had left His burial clothes. John 20 shows us that Jesus left our sinful nature in the grave when He rose from the dead.

“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

We do not have to be controlled by our desire to sin. Not only do we not have to be clothed in sin, the resurrection means we get to be clothed in something better. In Colossians 3:12, Paul says, “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Following Jesus allows us to put away our old lives and begin new ones.

If you think this does not matter to you, remember, those who are in Christ—that is, who believe on him, and belong to him, and receive forgiveness and reconciliation from him—will be raised with him. And Paul says in Philippians 3:21 that Jesus “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” This is not a UFO, or irrelevant life on another galaxy. This is what will happen when God judges the world by a man, Jesus Christ.

Do you see?

-Andy Cisneros

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Do you see that Jesus is alive? What evidence leads you to believe that Jesus rose from the dead and is living today?
  2. What does it mean to you that you don’t have to be clothed in sin any more? Are you still? What does one do to make the transition from living the old life to the new? If you aren’t sure, who can you talk to about it?
  3. Who do you know who needs to see? What can you show them about Jesus – today?

The First People to See Jesus

Mark 16

            There is a scene in Mark 16 where three women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome are all going to anoint Jesus’ body with spices, after he had died. There is a similar account in each of the other gospels, the books of Matthew, Luke and John. In the accounts from the other gospels, there are many different details mentioned, but one detail that remains the same through all of the accounts: women were the first to know Jesus was alive! The fact that women were the first to know of Jesus’ resurrection brings validity to scripture. Let me explain how.

            First, we need to understand the culture in which Jesus lived. During his time, women’s testimonies were not taken seriously. Don’t get me wrong, I think women and men are equally trustworthy and both should be taken seriously, but that wasn’t the view during the time of Jesus. There is a book called the Talmud which is an extra-biblical book that contains Jewish teaching and theology. Here is a quote from the Talmud which pointedly explains this view, “but let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their gender…since it is probable that they may not speak truth, either out of hope of gain, or fear of punishment.” Once again, these are not my thoughts and I’m not agreeing with them, but this was a common belief during the time period. Understanding how women’s testimonies were viewed is important because it probably means this account wasn’t fabricated.

            You see, if someone wanted to make up a fake story about Jesus coming back to life during the first century, they probably would not have used women as the first on the scene and the first to report the news about Jesus’ resurrection. A made up story probably would have used the more trustworthy and reliable testimony of men to tell this story. Remember, this is how they thought back then. As a side note, Jesus didn’t think this way. He on multiple occasions showed favor to women. Taking into consideration the mainstream view in the first century, some historians, like Bart Ehrman, think that because women were recorded as the first people to learn of Jesus’ resurrection this is not a made up account. This means that there is more evidence pointing to the gospels being a true historical account instead of a made up story.

            To me, it is nice to hear little bits of information like this to boost my confidence in scripture. Not that I would disbelieve without this evidence, but it is reassuring to hear educated people talking about the Bible as if it is an accurate historical document, and not a made up story. These types of arguments are most common in apologetic circles. Apologetics simple means defending. People who spend their time defending the faith and the Bible are called apologists. So now, you are one nugget of information closer to becoming a great apologists for the Bible. And maybe your faith in the Bible has grown as well.

-Josiah Cain

Links to today’s Bible reading – Exodus 37-38 and Mark 16

Resurrection Changes Everything

Today’s Bible Reading – Matthew 28 and Exodus 5-6

                During the 20th century among the more liberal wing of Christianity it became fashionable to interpret the Bible in a less literal more metaphorical way.  The story of the resurrection of Jesus was regarded not as historical fact but something that happened inside the disciples of Jesus that gave them hope.  The Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong famously wrote of the resurrection of Jesus as a myth which opened the disciples’ eyes to the reality of God and the meaning of Jesus Christ. (whatever that means).

                John Updike is a well regarded novelist and poet, not a theologian, but he uses the tools of a poet to counter the theological attempts to reduce the resurrection of Jesus to a simple myth.  In his poem Seven Stanzas at Easter he writes:

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.


It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that-pierced-died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

John Updike

https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/seven-stanzas-at-easter/

                What Updike so poetically states is that the resurrection of Jesus is no myth, no allegory, it actually happened.  Jesus’ dead corpse physically rose up from the tomb in which it had been buried.  Jesus was really raised to everlasting life.  The first disciples of Jesus would certainly have agreed whole-heartedly.

                Today’s passage from Matthew 28 is one of four Gospel accounts of the resurrection of Jesus.  Each of the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John include and omit different elements of the story.  This is always true of witnesses.  In a trial or a new article when multiple witnesses are interviewed they will tell the story in different ways and include and exclude data.  Each person sees and experiences things from their own unique perspective.  In fact, if all witnesses say exactly the same thing in exactly the same way it raises suspicions that they got together and colluded beforehand what their statement was going to be.  Eye-witness accounts should have different details.  But the overall story should be the same.  This is true with the story of Jesus’ resurrection.  Each of the Gospels gives different details and some alter the chronological order of events, but they are all in agreement of the important facts- Jesus physically rose from the dead and there were numerous eye-witnesses.

