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Thank God.

LORD of reconciliation, Master of mercy, Author of true joy, there is no greater hope to be found than the hope You have provided through Jesus Christ. You alone have the words of life, there is nowhere else to turn. Peace flows from the veins of Christ across all of us who were once at war with You, & You have drawn us near, glorifying Yourself. This is not our effort, but Yours, not our battle, but Yours, not our righteousness, but Yours & You alone are praised for the defeat of sin & death & victory over the grave rests with You. Open our eyes, revive our hearts & continue to draw glory to Yourself as we spread the Gospel around the world. We pray this through Christ our Lord, amen.

Luke 24:36-53
36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

I am real
You wouldn’t think you would ever read through the Scriptures & come out thankful that Jesus ate fish. It’s such a simple action, a basic thing to do. Look at His life with His disciples, how many times do you think Jesus ate fish? Grilled fish, baked fish, boiled fish, broiled fish, stewed fish, smoked fish & I’m sure the possibilities continue. But Jesus takes this common basic thing, this simple sign of something comfortable to reassure His disciples that He is indeed really there with them, present & constant. He’s no spirit, no ghost, no hallucination & He proves it by eating something they themselves prepared. I would have done some small miracle before them, shown myself through a divine sign, proving myself in that way. But He chooses something they can do & duplicate & I think that says an awful lot more.

He wanted them to know without a shadow of a doubt that He was indeed alive, present & moving forward into the next phase of life & covenant with them. A risen Savior is a real Savior, & this crew of confused & disheartened disciples needed something they could sink their teeth into, like a piece of fish. Jesus provided that for them that wonderful morning.

Forgiveness is real
Not only did Jesus want them to see & understand that He was & is real, He wanted them to remember the context of everything that had just happened & that not one moment of it all was coincidence or accident. He reminded them of the Scriptures they were raised with, a comfortable & familiar remembrance. He reminded them about Moses & the prophets & everything the Father had promised & been promising over the preceding millennia. This was the plan the whole time.

And why? This didn’t happen for nothing, right? This wasn’t something that was done simply for the sake of saying it would be accomplished. This is the promise of God to glorify Himself by the redemption of creation & humanity to Himself. This was all about God offering forgiveness to rebels like them & us & bringing peace & righteousness back into creation. This was the first step in seeing holiness win out over sin & evil. The foot of the Savior was bitten by that serpent, but his head was now thoroughly crushed. This has been the plan since the garden had to be cleared out  & Adam & Eve first perceived their own nakedness & brokenness entered the world. This was all about God’s glory & how He would provide forgiveness to all who would come to Him.

You are witnesses
And Jesus didn’t leave them out, either. In this moment where disbelief & joy slam into each other, Jesus reminded them that they had a part to play in this whole wonderful affair. This wasn’t just something done for them, but to them & would now happen through them. They are -the- witnesses to this universe altering news. They are the ones who would take this first-hand account of holy truth into the world. They are the ones with these words written on their hearts because they lived it, every single moment of it. Where they were feeling hopeless just hours before, & confused just moments ago, Jesus was letting them know from the onset that they had what everyone else needed. They have a purpose to fulfill. They are the bearers of the Gospel of love, peace, mercy, grace & forgiveness, & if this world is going to learn how to walk in the rhythms of grace with God, the it’s going to happen through them sharing all of this good news.

Joy is real
The world needs to know that joy is real. There is so much trouble, so many hurts, so many reasons to mourn & feel trapped in the brokenness & God doesn’t desire for another moment to pass from this one where people don’t know about the beacon of joy that will draw them back into wholeness with Him. Jesus knew that people outside of that room would struggle, & so He was sending out people who had struggled. Jesus knew that people outside that room would doubt, & so He sent out people who wrestled with doubt. He knew that people outside that room would deal with loss, sorrow & pain & so He sent out these people who had those feelings fresh on their hearts.

He knew the world needed joy, so He sent these out who were first to experience it. This fresh message, this amazing truth was needed more deeply than anyone could imagine & this firestorm of joy would burn without ceasing for the millennia to come. The disciples carried it, you & I who are in Christ carry it & the world still desperately needs to know about it. There is work to be done, joy to be spread. The Savior is real. Forgiveness is real. We are the witness to true & lasting joy. Let the whole world hear our praises!

