Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Christ is Living

I sang this at a hymn festival a few weeks ago and haven't stopped thinking about it since. This hymn was written in Spanish and the music reflects that. But most importantly, the words remind us of the central message of our faith: Christ is living! Join me in reflecting on each of these verses over the next few days.

Christ is living! Gone with sorrow! Tears and terror be no more.

The men on the road to Emmaus discovered this in a most personal way - Jesus Himself appeared to them as they were walking.

And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. And He said to them, "What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?" And they stood still, looking sad. Luke 24:13-17

They didn't know that it was Jesus who had joined them on their walk. Indeed, they were mourning the events of the last few days, the events that took their King to the cross and buried Him in a tomb. Jesus asks them what they're talking about, and they can't imagine that someone could have been in town and not know what was going on!

One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, "Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?" And He said to them, "What things?" And they said to Him, "The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened." Luke 24:18-21

It is the third day since these things happened. By now, it seems these men have given up hope that Jesus the Nazarene could be the redeemer of Israel. Then the men relate the story of the women finding the tomb empty.

"But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see." Luke 24:22-24

They did not see Him, so they did not believe. They did not realize that the death and grave are now nothing! Christ is free of every power! He had risen from the grave, just as He told His disciples He would do.

Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again." Luke 18:31-33

So Jesus rebukes the men on the road to Emmaus. And He explains all the things about Himself that the prophets have taught through the ages.

And He said to them, "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
Luke 24:25-27

Jesus wanted these men to look for the Savior who was in their midst, and no longer seek the living Savior in the haunts of death and fear. He can't be found there, because Jesus came to take away the power of death and the devil!

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. Hebrews 2:14-15

No longer are we enslaved to the fear of death! Christ is risen!

The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you." Matthew 28:5-7

Let us go forth today, in the power of our risen Lord, and shout the good news so all the world will hear!

Christ is Living (Christo Vive)
Words by Nicolas Martinez, translated to English by Martin A. Seltz

Christ is living! Gone with sorrow! Tears and terror, be no more.
Death and grave, you now are nothing; Christ is free of every power.
Why then seek the living Savior in the haunts of death and fear?
Christ is risen! Shout the good news so that all the world may hear.

For if Christ is not arisen there is nothing to believe.
Truth be told, He keeps the promise: "Since I live you too shall live."
Dust we are, to dust returning, but in Christ we are restored.
Doubt dispelling, claim the triumph: Jesus is the living Lord!

Death is swallowed up in victory; sin has lost its poison sting.
Life will blossom from the grain sown,
Christ the first fruits of the spring.
For the sureness of salvation let us sing "Thanks be to God!"
Christ is risen! We are living! Spread the word of grace abroad.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

He is Able to Deliver Thee

As I continue reading through the Bible, it is such fun to rediscover stories that I learned as a child, and more fully understand the context and the situation, as well as the application. A little life experience makes a lot of difference!

One such story is of that famous trio, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They boldly professed allegiance to the Lord only when Nebuchadnezzar commanded his people to bow to a god whom he had made.

After the king had made this idol, he invited all the leaders in the land to come to its dedication. At the ceremony, the king's herald delivered a stunning message: that anyone who did not bow to this gold image would face dire consequences.

Then the herald loudly proclaimed: "To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language, that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up. But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire." Daniel 3:4-6

You can imagine the response. The people did as they were told - no one wanted to end up in that furnace!

Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Daniel 3:7

Well, not everyone did as they were told. Certain people came forward to the king and brought charges against the Jews of the land who worshiped the One True God.

"There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up." Daniel 3:12

The king responded as we would expect - he did not like this news at all and ordered that the famous trio be brought before him immediately.

He confronted them with what he considered their disobedience:

Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?"
Daniel 3:14-15

What god is there? You can be sure that Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego had an answer to that one.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king." Daniel 3:16-17

That's the part I remember! They had faith that their God would deliver them from the hand of the king when he asked them to sin against God by worshiping an idol. But look what they say next:

"But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." Daniel 3:18

That trio was firm in their conviction: even if God didn't deliver them out of the fiery furnace, they would live in obedience to Him and not break His commandments.

"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments." Exodus 20:2-6

Well that didn't sit to well with the king. He ordered his servants to heat the furnace SEVEN TIMES hotter than usual! He commanded 'valiant warriors' to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and then cast them into the furnace of blazing fire.

The furnace was so hot that the flames KILLED the men who carried the tied-up trio to the fire! The tied-up trio fell into the burning furnace, and then the king got a big surprise.

Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he said to his high officials, "Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?" They replied to the king, "Certainly, O king." He said, "Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!" Daniel 3:24-25

Can you imagine what the king was thinking? What is going on here?

Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!" Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire. The satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king's high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them. Daniel 3:26-27

Did you read that carefully? The fire had no effect on their bodies! Their hair wasn't even singed! Their trousers were not damaged! They didn't even smell of smoke!!! Here is when the king realizes what the only reasonable response is to praise the God who saved His men!

Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king's command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God." Daniel 3:28

And then he goes even further - his tune has changed. No longer is there a fatal consequence for failing to bow to Nebuchadnezzar's molten image, but now the fatal consqequence comes from speaking against the God of heaven who is able to deliver!

"Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way." Daniel 3:29

This story ends with God's deliverance of these men. And it is an amazing ending. But I am still thinking about the faith that this trio had before they were thrown in the furnace. 'Even if He does not deliver, we will be faithful.'

How does this apply to Your life? Are there situations or areas in your life where you have cried out to God for deliverance? He is able to deliver you. But even if He does not, I want to be faithful to the God who is able.

He is Able to Deliver Thee
Words by William Ogden

’Tis the grandest theme through the ages rung;
’Tis the grandest theme for a mortal tongue;
’Tis the grandest theme that the world e’er sung,
“Our God is able to deliver thee.”

He is able to deliver thee,
He is able to deliver thee;
Though by sin oppressed, go to Him for rest;
“Our God is able to deliver thee.”

’Tis the grandest theme in the earth or main;
’Tis the grandest theme for a mortal strain;
’Tis the grandest theme, tell the world again,
“Our God is able to deliver thee.”

’Tis the grandest theme, let the tidings roll,
To the guilty heart, to the sinful soul;
Look to God in faith, He will make thee whole,
“Our God is able to deliver thee.”

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What if His People Prayed

If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
II Chronicles 7:14

I am breaking from "tradition" here and writing about a song that is not a hymn, but rather, a modern "popular" song by Christian artists. This song speaks to me so strongly about the need for God's people to be people of prayer - and as we celebrate and participate in the National Day of Prayer tomorrow, it is a good reminder of what is possible if God's people rise up and PRAY!

Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, admonished them to put on the full armor of God. After becoming fully "clothed" he adds one more important step:

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints... Ephesians 6:18

Pray at all times in the Spirit. Paul tells us that the Spirit will aid us in our prayers:

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words... Romans 8:26

I admit, there are times when I know I need to pray but I don't have the words. At those times, I pray Romans 8:26, and ask the Spirit to intercede. But even when we have the words, Paul tells us that we don't know how to pray as we should - so the Spirit intercedes! Isn't it wonderful to know that God's Holy Spirit is praying along with us, and that He is praying God's will for us? Look at this next verse:

...and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:27

Prayer is an absolutely essential part of being a follower of Christ. And while we often petition God for our wants and desires (which He tells us to do! - Matthew 7), He also calls us to pray for those who are in leadership over us, and those who do not know Christ, that they may be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension. I Timothy 2:1-8

This song paints a very dramatic picture of what would happen if all God's people became people of prayer, dedicating themselves to seek God's will for the sins of our nation, the needs of our families, the people in leadership and those who don't know Christ. Let's each do our part in making that picture a reality - and let's follow the exhortation that Paul gave to the church at Colossae:

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2

What if His People Prayed
Written and Recorded by Casting Crowns

What if the armies of the Lord
Picked up and dusted off their swords
Vowed to set the captives free
And not let Satan have one more?
What if the church, for Heaven's sake
Finally stepped up to the plate
Took a stand upon God's promise
And stormed Hell's rusted gates?

What if His people prayed
And those who bear His name
Would humbly seek His face,
And turn from their own ways?

And what would happen if we prayed
For those raised up to lead the way?
Then maybe kids in school could pray
And unborn children see light of day
What if the life that we pursue
Came from a hunger for the truth?
What if the family turned to Jesus
Stopped asking Oprah what to do?

What if His people prayed
And those who bear His name
Would humbly seek His face,
And turn from their own ways?

He said that He would hear
His promise has been made
He'd answer loud and clear,
If only we would pray

If My people called by My name
If they'll humble themselves and pray
If My people called by My name
If they'll humble themselves and pray

What if His people prayed
And those who bear His name
Would humbly seek His face,
And turn from their own ways?