                Outside of the Gospels, the Apostle Paul also offers his own testimony.  In the book of Acts Paul encountered the risen Christ while he was on his way to Damascus to persecute the Church.  And later, Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the resurrection of the dead:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (I Corinthians 15:3-8, New International Version).

                Paul makes it clear that not only is the death of Jesus foundational to Christianity but so is his resurrection that was witnessed by more than 500 people including Paul.  According to the Old Testament Law it took two or three witnesses to confirm something as factual.  More than 500 witnesses is way more than necessary to confirm a fact.  Jesus really did rise from the dead.

                Paul then connects the resurrection of Jesus to the resurrection of all people.

12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (I Corinthians 15:3-8)

Paul says here that if there is no resurrection of Jesus and no resurrection of the followers of Jesus, then we are wasting our time talking about faith.  The true, bodily resurrection of Jesus is no myth, it is central to our faith and it changes everything.

The Apostles certainly believed it was true.  They took up Jesus’ commission to go into all of the world and proclaim the good news that Christ has died and Christ has risen, and Christ will come again.  You and I are part of that same tradition.  We are called to pass along this same truth.  It is who we are.  Jesus Christ really did rise from the dead.  Jesus Christ really is coming again to raise those who have died and are asleep in their graves from death to everlasting life.  That is our hope and joy.  That is the foundation on which to live your whole life.

-Jeff Fletcher

Jesus Says Go

Mark 16

image (5).png

Jesus was nailed to a tree, he breathed his last, the curtain was torn.

The stone was rolled away, sin lost its stronghold, death was defeated.

This story holds so much power, whether it’s your first time hearing it or your ten thousandth time. Live everyday like you’ve just seen the stone rolled away from the tomb with your very own eyes. Let that excitement, awe, and wonder overflow from your heart.

We know the power of the empty tomb, so now what? When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, he appoints them to a certain task: Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15).

Jesus said go, so the disciples went.

Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it (Mark 16:20).

Jesus said go, so the disciples went, and God showedup.

God saw the disciple’s obedience as usability. When we go, we obey Jesus’ calling on our life, and God can work through us. Look at everything God accomplished through the disciples after Jesus’ ascension into heaven:

Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed (Acts 5:14-16).

Jesus said go, so will you obey? Will you let God work through you?

You don’t have to go far, but you do have to go. Go sit in your front yard and engage your neighbors walking by in conversation. Go to the grocery store and be extra friendly to your cashier. Go to church and mentor the newly saved Christian. Go to work and be eager to strike at every small opportunity to share the hope of the Kingdom.

You have a mission field. Your mailman, your coworker, and your next-door neighbor, need to hear the gospel. You have a message to share! If not you, then who?

 

-Mackenzie McClain

Work while Waiting for the Trumpet

I Corinthians 15

 

1 Corinthians 15 58 (1).png

So, two chapters ago we got to hear from the wise and lovely Susan Landry on the Love Chapter.  Today – we get to look at 1st Corinthians 15 – the Resurrection Chapter.  I find it just a little interesting that when chapters and verses were inserted it ends up being 13 powerful verses on love in the 13th chapter.  And, a mere 58 verses on resurrection in the 15th chapter of Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth.  There are definitely some Important things that Paul wants to pass along regarding resurrection.

 

He starts right off saying that the gospel he preached to them IS what saves – IFFFF and only if they continue to hold firmly to it.  He tells how he passed along to them what he heard of Christ, “of first importance” – his death for our sins, burial, and resurrection.  What do we pass along of first importance?  Hopefully it’s more than the weather report, sport scores, family activities, or Hollywood gossip.  There is a gospel that saves – but only for those who hear it and believe and hold firmly to it.  I appreciated Jake Ballard’s writings here on the devotions blog (following Easter – April 23-26) on proving the resurrection – first Christ’s, then the coming resurrection.  If you know someone who could use some help in believing (even yourself?) it would be time well spent to do the research, ask the questions, pray for understanding, surround yourself with believers, find the answers, and seek ways to defend the faith and the resurrection.