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Acts 2:22-28 // The Grave is Insufficient 

“22 Men of Israel, listen to these words: This Jesus the Nazarene was a man pointed out to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through Him, just as you yourselves know. 23 Though He was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail Him to a cross and kill Him. 24 God raised Him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it. 25 For David says of Him:

“I saw the Lord ever before me;

because He is at my right hand,

I will not be shaken.

26 Therefore my heart was glad,

and my tongue rejoiced.

Moreover, my flesh will rest in hope,

27 because You will not leave me in Hades

or allow Your Holy One to see decay.

28 You have revealed the paths of life to me;

You will fill me with gladness

in Your presence.”

Acts 2:22-28

— 

And that is just like God, to take something that should be final & definitive and to make it extremely temporary. When we look at death, we see finality, we see a point of irreconcilable closure. Death’s door only swings one way, and once through it, there is no returning. This is part of the wonder and mystery of Jesus Christ. He was/is God, the Word of God, wrapped up in flesh. His being and existence was already something entirely different from what the rest of us could ever know or experience. But at the same time, He was succeptable to our pains, feelings and temptations, but none of them could hold Him, control Him or contain Him. 

When He looked at death, it was like looking at a wrestling partner that you already knew you were going to defeat. There would be the formality of the match, but there was never any doubt as to who would win.

  
And so we have hope in Him. Because He did all this for us. He defeated what was undefeatable, from our perspective. He took on our enemies, our oppressors, and delivered us through. Victory is already ours, even though we are still in the match. He has shown us the way, through His own blood, to come to the Father and leave death without its teeth. 

We have confidence, then, to GoLove people and tell them everything we have seen and heard because the worst is already taken care of, the most terrible beast has already been subdued. We have no reason to doubt or fear, because Christ has overcome the grave! What could there possibly be that could hold us back? 

Mark 16:9-13 // The end of weeping

“9 Early on the first day of the week, after He had risen, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had driven seven demons. 10 She went and reported to those who had been with Him, as they were mourning and weeping. 11 Yet, when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe it. 12 Then after this, He appeared in a different form to two of them walking on their way into the country. 13 And they went and reported it to the rest, who did not believe them either.”

Mark 16:9-13

— 

We are now into the much debated end of Mark’s gospel. We usually will see a note that reads, “These verses do not appear in the oldest and best manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel.” and so we need to keep that in mind as we read. 

What we do find is a group of people dealing with the range of emotions that mourning and disappointment brings. We don’t need the ‘oldest and best manuscripts’ to speculate about what the disciples must have been going through. Mourning is real. Death robs. Pain is a part of loss, and as Christians, we understand that we have the answer to that pain. 

Jesus called the Holy Spirit ‘The Comforter’ for a reason. We celebrate His passion and ressurrection every week when we take communion…for a reason. Death is not the great enemy for us. Death has been defeated, the grave’s gaping maw has been subdued. We have hope in the middle of what everyone else calls unbeatable odds. The death rate remains at 100% after all these years, but we have found the loophole, even if it seems too good to believe. 

With the emotional turmoil that the disciples had just been through, it’s no wonder that they had problems registering what was going on, Thomas’ reputation is forever haunted by his initial reaction to this news. He is the ‘Doubter.’ But the amazing news is that an empty grave is undeniable. The lives the disciples lived following this news and their witness of the resurrected Christ stand as evidence for the truth that Jesus is alive and that He stands as the victor over death and the grave. He is the answer to our sadness and pain and the cure for mourning. Jesus is better news than we ever deserve to hear. He is beyond our comprehension, and so a life of faith is what naturally follows. 

By their own eyes and then continued by faith, the disciples would take the world by storm and begin shaping the rest of human history in a way that no dead man could ever manage. Not by force, or by the sword, but with compassion, love, mercy, grace and in the truth that He has risen! He has risen indeed! 

Mark 15:42-47 // Silent as the tomb

“42 When it was already evening, because it was preparation day (that is, the day before the Sabbath), 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Sanhedrin who was himself looking forward to the kingdom of God, came and boldly went in to Pilate and asked for Jesus body. 44 Pilate was surprised that He was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him whether He had already died. 45 When he found out from the centurion, he gave the corpse to Joseph. 46 After he bought some fine linen, he took Him down and wrapped Him in the linen. Then he placed Him in a tomb cut out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. 47 Now Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were watching where He was placed.”

