I Believe in the Impossible

THE IMPOSSIBLE

How many people do you know who have come back from the dead?  I don’t know of a single person who has.  Not since the events in the Bible happened and were recorded for our benefit.

Let’s see, Elijah raised the widow’s son, and didn’t Elisha raise someone also.  There is the widow’s son in the city of Nain, the young daughter of the synagogue ruler, and Lazarus, and of course Jesus.  Anyone else I missed?  Maybe, but I have not heard of a verified raising of the dead since New Testament times.

The story of Frankenstein is about getting life back into a dead body, and the story goes all wrong.  Cryogenics is meant to preserve until a cure for whatever killed the person cryogenically frozen is found, than they are supposed to be revived after they are thawed.  The only problem is, there is no cure for death other than God’s miraculous intervention and that hasn’t happened since Peter raised Tabitha from the dead and Paul was revived by God after being stoned to death.

Jesus is the death conqueror.  He overcame death not by being raised by Peter or Paul or Elijah or someone else, as God he raised on his own.  He possesses the power of God, for he is God, and was even when he was in the flesh as human.  Revelation 1 paints the picture of Jesus in the same imagery that Daniel, and Ezekiel, and Isaiah do in describing God in heaven.

The impossible, coming back to life is only possible by God’s power.  Anyone who lives again has returned to life by God’s power, not by science, not by medical means, not by voodoo, nothing but God’s power can overcome the one thing that is certainly impossible for humans.

I believe in the impossible.

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PS: I hope you have enjoyed this series :I Believe in the Impossible

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Gut Wrenching Prayer (Jesus Praying in the Garden)

When Jesus was praying in the Garden, “My Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from me,” (@Mt. 26:39, NASB) he was asking the Father for another way. Jesus knew the extent of the horror he was going to experience. He knew how he would die and what it would cost him to go through that experience.

I’ve heard it said that Jesus wasn’t afraid of the physical pain. I can’t believe that to be true. But I do believe the physical pain was minor compared to the pain of feeling forsaken and separated from God when he would become sin for us.

Jesus comes to the Father, alone, with his friends a short distance away and he pleads with God, with his sweat becoming like drops of blood. He knows what is about to happen. He knows the terror his soul and his flesh will feel. He does not want to be separated in his loving, unified fellowship with God the Father. That separation will tear at his heart and soul. It will be the worst thing that can happen.

Jesus will know what it is like for people to be far away from God. What kind of hell their souls are in and will be in if they continue in sin with the consequence of punishment in hell.

Is there another way? Can we accomplish this in a different way some way where we will not be separated by sin?

Jesus never once wanted to abandon humanity to sin. He wasn’t betraying our faith and trust. He knew what was coming and what it meant and asked for something different.

But, because his relationship with the Father was one of love and unity and obedience, Jesus willingly submitted himself to the will and vision of God the Father. His words, “Yet not as I will, but as you will,” (Mt. 26:39, NASB) tell of his love for the Father and his love for humanity which bears the image of God.

This was a huge sacrifice for Jesus. He would be beaten and ripped to pieces and then crucified until he died, but his sacrifice was his fellowship with God is so pure and holy, he cannot associate with sin.  And if Jesus was experiencing pain from separation anxiety, consider what God the Father would experience.

Because Jesus willingly died for our sin, through our faith in him, our sins are forgiven. When Jesus died with our sins placed on him, the eternal power of sin was put to death. When Jesus rose from the dead, he came to life without sin because sin was defeated. Sin, the power of sin, and sin’s leader the devil were all done in.

To deal with sin, it gut wrenching. It is for us now, it was for Jesus then. But that is what he came to do, deal with sin by putting sin to death. And the Father’s will was accomplished when Jesus died on the cross for me and for you.

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The Uncomfortable Truth (Romans Pt 2)

I believe it’s pretty common, most people want or try to improve themselves. The New Year is a popular time for people to reevaluate their lives and resolve themselves to improving themselves in some way. Eat healthier, lose weight, develop stronger relationships, help the needy more, be more productive at work, etc.

I think we all want change that is desirable to ourselves as well as is beneficial to those around us. Isn’t that a good goal? Be better and make the world a better place.

