Wednesday, July 27, 2016

We will all be changed

 51Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52) 

Thoughts: Death is not the last word.  Paul is also saying that death does not come to everyone.  When Christ comes at the end of time, those who have faith while alive will be changed.  Christ's coming happens in a hurry- as fast as a match catches fire- as fast as an eye twinkles.
    Trumpets sound announcing the coming of a King- to make way and be alert- on your best behavior.  When Christ comes- that is when the resurrection happens and we all will be changed for the better.  Our old decaying bodies will be made alive.  The great news is that death is not the end.  But the change into the kind of people God wants us to be is the beginning of eternity.  

Prayer: Lord, give me an eye to see you- give me an ear to hear your trumpet.  Keep me from shutting my eyes because I may think I know better.  Keep me from being prejudiced against the unusual- the mysterious.  

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Christ the Victor

23But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.26The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27For he “has put everything under his feet.”c Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:23-28).

Thoughts: Christ is the  first one to escape death.  In breaking through, He has destroyed the sting and power of death.  Death has a power now, but it is temporary.  Jesus will destroy all that is an enemy to God.  He will destroy sin, destruction, and death.  Jesus then hands all these defeated enemies over to the Father.  In this way- through His Son, the Father reigns in everything.  Nothing will stand against Him.  So, we may as well get on the winning side.  Others may win temporarily, but God will always win in the end.  

Prayer: Lord, let me be on your side.  Let me relish in your victory over death, sin, and guilt.    

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Leader Through The Valley

21For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.  (1 Corinthians 15:21,22)

Thoughts: Christ is the second Adam- the One who comes to restore what was broken when the very first sin happened.  The first sin started the cycle of poison and guilt.  But Jesus started the cycle of healing and forgiveness.  Death came by one- so life comes by one.
     There are some who say this is not fair- that we should each pay only for our own sins.  But this sense of fairness is artificial.  Reality is that we often are punished or blessed by what our leaders do or don't do.  If the president tells congress to declare war, many will suffer.  If the president messes up- it affects us all..  If the president makes decisions that enhance education and the economy- that too blesses us all.  Adam began the ripple of sin in the pond of life.  Christ begins the hope of life- life beyond this one.  

Prayer: Lord, let me hang onto you- the leader- the first one through the valley of the shadow.  

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Christ Awoke First

1 Cor .15:20But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Thoughts: To believe Christ is raised from the dead is not merely a matter of evidence.  It is always a matter of faith- a faith based not in a vacuum but on history.  If Christ did not ever live and die, to have faith in such a story would not make sense.  If Christ did not promise the resurrection, and that the tomb was empty, and appearances made to many- then faith in the resurrection would be totally irrational.  Christ has indeed been raised from the dead and our faith is not in vain.
       Christ is also the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  This means that Christ is the first one through the tunnel of death to the resurrection.  We have seen Him make it, and that should encourage us all.  His resurrected life should give us hope for our own resurrected life.  As when you see a fruit tree bear the first fruit- you obtain hope that other fruits will follow; so Christ's resurrection from the sleep of death is a promise of life for us all.
     A word about the word "sleep."  John Calvin's first authored book was debunking the claim that to die was to go to some kind of soul-sleep.  To sleep was a common way for Christians to describe death.  It was common  because for those who have faith- we may go to sleep, but there is the promise of waking up on the other side.  Death is a not a permanent or even a thousand year sleep.  It is rather going to sleep on this side of heaven to wake up transported on the other side.  This hope of waking up is made sure by the firstfruits of Christ's own resurrection. 

Prayer: Lord, may I now lose my hope of waking up with you. 

Leading team through the tunnel onto the field

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Hope in Heaven

19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
 (1 Corinthians 15:19)

Thoughts: Paul says if we take away the hope of eternity from our faith- our faith is empty and pitiable.  Yet, there are many who think heaven doesn't matter.  Heaven gives us a goal, a hope, a strength. Paul is trying to get us to lift up our eyes.  John Calvin spoke of having hope in heaven as an essential part of the Christian life.  This life has a lot of pain.  No one escapes the pain of this life.  This life has a lot of disappointments, mistakes, and problems.  It is a universal experience that this life is not perfect, but we long for perfection.  The resurrection is a focus changer.  The resurrection changes the focus from the death of a great leader, to the worship of the Son of God.  

Prayer: Lord, lift my eyes up to you.  Let my hope of heaven grow that I may work to make this world a better place.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Christ the life-giver

15More 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. 16For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. (1 Corinthians 15:15-18)

Thoughts: Paul was saying that he is not trying to deceive people.  False witnessing- lying- is a terrible sin for Paul.  Paul is also saying if Christ is not raised, no one is raised. If someone says, "No one can ever rise from the dead" then this also includes Christ.
Paul also says if Christ is not dead two things happen: 1) Our faith is futile- there is no fruit of eternal life in it.  Your faith may last for awhile here- but not forever.  2) We are still in our sins- that is, Christ's atonement doesn't count.  This means those who are dead will remain dead.
Basically, Christ brings life.  He showed this by the resurrection.  If Christ is not raised, then there is no life to bring.  

Prayer: Lord and giver of life, help me to acknowledge you.  

Monday, July 18, 2016

Importance of the Resurrection

12But 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? 13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (1 Corinthians 15:12-14)

Thoughts: How can Paul possibly say that "if there is no resurrection then...our preaching is useless and so is your faith?"   Certainly people have had faith before the resurrection.  People have also had faith without believing in the resurrection.  But what Paul means is that the resurrection adds so much hope and meaning to our faith- that to take it away would leave a tremendous vacuum.  The resurrection of Christ is a deposit- a little taste- of our own eternal life.  His resurrection means that there really is life after this one.
    But the other side is that the uniqueness of Christianity is wiped out if there is no resurrection. With no resurrection, the claims of divinity for Jesus are in doubt.  The Christian leader becomes just another philosopher or religious advocate.  The Christian hope and faith are in doubt too.  What distinguishes Christianity from other religions is also gone.  So the preaching and faith is in vain.  

    There are those who are comfortable watering down the faith to be just one among several good ethical, moral, and philosophical systems.  The Romans had no problem with saying Jesus is Lord.  Their problem came when Christians refused to call Caesar "lord."  The Romans would have welcomed Christianity into their pantheon of gods.  But Christians made a unique, narrow-is-the-path claim.  The resurrection is the peak of the Christians claim and Paul sees and says that here. 
    So what do you really believe about the resurrection?   What you believe will deeply effect the rest of your faith, your life, and your hope.  I would say, if we really believe that Christ rose from the dead, it will change us and change the world.  

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the hope that is found in your resurrection.  Thank you that you came not just to set a moral example, but a hopeful life-death-and resurrection!

Tomb of Jesus in Church of Holy Sepulchre