Tuesday, April 28, 2015

AND THEN WHAT HAPPENED (after the resurrection)?

When my daughters were young, I often read to them. At the end of many books, one of my daughters often asked "and then what happened?" It was not enough that the prince and the maiden lived happily ever after. She wanted to know what happened next.

Most evangelical churches make a big deal about Easter Sunday, or as I like to call it Resurrection Sunday. We sing songs about the empty tomb and hear sermons about the resurrection and what it means to our lives. 

Then we go back to our regularly scheduled programming. But, if my daughter were involved, she would ask "and then what happened?".  

After The Resurrection

After Jesus rose, he appeared to many people. First, he appeared to Mary Magdalene. (Mark 16:9). Mark did not reveal what Jesus told her, but John did. (John 20:15-18) Mary ran and told his disciples that he was alive and she had seen him. Sadly, they did not believe her. But Peter and John evidently did, for they ran to the tomb. (John 20:1-10) Also with Mary at the tomb were Joanna and Mary the mother of James and some other women. Jesus appeared to all of them. (Luke 24) 

Jesus then appeared to two of the disciples who were walking from Jeruslaem to Emmaus. He explained the Bible to them. (Luke 24:13-35). He ate with them.

Later that day, Jesus appeared to the disciples as they hid in a locked room. (John 20:19-23) He showed them his wounds to prove it was him and that he had risen bodily. 

Eight days later, Jesus appeared to the disciples again. Thomas was not with them previously, and did not believe. But Jesus showed him his wounds and he believed. (John 20:24-29) 

Later still, Jesus appeared to several disciples who were fishing with Peter. He directed them to where they caught many fish. Jesus ate breakfast with them. (John 21) He also met with Peter and commissioned him to feed his sheep. 

Jesus then appeared to more than 500 people, many of whom were still alive as witnesses when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. I imagine Luke interviewed many of them. Then Jesus appeared to James, likely James his brother who became the first leader of the Jerusalem church (1 Corinthians 15:7) Eventually he appeared to all the apostles. He evidently spent 40 days on earth after the resurrection. (Acts 1:3) 

Jesus' final act was to take the disciples to Bethany. He lifted up his hands and blessed them. Then he ascended to heaven. (Luke 24:50). Before ascending, he directed them to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit and commissioned them to take the gospel over all the earth. (Acts 1:8) Then he rose up until a cloud blocked their view of him. (Acts 1:9) And, finally, he was exalted to the right hand of the Father. (Acts 2:33) 

And that is what happened.

Of course, the story really does not end there, either. There is more to come. In fact, I have saved the best for last 

Jesus will reign there until he has put all his enemies under his feet. (1 Corinthians 15:25) Then he will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of the archangel and with the sound of the trumpet of God. He will raise the dead in Christ, then those who are alive in Christ, all to meet him in the air and be with him forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Thoughts on Genesis 1 part 3

Periodically discussion arises about the six days of creation. Did God create all things in six literal days, or did the days represent longer periods of time. Genesis 1:31 says "And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day." You can see it appears to be literal days. There is evening and there is morning. Even more so, though, is Exodus 31:17, whim says "It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’” 

Reading Scripture

Every reading of Scripture is an encounter with God. It is God speaking. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015


The other example of steadfastness James gives is Job. His is a remarkable story. Job lost everything when he had done nothing wrong:
his oxen and donkeys were stolen by Sabeans and his servants killed (Job 1:15);
his sheep and servants were killed by fire from heaven, maybe lightning (1:16);
Chaldeans took his camels and killed his servants; (1:19)
his children were killed by a great wind (1:19); and
he was struck with sores from head to toe (2:7)

Yet, in the midst of this suffering, Job remained faithful. His wife told him to give up his integrity, curse God and die. (2:9)

But Job responded by worshipping God in his grief. (1:20-21) He stayed faithful. (27:1-6)

Job recognized God's sovereignty over his life, God's right to do with it as he wills. Listen to his words:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)

Matt Redman wrote a song that seems to be a meditation on the first chapter of Job. He calls it “Blessed be your name”. Here is one stanza:
Blessed be your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be your name.

God restored Job’s fortunes twice over. (42:10) He considered Job righteous. (Ezekiel 14:14)

Our fortunes may not be restored until heaven. So, James does not encourage his readers, or us, to wait for God to do that. Rather, he encourages us to wait for Jesus will return. That is when we receive our reward. We want to be like the servant whose master said “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little. I will set you over much. enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21) This is from the parable of the talents, a story of rewards in heaven. Note that it says “after a long time the master of those servants came” after going away. Jesus may take a long time to return, but we must be faithful and steadfast.