We also rely upon others to make things better. In the past couple of national elections, the main reason America elected most of the candidates they did was to see our country become a better place, economically and socially, to put the biases and divisions behind and find a unity that might propel our country forward as not only the greatest nation it has been, but that it will become even greater.

There are organizations whose purpose is to benefit and improve the lives of others. They may be concerned with the planet, or with poverty, or with animals, or education, or any number of things.

We humans want to be better. How well we’re doing at that is a matter of opinion, but there is one uncomfortable truth that each individual must wrestle with, whether we like it or not. Here is the fact – we human beings are sinners!

Bad word. No one likes that word and a lot of us want to deny that is what we are. We weren’t born that way, we were born with the ability to learn and the free-will to choose and we learn to sin and we choose to sin which makes us sinners.

We all want to improve ourselves just like I already noted, but we cannot improve or change until we understand and admit that need. I can’t overcome being overweight until I consciously and emotionally admit that it’s not good and then I must have the conviction and determination that something needs to be done about it and so I’m grateful for Nutrisystem. Until I come to that point in my life, my weight will remain, or actually, continue to increase, even if only gradually.

We hide ourselves from God because we have sin. Sin never accomplishes anything positive. It actually separates us from God. We want to deny that, but it is true. Look at Romans 1:18

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all godlessness and wickedness of men” (sin and sinfulness) “who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (NIV)

We try to hide from our sin. Yet we are sinners and God will punish sin. Romans 6:23 says plainly, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (NIV).

It’s not good. George Carlin (1937-2008) accused Christians of being the reason for the problems in the world. I will admit that some Christians have created problems in the world, and at the same time I realize that many who claim to be Christians do not represent God or the spirit of Christianity. I think that Carlin, and others like Bill Maher have lumped all people who claim to be Christians into one basket. That is dangerous. That’s like saying every Democrat is liberal or every Republican is conservative and interpreting the characteristics of each party on the basis of a few people. That’s not fair.

The problems in the world is sin. It always has been. Sin is a separation from God. Sin puts up a wall that keeps us from reaching God and keeps God away from our lives. We like the moral teachings of Jesus, we revel in the care for the weak, the crippled, and the poor that the Bible endorses, but just being moral, or being helpful doesn’t bring us close to God because sin has separated us from him.

The sad reality is that each and every one of us has learned to and has chosen to sin. A single white lie, disobeying our parents, stealing a dime from the kid sitting next to you in math class, any single thing was enough to build the wall. And the more we do things that are sin, it’s makes this proverbial wall higher, and wider, and even thicker separating us further from God.

All have sinned and come short of God’s glory” Romans 3:23 (NASB), or as “The Message says, “Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us….”

We can’t please God in this way. We can’t get close to God with sin, in fact, he doesn’t hear our cries out to him in need or in thanksgiving unless we are repenting of our sin.

Another sad reality is, since we humans sin and seem to want to keep sinning, God has given us over to that sin and things continue to go from bad to worse in our lives and in the world. God will not force his will on us, but his desire is to have a close and intimate relationship with you and me.

The truth is uncomfortable, but it is not hopeless.

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The Weekend is About Jesus

This weekend is the anniversary date of when Jesus was arrested, tried, crucified and died, buried, and rose again.  I call it Resurrection Sunday.  A lot of people call it Easter.

There are folks who look at similar pagan practices and assume that the Christian way of celebrating Easter is because we  borrowed and changed or Christianized their Easter practices.  To learn the truth about this, go to http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/bytopic/holidays/easterborrowedholiday.html.  It explains the actual origins.

Now, I don’t have a problem with taking something pagan and converting it and reconciling it through Christ (cf. https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2009/09/30/wallys-restoration/ and https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2010/03/06/regeneration/ ). Isn’t that what has happened in our lives.  We were far from God, and Christ died for our sins and through Jesus we are reconciled to God.  We who were pagan* have been saved and changed through our faith in Jesus who died on the cross.

So even if we have taken a pagan holiday, or any number of pagan holidays and converted them to Christianity, how different is that from what God has done in our lives through Christ.

