A Resurrection Day Meditation

Garden Tomb Near Golgotha

Matthew 28:11–15 (ESV)

The Report of the Guard

11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.

 

WIne Press at the Garden Tomb
Wine Press Near the Garden Tomb

A couple of comments:

  • Be very suspicious of coached witnesses.
  • How could they know it wasn’t Martians who stole the body if they were asleep?
  • Martians stealing the body actually makes about as much sense.
  • The story is so implausible that for almost 2000 years, people who don’t want to believe the facts, have been trying to find alternative explanations.
  • None of them work.
  • Because Jesus is alive! He is risen, just as he said.

Matthew 28:5–7 (ESV)

But the angel said to the women,

“Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold,  . . .”

Hallalujah!
Christ
 is Risen!
He is Risen indeed.

Palm Sunday Meditation

Palm Sunday ends. It began with a parade. It ends with a whimper.

And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.

Matthew 21:17

With the last verse of the Palm Sunday text, the heart begins to move toward the cross. Jesus has come to the city 5 days before Passover, sees the city, weeps over the city (Lk 19:41), evaluates her apostasy and blindness (Lk. 19:42-44), and leaves, having pronounced his evaluation of their worship (Mt. 21:13).

The die is cast. Soon He will hang on the cross for those who did not recognize the day the Messiah came to offer Himself as King. Melito of Sardis talks about what will happen next.

Melito of Sardis 

He who hung the earth is hanging.
He who fixed the heavens in place
has been fixed in place.
He who laid the foundations of the universe
has been laid on a tree…[1]

It is Holy Week.

Let your heart be filled with thoughts of Him who died for you, 

…………………….. who died for you,
…………………….. who rose for you,
…………………….. who is coming back for you,
…………………….. and who is coming again to judge the living and the dead.

[1] From Homily on Pascha. written around A.D. 180. Melito was a Jewish Christian.

Discipleship-More than Your Church Told You

Sunday Afternoon Musings

clarence-jordan
Clarence Jordan

I quoted this passage from Stanley Hauerwas’ theological commentary on Matthew this week as I exposited the text from Matthew’s gospel (4:12-25).

He was relating a story about Clarence Jordan. I just might spend the rest of my life studying the life of Clarence Jordan. What a great man of God! I’m looking forward to meeting him in glory one day.

Thank your Lord, for such men and such preaching.

Clarence Jordan, the founder of the Koinonia Community, an interracial farm in Georgia . . . illumines the difference between being a disciple and those who simply admire Jesus. In the early 1950’s . . . Clarence asked his brother, Robert Jordan, who would later be a state senator and a justice on the Georgia Supreme Court, to represent Koinonia Farm legally. His brother replied:

“Clarence, I can’t do that. You know my political aspirations. Why, if I represented you, I might lose my job, my house, everything I’ve got.”

We might lose everything too, Bob.”

“It’s different for you.”

“Why is it different? I remember, it seems to me, that you and I joined the church the same Sunday, as boys. I expect when we came forward the preacher asked me about the same question he did you. He asked me, ‘Do you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ What did you say?”

“I follow Jesus, Clarence, up to a point.”

“Could that point by any chance be–the cross?”

“That’s right. I follow him to the cross, but not on the cross. I’m not getting myself crucified.”

“Then I don’t believe you’re a disciple. You’re an admirer of Jesus, but not a disciple of his. I think you ought to go back to the church you belong to, and tell them you’re an admirer not a disciple.”

“Well now, if everyone who felt like I do did that, we wouldn’t have a church, would we?”

“The question,” Clarence said, “is, ‘Do you have a church?”
(First reported in McClendon 1990, 103)

Cited in Matthew, Stanley Hauerwas
(Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2006), p. 57

Questions

  • Are you taking discipleship as serious as Jesus did?
  • If not, how can we call ourselves His followers?

Great Quotes for a Sunday Morning

I love opening older books and finding new gems to energize and inform my life. This week I had the pleasure of finding such a gem in a devotional book. Lloyd Ogilvie writing on Mark 6:5 where the gospel writer tells us about the time Jesus did no great works because of the people’s unbelief says this:

“Tell me what makes you discontent and I will tell you what drives you. Show me your indignations and I will show you the imperatives by which you live. Tell me what stirs you enough to change things, and I will tell you whether you are living while you are alive. This inventory can show us quickly whether we are dealing with soul-sized issues or piddling about in the eddies of irrelevant self-pity.

In a devotional published in 1981, Ogilvie writes words that seem tailored to the world situation in 2017.

Jesus affirms a creative discontent as a major characteristic of discipleship. This is a part of life as it was meant to be. A driving dissatisfaction with ourselves, our relationship with God, and the world in which we live is evidence that we are in touch with the Holy Spirit. If a dominant desire is in us to grow, to live more fully, to heal the wounds of the world, to bring justice to the dispossessed and suffering, [emphais added] then the Lord is at work in us. Too few of us have a fermative unrest, disturbed with the inconsistency in ourselves and society.

Jesus took His listeners from an abstraction about God and brought them to the concrete evidences in them and society which indicated that they had no right to be satisfied. They were proud of their growth, but He showed them that they had hardly begun; they were proud of their Hebrew heritage, but He showed them the tremendous responsibilities they had in sharing the secret of God’s love with the world. When our dissatisfactions are in harmony with Christ’s, then we know that we can depend on His power to find an answer.

God’s Best for My Life: A Daily Devotional, (Harvest House Publishers, 1981), devotion for February 18.