James says we have the example of the prophets and Job, but we have more. We know the purpose of the Lord, how he is compassionate and merciful. God purposes to sanctify us. Romans 8:29 tells us “For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son”. That requires sanctification. Ephesians 1:4 says God chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

God also purposes to bring glory to himself through us. Job brought glory to God in his steadfastness. Our friend Monica brings glory to God as she stands fast in her faith in the face of cancer.

But God is also compassionate. He does to bring suffering to us for fun. He cares about our pain. And he is merciful. He not only delivers us from hell, but from many sufferings and temptations.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


James 5:1-12
Patiently Waiting for Christ’s Return

James has been addressing non-believers, but return to address believers in verse 7
He referred to them as brothers. James will focus on the attitudes God’s people need to have while anticipating the coming judgment\return of Jesus.

Persecuted & oppressed believers must be patient waiting for Christ's return , his coming (7) When the righteous are vindicated & the wicked judged (day of slaughter in v. 6). Both the warnings to the wicked and the encouragement of the righteous are in light of Christ’s return.

The word translated “coming” is parousia in Greek. It meant arrival of a king in secular Greek. It is used in New Testament For Christ's return at the end of history to judge the wicked & deliver the saints. For example, Matt. 24:37 says “As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming (parousia) of the Son of Man (Christ). ; 1 Corinthians 15:23 says “But each in his own order; Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.”

The line of thinking in James is similar to that of Psalm 37. The theme of that Psalm is not to fret over the success of evil doers because the Lord will come and judge evil doers. Verse 1-2 say “Fret not yourself because of evil doers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.”

As an example of patient waiting, James cites the farmer. (7) He plants seed, then waits a long time until harvest (7)He must be patient - he cannot change the time frame. Believers cannot change the time frame for the return of Jesus. He will return at the time appointed by the Father.

Notice in this example that God gave the rain, both the early rain after planting and the latter rain before harvest, Autumn & Spring. God promised this to the faithful in Deuteronomy 11:14. What you may not know is that all of the Old Testament references to early & latter rain are in reference to God's faithfulness. A Biblically literate, converted Jew would get the reference. So, James is saying as the farmer waits patiently in faith that God will provide rain at the right time, Christians should wait patiently knowing Jesus will return as he promised. He is faithful. He will judge the wicked. He will vindicate & deliver those who are his.

While we wait for the return of Jesus, we must “establish our hearts”. The word translated “establish” in the ESV literally means “strengthen”. We must strengthen our faith to endure hardship in light of his coming.

For example, we had a violent thunderstorm Saturday night. Our power went out. I wrote out the Bible Study for Sunday by candlelight! At the beginning of the storm, a very strong wind roared through. Some said it was up to 90 miles per hour. It uprooted live oak trees which have very shallow roots. But the trees with deep, strong roots survived. Strengthen your heart through Bible study and pray to survive all of the storms that will come before Jesus returns.

Another facet to our attitudes while we await the return of Jesus is patience with each other. We should not grumble & risk judgment (9) God will hold us accountable for our grumbling. We must endure suffering and waiting without grumbling against God or each other. This is patient endurance.

As an example of patient endurance, James refers us to the Old Testament prophets. (10) They suffered but endured and were patient in waiting. Jeremiah, for example, was put in a cistern where it was wet and muddy. Jezebel threatened Elijah with death.

In Acts 7:52, Stephen asked the Jewish leaders “which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?” In Luke 11:50, Jesus said the blood of all the prophets would fall on that generation of Jews. The prophets suffered but waited patiently for deliverance.

The prophets were steadfast. They were not moved by trials. They stood firm and strong. They were blessed by God for it. We, as they, are blessed when steadfast. (11)

We receive God's favor. He is pleased when we are steadfast. That is because he himself is steadfast. He is immovable. (1 Corinthians 15:58) We reflect his character and bring glory to him.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Prideful Rich - James 5:1-6

The Prideful Rich Landowners
James 5:1-6

James condemns those who have taken security in their material wealth as opposed to their salvation. In this case, they are land owners. They owned fields. The decay of their hoarded riches testified against them. (3) Notice that he says they accumulated riches in the last days. His thought was that Christ would return and judgment would come, making their wealth irrelevant. Certainly those Jews who were left in Jerusalem when the Romans destroyed the city lost all their possessions. I wonder if that rich young man who walked away from Jesus was there, losing all his possessions and losing his soul because he chose possessions over Jesus.