This weekend is about Jesus.  Unlike the celebration of Christmas, this is the actual anniversary date of the Passover night when Jesus was betrayed by Judas, arrested by the Romans on behalf of the Jewish leaders.  When Jesus was tried before the Sanhedrin, Herod and Pilate.  When the crowds wanted him crucified and Pilate on behalf of the Jewish leaders condemned Jesus to death and he was nailed to a cross and died 6 hours later.

This is the weekend that Jesus was taken down from the cross and buried in a tomb, and three days later, on Sunday morning, Jesus rose from the dead, came out of the tomb and began to show people that he was alive and that death had no power over him, that in fact his death was necessary to bring victory over Satan, sin, and death.

Jesus lives!  And the evidence is beyond a shadow of a doubt that he came back to life.  This weekend is about Jesus, but isn’t every weekend about Jesus?

We celebrate the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week, every week like the early church did because it is about what Jesus did on the cross.  We gather on the first day of the week because the early church did so in honor of Jesus rising from the dead on Sunday.

The Barna Research Group put out a study recently that shows that most Americans recognize that Easter is a religious holiday but few recognize its real meaning ( http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/13-culture/356-most-americans-consider-easter-a-religious-holiday-but-fewer-correctly-identify-its-meaning).

And baptism, according to Romans 6 particularly, we learn that immersion is about Jesus’ death and resurrection as well as our own.  It is in baptism that we come into contact with his death, burial, and resurrection.

I am baptized because of Jesus.  I worship on the first day of the week with God’s people because of Jesus.  I share in the Lord’s Supper, Communion every week because of Jesus.  I live life now because of Jesus.

It’s the regular Sunday School answer, “Jesus.”  It’s all about Jesus.  Let us celebrate the real thing for the real reason and honor the real Lord.

“I believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God and he is my Lord and my God.”

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* Pagan in this sense is that we were not in Christ, but outside of Christ, alienated from God.

I’m at a Loss at What to Do

A few years ago, I read about a family that suffered a loss. The mother’s father had died and they were rushing around packing and getting the family ready to travel several hundred miles for the funeral.  In the middle of their preparations, an old guy from their church that they didn’t know very well showed up at their door.

Not only didn’t they know him, they thought he was a bit odd and weren’t sure about him.  When he arrived on their doorstep, the mom answer and wondered what in the world he was doing there.

She asked him what she could do for him.  He told her that he was there to shine their shoes.  He had his shoe-shine kit and wanted to make their shoes look the best they can for such an important and solemn occasion.

He saw a need to help and share compassion and he offered to do the only thing that he could and so while they rushed to get ready to do, he polished the shoes they would wear at the funeral and made an impact on this family.  They were grateful and this simple act of kindness eased their grief and suffering.  He didn’t say a thing, he just served a need.

It is interesting, God seems to have gifted me with the ability to show his compassion to people who are hurting.  I spend a lot of time in hospitals, nursing homes, with grieving families, and other similar situations.  I have been there when people have breathed their last, when the family learns of their death, through surgeries, when they learned they had a debilitating illness.  I have preached a lot of funerals.  A good part of them were the result of tragic events.  Automobile accidents, murder victims, and I can’t remember all the types of tragic events I have done funerals for.

And in every case, I feel totally inadequate.  I never know what to say.  And I have another one of those situations.  this time is different from before too.

Last week, our oldest member died of cancer.  She was 90 years old.  The last few weeks were difficult on her and her family.  But difficulty has been multiplied.  Her 32-year-old grandson was killed in an auto accident this morning.

I know that the most important thing is to be there and be with them.  Let them vent, let them cry, and pray with them.  But like every other time, what in the world am I supposed to say?  It’s hard to accept that God is loving and caring at moments like these.  It’s difficult to express in words anyway, that there is comfort available to them.

I know of only one thing that I can do that is true, effective, and correct.  Point them to Jesus.  God cares for them.  God has help and hope for them.  But grief can blind hearts and minds to God’s care and compassion.  I guess that’s why he sends people like me to share his love and mercy.

I get to serve an incredible God.  He will get them through, regardless of my inadequacy.

