Monday, October 31, 2016

Those Who Bring Good News

Who are those people who were instrumental in sharing the good news of Jesus with you?  Who took the time to take an interest in you and an interest in your spirituality?  For a lot of the people who came to obedient faith in Jesus in the mid-1st century Mediterranean world, it was the apostle Paul.  Many of those taught by Paul, taught others and so the gospel spread rapidly across the length and breadth of the Roman world. 

Over 500 years earlier, other messengers brought good news to God’s people.  As Jerusalem lay in ruin due to Babylonian destruction, a message of hope rang out.  “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’  Listen!  Your sentinels lift up their voices, together they sing for joy; for in plain sight they see the return of the LORD to Zion.  Break forth together into singing, you ruins of Jerusalem; for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.  The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” (Isaiah 52:7-10).  Good news like this is meant to be shared! - Shay

Monday, October 17, 2016

Jesus Part Two

Usually, sequels aren’t as good as the original.  The book of the Acts of the Apostles could just as easily be called Jesus Part 2, but it’s a sequel that lives up to the original.  In Acts, Jesus is still at work in the world, only he does his work through his people who are empowered by his Spirit.  In Luke’s gospel, as Jesus engaged with his fellow Jewish countrymen, the action flowed from Galilee to Jerusalem.  In Acts, the movement of the narrative flows from Jerusalem, into Judea, Samaria, and eventually the very ends of the Roman world.  In fact, Acts wraps up with the Apostle Paul powerfully proclaiming the good news that Jesus is Lord right under the nose of the would-be-lord of the world, Emperor Nero, in the capital city of Rome.    

Acts reminds us that though Jesus has ascended to the Father, he's still at work in our world.  And as the gospel continues to spread to the ends of the earth, we’re reminded that Jesus Christ is Lord, even in those places where he’s not yet been named publicly as such.  As Acts tells us in the first chapter, Jesus will return someday, just as he departed.  And as Acts 17 reminds us, God is not far from anyone of us.  He's placed us in the times and places of his choosing so that we might grope for him and find him.  There's no greater freedom in this life than the freedom that comes through making Jesus our Lord and our Master.  The latter part of the Christ-hymn in Philippians 2 says this: “God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  And I would echo John’s words from Revelation 22, “Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus!” – Shay   

Monday, October 10, 2016

But in Fact Christ has been Raised...

Is it worth it?  Is living the Christian life worth it?  If Jesus was not raised from the dead, then no, it’s not worth it.  It’s a waste of time, energy, and money.  If Jesus was not raised from the dead, then the biggest scam in the history of the universe has been meted out on millions and millions of people for the past 2,000 years.  If Jesus was not raised, then all of our loved ones who have died have absolutely no hope.  They are dead and buried, never to breathe and live again.  Their rotting corpses are just that - rotting corpses never to rise again.  We may as well live and do whatever we want to do.  We should get as much as we can while we can.  Meaningless!  Everything is meaningless without the resurrection of Jesus.  We’re wasting our time if Jesus’ body did not rise on the third day.

But, thank God, the tomb is empty!  Jesus did rise, the first-born of the new creation.  The world changed the moment his lifeless body breathed again.  His resurrection gives us hope and meaning for the future.  In fact, the resurrection is our future.  We too will breathe and live again.  Our bodies will rise again to live eternally in God’s renewed creation.  As Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15.  “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died…thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” – 1 Cor. 15:20 & 57-58.    
But the reality is, there are days when we forget this truth.  It's easy to be distracted by all the good things that this life has to offer and it's easy to be overwhelmed by all the tragedies of this world.  We might find ourselves swinging between these two extremes, forgetting that no matter how good or bad this life can be at different times, this present life isn't worth comparing with the eternal life to come.  Wherever we may find ourselves today, let's be encouraged by Paul's words in Romans 8:38-39: "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Shay   

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Faith of Jesus

There’s a phrase used in the New Testament, particularly by Paul which has often been understood to refer to a believer’s faith in Jesus.  The phrase is typically translated “faith in Jesus Christ”, but can also be translated as “the faith of Jesus Christ”.  In addition to referring to the believer’s faith in Jesus, this phrase almost certainly also refers to the faithfulness of Jesus himself.  This reminds us that in his own life Jesus demonstrated trust, faith, and obedience to his Father.  Our faith in Jesus is important, but even more important was Jesus’ faithfulness to the will of God.  It’s through his faith and righteousness that we are made right with God. 

Have you ever considered that as Jesus approached his death, he did so in faith?  What I mean is that Jesus had to trust God to take him through death and into resurrection.  For the man Jesus to remain obedient to God, he had to walk by faith and not by sight, just as much as we do, and never so much as he did when he freely laid down his life.  It wasn’t easy for Jesus, as his prayer in the garden clearly reveals, but he was nevertheless willing to submit his will to the will of the Father.  So, yes, our faith in Jesus Christ is important, but not nearly as important as Jesus’ own faith and faithfulness.  - Shay