 

For, as in Paul’s day, there are still many who will mislead (vs. 33).  Don’t be one caught going in the wrong direction.  There are many who are still ignorant of God – to our shame – we have work to do (vs. 34).  While we are preparing for the trumpet sound, we have work to do.  Looking forward to that great moment when we will be changed in the twinkling of an eye (vs 52)!  Looking forward to that moment when death is swallowed up in victory (vs. 54)!  And because of this . . . “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

 

-Marcia Railton

Looking for the Living Christ

Philippians 3 10
John 20
Acts 1
Acts 9
Church Tradition
Revelation 1
All these places point to a living Christ, if we take the Bible even slightly seriously.
But it doesn’t mean much if you don’t believe.
Today, we are going to do something different. When you are done reading this blog, turn off your phone, close your Bibles and listen to the Spirit of God. Jesus said he would give us the Spirit, and the Spirit of Truth will guide us into all truth. So listen to the spirit.
That’s a hard ask, but what I mean is pray. That prayer may be sitting quietly at your powered-off laptop, or it may be on a run in your neighborhood, or on a nature hike in the nearby park, or it may be as you weed your garden, or as you pick up your room at college. Wherever you find yourself, in whatever it is that connects you to the Lord, ask the question I have asked you over and over again.
Do you believe that Jesus is alive?
That is the central question, not merely of the Christian faith, but of the human condition.
If Christ be not raised, life is, to quote MacBeth, “A tale/ Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/ Signifying nothing.”
And one more Bible study, one more daily reading will not fix that bleak picture of existence if you do not believe Christ is really and truly alive.
Today, pray for conviction that Christ is raised. Pray for the knowledge that he lives. Pray that Christ would live within you and be made real to you. Whatever it takes.
I have had my doubts. There are times when I felt the crushing weight of loneliness, as if we are the only beings in the universe. But now, having experienced the saving grace of God in my life, I am convinced. I know that Christ lives, and I have written every day with the desire that you too are convinced.
May you, my brothers and sisters, feel the wind of the spirit as Christ breathes on you.
May you dive into the waters of life and swim to the shore where Christ prepares a meal and forgives your sins.
May you see him rise up from the mount of olives to prepare a place and may you trust he will descend to that mount again.
May you find yourself knocked from your horse with the voice of Christ resounding in your ears.
May you stand firm, no matter the course of life, no matter the beast or demon that stand in your way and persevere in his calling.
May you have all this and more because Christ, the savior and redeemer, is alive through the Power of God.
So, I ask one more time, do you believe Jesus is alive?
-Jake Ballard

Turning to See Jesus

Free Theme Days – Evidence of the Risen Jesus

Revelation 1

Revelation 1 5 6
The last book of the Bible is a strange book. When one reads through it, one is accost with a number of images: dead lambs and dragons, beasts and battlegrounds, angelic armies and satanic hordes, a woman wearing starry crowns and a harlot mounted atop a beast. With these fascinating images along with many others, and a host of interpretations through the years for each image (it’s the Pope, no it’s Russia, no it’s China…) one easily can get lost in those conversations. However, I want to focus on Revelation Chapter 1. Go read it.
READ REVELATION 1!
Think about that description. Who are we talking about?
Jesus.
The one who was dead but is now alive forever and ever. Every day this week, we discussed how Jesus was believed to be alive. Revelation at the following chapters is a testament, a revealing on the work Jesus is still doing to John.
First, John looks and he sees Jesus. His eyes are open to the possibility that Jesus is alive, because he has heard the message as it was told to him or as he experienced it (whether John on Patmos is the same John of Zebedee is too big a discussion for today). And when John has the faith that maybe, just maybe, a man can rise from the dead, Jesus shows up. Jesus is ready to appear and teach.
Second, this Jesus is mighty. He wears a gold sash, with flaming eyes, bronze feet, white hair, with a voice of many waters. Shining like the sun, he has swords in his mouth and holds stars. He now holds the keys of death and hades, and is the First and the Last. John recognizes that Jesus, being raised is more than just a man with breath in his lungs again, like Lazarus or Eutychus who died again. He was alive in a way that made our life pale in comparison.
Third, and this where were the work of Jesus comes into play. What is Christ doing? He is walking among some lampstands. In an act of compassion for our brains, Jesus tells John “The seven lampstands are the seven churches.” What is Jesus doing? He walks among the churches. He is not far away and distance but close beside where his people are.
What do we gain from reading Revelation 1? We gain a few truths. Jesus walks close beside his people, especially when gathered together as the church. If we are gathered together Christ walks among us. If we want to see him, we should go where he wants to be found, among his people. We should also take very seriously that we aren’t looking for a soft cuddly Jesus who will tell us everything we want to hear. He may give comfort (Rev. 2:8-11), but he may also call you out on your terrible behavior (Rev. 3:14-22). But we only see Jesus when we turn and look. He is not hiding, but so often we hear the call of his voice and assume that he is not really there.
John believed that Jesus could still be alive. He turned, and to his joy he saw the risen Christ. The same can be said about us, if we are willing to turn and look, because we believe he is alive.
So, do you believe Jesus is alive?
-Jake Ballard
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