Let’s stop “piddling about in the eddies of irrelevant self-pity.” Let’s change the world for Jesus and the hurting, the hunted, and the suffering of the people around us. Let’s be the change that so many are unconstructive complaining about. Let’s love better and serve better than those who don’t know Christ. Let’s “really live while we live.” Let’s live passionately for and like Jesus.

When a Knock on the Door Changes a Life Forever

 

paul-becker
Paul Becker

Paul Becker is the founder and President of Dynamic Church Planting International, probably the most prolific and effective church planting ministry in the history of the church. When I was a young church planter Paul used the galleys of the book that eventually became Dynamic Church Planters Handbook to mentor me as a church planter.

For a week I stayed with Paul and his family and then Paul encouraged me and acted as a sounding board for some of my crazy ideas during the months of our pre-natal development of the new church.

That was 27 years ago. Today, The New Dynamic Church Planting Handbook* starts out with this story on page 2.

Paul was leading a day of community surveying with forty college students. After worshiping the Lord, they prayed for receptivity as they prepared to go door-to-door in the target community. The group then dispersed into the community in teams of two.

Paul and his partner went from house to house, listening to people and tabulating their answers to survey questions. By mid-afternoon they were ready to head back to the bus and return home. But they decided to knock on one more door.

A smiling woman in her late thirties greeted them and said, “I am so happy you’ve come. I’ve been looking for a church.”

Brenda, a single mother going through a divorce, had two children—Justin, age 15, and Bettina, age 12. Within a short time all three put their trust in Jesus.

The small family became regular in church activities. Justin was a fine young man, and helped organize and build the youth group.

After a year, Paul’s ministry in the church plant came to an end. He moved on to plant another church. [Marty’s note: This was from a period of Paul’s life when he planted four churches in eight years while living in the same house! Basically, Paul would take a church through it’s pre-natal year and its first year of growth and then turn the church over to another pastor and start all over again.]

A year passed, and then Paul recieved a call at his office.

It was Brenda, and she was weeping. Through her sobs she was able to say, “Justin was driving with three other boys, and they had a terrible accident. Justin is dead.”

Paul’s first reaction was shock. A vibrant young man was gone so quickly, so unexpectedly.

But then he thought, “What if we hadn’t taken the time to do one last survey that day? And what if that new church hadn’t been planted at all? Would Justin have heard the gospel in the two brief years of life he had left to him if it weren’t for that new church?

Justin is home in heaven now. He is saved for all eternity, in the glorious presence of Jesus. And that’s all because a new church reached out to his community with the good new of Jesus Christ.

Some lessons for all of us:

  1. Never underestimate what God can do with the simplest of interactions.
  2. The hope of the gospel is a real balm in the hard realities of life below heaven.
  3. Church planting and all the work it takes to make it happen really does make a difference.
  4. Nothing done for Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit is wasted. Nothing.

* The New Dynamic Church Planting Handbook is available as a free download in pdf format from the DCPI.org website.

Sunday Musing

What I’m Thinking about This Evening

Green Fields in Allegheny Mountains

“It is true that those in the first flush of faith often are given unusual graces of the Spirit, just  like a new baby is cuddled and pampered. It is also true that some of the deepest experiences of alienation and separation from God have come to those who have traveled far into the interior realms of faith. But we can enter the bleak deserts of barrenness and the dark canyons of anguish at any number of point in our sojourn.”

Since there is no special sequence in the life of prayer, we simply do not move from one stage to the next knowing, for example, that at stages five and twelve we will experience abandonment by God. Of course, it would be much easier if that were the case, but then we would be describing a mechanical arrangement rather than a living relationship.”

—Richard J. Foster
Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 19

I preached on Psalm 51 today at the Chinese Christian Union Church in Chinatown, Chicago. It is always a sobering text. David describes his remorse and his desire for forgiveness in raw language that lays bear his soul and reveals that he has come to grips with the evil and wickedness of his choices. 

He had lusted, committed adultery, murdered, and covered it all up. But God had seen it all. He knows his sin has the character of Pesha–an open rebellion against the will and ways of God. He uses the word Chata–a moral failure to do the righteous thing. And finally, he uses the word Avon–a deliberate choosing to go in the wrong direction. He examines his heart and finds out that he has been this way (a wayward, rebellious, and a moral failure) all his life and so he asks that God might blot out his transgressions and hide His face from all of his sins (vs. 8). He asks God to give him a completely new heart, creating something that was never there before (cf. vs 5 with vs. 10).

I want a heart like David’s. 

I just don’t always like the process it is going to take.

Men and women of God who mean business with God take sin very seriously (Jeremiah 4:1-4). And when they find sin in their heart, they do what David did:

  1. They plead for mercy  (1-2)
  2. They confess their sin (3-6)
  3. They request forgiveness (7-9)
  4. They express a desire for renewed relationship (10-12)
  5. Express a desire to be different (13-15)
    and when they do those things
  6. They gain a new perspective on life (16-17) and a
  7. New vision for life (18-19)

And that means a life of prayerful confession, a life of constant seeking after God, a relentless pursuit of holiness through all the battles of life. Through the battles that are thick with moment and importance and through all the mundane moments, the everyday-ness of life.  

I’ve written about the constancy of the battle in other places, most notably perhaps in a post titled, Why I Hate Prayer

David knew the battle was constant too. That’s why he prayed, “renew in me a steadfast spirit (vs. 10b). 

Let’s wake up every morning called “today” and pray the same prayer.