Notice that he reflects the words of Jesus: rotten riches, moth eaten clothes, corroded gold and silver. Jesus said “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal…” (Matthew 6:19)

James also condemned them for holding back wages from their workers. The Old Testament law required prompt payment. Many workers needed that day’s wages to buy food for their family. If they were not paid, their family did not eat. Leviticus 19:13 required owners to pay laborers at the end of the day, not waiting until the next morning. Deuteronomy 24:14 required payment before sunset. God is very concerned with social justice and the treatment of the poor. The Sabbath specifically applied to servants. (Exodus 20:10) You could not take the Sabbath off but make your servants work. You had to free a slave in the seventh year. (Exodus 21:2) So, getting rich off of a poor man’s wages was offensive to God. (I wish I had known to send this verse to my clients when I had my own business.) I want to pay a fair price for what I buy. I want to tip young waiters generously for serving me. I do not want to save money off of the back of poor people.

The younger generations today are very concerned with social justice. They do not want to belong to churches or other organizations that condone injustice. My youngest daughter will not shop at a well known discount chain because they work to keep their employees from getting benefits and they pay very low wages.

James also condemned them because they mistreated their workers. (6) He said they had condemned and murdered righteous people who did not resist them. This is another sentence that raises the question: is this literal or figurative language? Did they condemn people by their slander? Did they actually kill people? Or is this hyperbole for mistreatment? Either way, Christians must treat those who serve us justly and kindly.

If we have sinned in this regard, repentance is in order. Otherwise judgment is coming. James tells them to weep and howl at the miseries that are coming upon them. These are words of judgment like the Old Testament prophets said to Israel.

Sunday, April 05, 2015


Belief in the resurrection of Jesus is essential to salvation. Paul wrote "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9) Their is no salvation for one who denies the resurrection. "if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:14) Belief in a Jesus who was a historical figure is insufficient for salvation. Receiving Christ means believing he is who he claimed to be, the divine son of God who assumed human flesh, died for our sins and rose again.

If Jesus did not rise, he is not God as he claimed. The Bible tells us he was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead. (Romans 1:4)

There is ample evidence for Jesus' resurrection. Someone once told me there was absolutely no evidence of the resurrection. I pointed out that Matthew recorded the witness of Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary" who saw the empty tomb and received confirmation from an angel. They saw the risen Jesus and took hold of his feet. (Matthew 28:1-10) What a moment that must have been.

Matthew also recorded, as an eye witness, the meeting of the 11 remaining disciples in Galilee with the risen Jesus. (Matthew 28:16)

Mark, who was believed to have written his gospel from the account of Peter, recorded that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome went to the tomb and saw the empty tomb. (Mark 16:1-8) He wrote the story of Peter running to the tomb and looking in and seeing it empty. (Luke 24:12)

Luke thoroughly investigated the life of Jesus, including interviews with eye witnesses. (Luke 1:1-4) He also recorded that Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and other women saw the empty tomb. (Luke 24:1-12) He recorded the appearance of Jesus to two men on the road to Emmaus. (Luke 24:13-35)

Luke recorded the appearance of Jesus to his disciples, allowing them to see his wounds and touch him to show he was alive in his body after death. (Luke 24:36-43) He even ate fish to prove he was alive. And lastly, he recorded the ascension, when the disciples saw Jesus rise to heaven. (Acts 1)

John, himself an eyewitness of the risen Jesus, recorded the story of th women seeing Jesus when they went to the tomb. (John 20:11-18) He also recorded Jesus' appearance to his disciples the same day,in a locked room. (John 20:19-23) He recorded the story of Thomas, absent at the first appearance, seeing the wounds and believing. (John 20:24-28) Finally, he recorded Jesus revealing himself again at the Sea of Tiberias, eating breakfast with them. (John 21)

Paul recorded Jesus appearing to the disciples, to 500 people at one time, most of whom were still alive when he wrote. (1 Corinthians 15:3-6) Jesus appeared to James, as recorded in verse 7. Did you ever wonder how James went from thinking Jesus was crazy, to leading the Jerusalem church? Seeing your brother alive, after seeing him crucified and buried, will do that to you.

The resurrection of Jesus is our hope of resurrection. Paul wrote "But in fact Christ as been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead." (! Corinthians 15:20-21)

Believe in Jesus, believe in the resurrection. Be saved and look forward to the resurrection of all the saints.

Happy Resurrection Day! He is risen. He is risen indeed.