Gospels

What A Beautiful Name

What A Beautiful Name

As we gathered in worship this past Sunday, we sang the song “What a Beautiful Name” by Hillsong (lyrics below). As we sang those words, i was reminded of a glorious confession of truth that we would all do well to embrace.

The lyricists write: 

Death could not hold You, The veil tore before You
You silenced the boast of sin and grave….
Nothing can stand against
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

More often than not, we think of those words in light of Christ’s bodily resurrection on Easter morning. And there is no question that should cause us to rejoice. But there was reason for rejoicing even before that occurred. When Jesus declared, “It is finished” (John 19:30 NLT), He also said, “Father, I entrust My spirit into Your hands” (Luke 23:46 NLT). Let us not forget that Jesus was as much man as if He was not God at all. At the moment of His death, His soul and spirit immediately departed from His physical body – which is the exact same thing that will occur for you and me at the moment of our deaths (if Jesus doesn’t return before then). 

We would do well to remember….

It Is Well

It Is Well

There is a difference between hoping and knowing. Most often we use the word “hope” when we want something to happen, but we are not 100% certain that it will. We “hope” and pray that the operation will go well, or the job will come through, or everything will work out. Whereas we use the word “know” when we have 100% certainty. To “know” is to have an understanding that is irrefutably truthful and factual; it cannot be contested.

In our world today, “truth” can be difficult to nail down – just spend two minutes reading or listening to the news! Truth has become relative and ever-changing. When truth is no longer absolute, we can no longer “know” with absolute certainty. We are left with little choice but to hope. As followers of Christ, we will readily confess that our “hope” is in Him. But what does that really mean in light of the storm that is immediately in front of us?

Plus Ultra

Plus Ultra

We continue to pray for those who, this past Easter Sunday morning in Sri Lanka, lost friends or family members, or sustained injury themselves due to the senseless acts of violence perpetrated by a group of anti-Christian terrorists. We join together in praying for comfort for those who have lost family members and friends, and recovery for those who sustained injury. And we pray that those who perpetrated such heinous acts will be swiftly brought to justice. i echo the statement issued by Dr. Russell Moore (president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission), “The governing authorities must bring this anti-Christian terrorist cell, and any who empowered them, to justice. The shedding of innocent human blood is always an atrocity; an attack on Easter is further shocking in its cruelty." On a day when Christians all over the world were remembering and celebrating the life that can be ours through the shed blood and resurrection of Jesus, such a vicious act was a sobering reminder of the death that sin brings and the death grip that sin continues to have on our world. Ironically the very message of the day – the message of Christ’s resurrection – is the reality that sin and death have been defeated, and that the free gift of life is extended without limitation by His grace to all who will receive it.

The incident has caused me to be reminded of a story that i first heard from my friend and former pastor, Dr. Keith Thomas….

A Very Personal Encounter

A Very Personal Encounter

This Sunday we celebrate the day that Jesus arose from the grave. It was a very busy day for Jesus – He covered a lot of ground that day. It was an emotional day for all of His followers – they experienced the full range of emotions. But it was also a very personal day for at least one of His followers.

Mark and Luke tell us that early in the morning Mary Magdalene, Mary (the wife of Clopas), Salome (the wife of Zebedee), Joanna (the wife of Chuza) and at least one other woman arrived at the tomb with their ointments and spices planning to complete the burial preparations of the body of Jesus. They were the first to discover the empty tomb. Without even stepping into the tomb, Mary Magdalene immediately set off to find Peter and John to tell them that Jesus’ body had been taken. She left before the two angels announced to the other women that Jesus had risen from the dead. 

Having found Peter and John, Mary Magdalene returned with them to the tomb. John and Peter ran ahead to see for themselves. Neither Peter nor John appeared to be running toward the tomb expecting that Jesus had risen. Rather, they were questioning the accuracy of Mary Magdalene’s report and wanted to confirm whether or not His body was still in the tomb. Upon their arrival, they too confirmed that His body was gone. John tells us in His Gospel that it was then that he believed that Jesus had in fact risen from the dead. The Gospels do not tell us that Peter had that same conviction. As a matter of fact, whether it was because he was still devastated over his denial of Jesus or he was still so overcome by sorrow, he appears to have left the tomb with his heart being even heavier now that Jesus’ body had apparently been taken.

Why Simon?

Why Simon?

Simon was a popular name among first century Jews. We see a number of men by the name of Simon mentioned in the Gospels. To name a few: Simon, the fisherman who Jesus renamed Peter; Simon, the zealot who also became a disciple; Simon, the Pharisee who hosted Jesus for dinner; Simon, the healed leper who also hosted Jesus for dinner (who John may have called Lazarus); and Simon, from Cyrene who was forced to carry Jesus’ cross. Let’s look at this last Simon – and what all of us can learn from him.

Mark records, “A passerby named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the countryside just then, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus.)” (Mark 15:21)

According to Roman law, one who was found guilty and condemned to death was required to carry his cross, or at least the cross beam, to the place of his crucifixion. Jesus left the Praetorium bearing His cross, but along the way the Roman soldiers conscripted Simon the Cyrene to carry Jesus’ cross.

Let’s look at why …

Friends

Friends

This week i have had several reminders of life-long friendships. This week is the seventy-fifth anniversary of my parents’ marriage. Though they have both now been in heaven for a number of years, the impact of their “lifelong-friendship” continues through the lives of their children, their grandchildren and their great grandchildren. Also, today i had lunch with a friend whose wife suddenly and unexpectedly passed a few weeks ago. The fruit of their life-long friendship will also continue. True friendship lives on. True friendship has purpose. True friendship has lasting impact.

It was a Thursday night, two thousand years ago. Jesus would be arrested in just a matter of hours. The disciples would all abandon Him and scatter before the night was out. At that moment He was the only One who knew what was about to occur, as He and His disciples made their journey across the Kidron Valley from the upper room to the Garden of Gethsemane. Earlier that night, He showed them that He was their Servant as He knelt before them and washed their feet. Then He explained that He was their Savior as He broke the bread and passed it together with the cup representing His body and blood that would be broken and shed. Though the disciples did not realize it, Jesus was sharing His “last words” with them. They would see Him a few more times after He arose from the grave, but this was His last time to pour into them as their Master and Teacher. For three years He had been their Teacher. Earlier He had shown them that He is their Servant. Tomorrow He would demonstrate that He is their Savior. On Sunday He would show them that He is their Risen Lord. But for now, He wanted them to know that they are His friends. Even though they would abandon Him, He still called them His friends. Jesus said, “ I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are My friends, since I have told you everything the Father told Me.You didn’t choose Me. I chose you” (John 15:15-16).