Mark 15:42-47

Mark records no dialogue from the moment when Jesus died until the morning the women go to the tomb. He narrates the goings on, but no words are audibly spoken. The fast-paced nature of his writing slows and we are left to examine the situation on our own. We are left watching, anticipating but not interacting. The tomb is silent. 

Here we find:

A dead man

A faithful, caring man

A surprised man

A man who confirms 

Two women watching

The tomb is silent.
Here we find: 

Ritual

Government

Hope

Sympathy

Resignation 

Shock 

The tomb is silent.
Here we find:

A religious leader

A military/political leader

A military follower/leader

Two regular people

The tomb is silent.
Here we find: 

A day closing out

Desire turning to introspection

Devotion being lived out

Uncertainty spectating 

The tomb is silent.
There are still a lot of things going on, even though we hear nothing. Hearts and minds are louder than any words might be, more incessant and numbing than any conversation could possibly accomplish. In the silence, activity still happens, hearts still beat and the machine rolls on. Disciples are hidden, leaders feel justified and the masses are left wondering. 

The tomb is silent, but only from an audible perspective. There is no physical noise coming from within, in reality, the tomb is screaming at us, jumping around, waving its hands in the air. It draws our hearts, minds and eyes. It focuses our will on itself and it begs us to pay attention to it. There is no noise, but the silence is deafening. We are forced into confrontation with it, we are demanded to answer to it all. 

The tomb is anything but silent. And as Christians, the tomb still speaks through us today. As we GoLove in the Name of Jesus, the tomb continues to find its voice through us all. It speaks loudly in us, to us and through us. It’s not a point to pass over on the way to Easter morning, it is the vehicle for the ressurrection. We must examine it, we must speak for it. Death and the grave are ever hungry and they do not give back what they have taken, but this tomb stands forever as testimony to the fact that they have been beaten…

But that comes tomorrow. 

1 Timothy 6 // What you believe matters deeply

“3 If anyone teaches other doctrine and does not agree with the sound teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the teaching that promotes godliness, 4 he is conceited, understanding nothing, but has a sick interest in disputes and arguments over words. From these come envy, quarreling, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant disagreement among people whose minds are depraved and deprived of the truth, who imagine that godliness is a way to material gain.” 1 Timothy 6:3-5

“But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” 1 Timothy 6:9-10

“20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding irreverent, empty speech and contradictions from the knowledge that falsely bears that name. 21 By professing it, some people have deviated from the faith.
Grace be with all of you.” 1 Timothy 6:20-21

These passages are from the final portion of this letter to Timothy, a young minister, and they stand as confirmation that what everyone believes on any given subject really does matter. Paul is laying out the framework of a worldview to Timothy, a worldview that is going to seem very different, very strange in comparison with the world & society around him. Enough so that a young minister may be tempted to soften his stance a little on different positions in order to reach more people, a temptation that says, “This is a grey area, don’t be so rigid.” or “This isn’t a salvation issue, just let this one ride for now. You can shore them up later somewhere else.”

But in reality, that worldview needs to remain solid, it needs to be firmly placed in the truth of Christ. A loosely spoken word here, a compromise there, and before long, you find yourself defending positions that you once said were wrong. You give up too much, you let too much get by in an attempt to placate and gain greater influence rather than trusting in the message you have been given.

And this isn’t just for ministers to remember, but all those who follow after Christ. Your worldview matters. What you believe absolutely makes a difference, and if you deviate from the truth in Scripture, then what you follow is no longer Christ, but pride, sin or selfishness. That worldview filters everything you see, everything you do and everything you support. It determines how you treat people, where your priorities are and what you stand for in life. It matters deeply.

Is it about you and the arguments your can concoct? Is it about how clever you can be in defending your new belief set, or is it about the truth of God as He has written in HIs Word and shared by His Holy Spirit? Is it about money and prestige, or does life have a deeper meaning than that? Is it about being seen as ‘releveant’ or is it about standing firm in the promises that God has made?

What we believe matters. And if it doesn’t line up with God’s truth first and foremost, then we are simply wrong. Not kind of wrong, not sort of off-track. Wrong. And the humble heart will accept correction, instruction and in grace reevaluate where they stand. The prideful heart with skewed priorities will dig in, unbending, and seek its own end.

So, GoLove, sharing what Jesus commanded and doing so in His truth. Not bending, not twisting, not compromising, but in grace and love, bringing people to the full knowledge of God, the Spirit at work in you. Let His truth stand as the lens to all you believe, and teach others to do likewise.

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