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I Just Don’t Know

I don’t get art. I mean, I am not an art appreciationado by any means. If someone paints an apple and it looks like an apple. I go, “Wow, that looks like an apple.” If someone paints a portrait than I admire the resemblance to the subject of the painting. But most art to me, is about as understandable as abstract art. There is no rhyme or reason behind it. The piece on the left here seems like light to me. But makes no sense otherwise. There seems to me to be nothing normal about it. Just colors. Just paint strokes. Whatever. I may like it, but it means nothing to me. It’s not an apple or a painting of a president or something that makes sense to my mind.

Today has been a difficult day. I guess it is the culmination of the past few days. Now there is tomorrow and I don’t know what that will bring. Life to me has always been, that’s an apple or that’s a president, not what is that?

Let me explain.

For me, life has been cut and dried. It is what it is and it made sense. I’m a guy, a product of a Christian home, 70’s music, a conservative understanding of life and politics and the Bible. I have been influenced by family, and church, and school, and friends (both Christian and not). I believe in marriage, that it is between a man and a woman, in parents raising their children, and punishment for wrong-doing. I can go on.

Life has always been pretty cut and dried. And I know a lot of the answers for why bad things happen to good people and why good things happen to bad people. You know, the problem of evil. I’ve even led people to a belief and understanding about God while discussing the problem.

But today has been, well, abstract. All I know just doesn’t make sense at the moment. Why does a 90-year-old woman die of cancer and not old age. That’s what happens to younger folk, people  my age. Why am I working the grave-yard shift when it so unnatural to stay awake all night long every day of the week. Night is for sleeping, not for working. And so sleep doesn’t come in ways that gives rest and clear-headedness. Why is a work week not Monday through Saturday, but Wednesday through Sunday. Who thought of that?

What I consider normal, working during the day and not on weekends, and sleeping at night and eating 3 times a day at pretty much set times, and people living to be old but dying from being aged, is well, only normal to me I guess.

The questions of life come down to this. In everything, in every aspect of life, every moment whether “normal” or not, do I love God with all of my heart and mind and soul and strength, and do I trust him with all my heart.

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PS: Besides, I may be catching a cold. Now that sucks!

Dead to Sin, Alive to Christ

1What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. 8Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace”  Romans 6:1-14.

I think I have mentioned this before, but I have done a lot of funerals.  A large portion of them are for people I never knew, but a lot for folks who died of old age, and I have preached the funerals of several tragic situations.

The thing is, that when a person dies, (generally, in our society) we bury them.  We lay their body in a box of some sort, dig a hole and we bury them.  We don’t lay them on the ground and sprinkle some dirt on them, we lay them into the ground and cover them with soil.

When Jesus died, they buried him.  Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’ body and they laid him in Joseph’s cave tomb.  They buried Jesus.

You and I are lost in our sins (Romans 3:23).  We are guilty of sin against God and deserve punishment.  That punishment is often called death.  Since we are dead in our sins, a burial must take place.

Now, we’re not going to bury your living physical body, but since we’re lost in sin, since that spiritual death has occurred, baptism is the burial.  But it is so much more.

Romans 6 teaches us so much about baptism.

  • It is burial with Christ, verses 3-4.  We are then united with him in his death which was very simply for our sin.
  • It’s is raising with Christ, verse 5 & 8-10.  We are then united with him in the life that he now lives.
  • It is being dead to sin, verses 2 & 6-7.  Sin no longer has the power it did over us.
  • It is being given a brand new life that was different than before, verses 11-14.  We have chosen to live life as Jesus Christ lived life.

Sin is so bad.  It injures the heart of God.  Because it separates us from his love.  And he hates that.  He wants to share his love with us and until we are freed from sin, we can’t return that love.  In fact, God’s love saves.

Once we believe in Jesus, who died to pay for our sins, when we have come to the point of confessing Jesus and repenting, than when we are baptized, we are united with Christ’s death, when God “sprinkles our hearts to cleanse us” (Hebrews 10:22).  Once we are cleansed from our unrighteousness, we are freed from sin, joined with Christ, and given eternal life with God and now we get to live.

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