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Category Archives: Easter & Good Friday

Is the Resurrection too good to be True?

There are some things that sound too good to be true. Santa Claus. The Easter Bunny. The Tooth Fairy. Fat free food that tastes good. Guilt free chocolate. Healthy fast food. Sasquatch. All of these things fall into that category. Some people, including some of Jesus’ disciples, would place the resurrection of Jesus Christ into the too-good-to-be-true category. They have a hard time believing it actually took place.

In Luke 24:36-53, Jesus presented his disciples with three types of evidence to convince them that he actually rose from the dead. Rather than continue in our skepticism and disbelief, we need to consider the evidence closely. There is more than enough evidence to believe—physical evidence, biblical evidence, and personal evidence. When we believe the evidence for the resurrection, our lives will be transformed.

Physical Evidence: Jesus Christ had a physical body (36-43). The disciples were meeting in the upper room trying to process the stories they were hearing that Jesus had risen from the dead. Suddenly, he appeared in their midst. Needless to say, they were stunned and shocked. Jesus asked them two questions—Why are you troubled? and Why are you doubting? He stretched out his hands and offered them as evidence that he was not a ghost. Like a sports fan marveling at a last second winning goal, home run, or three-point shot, they disbelieved with joy. If they still weren’t convinced, Jesus asked for some food and ate some broiled fish. Add up the evidence and you conclude that Jesus Christ had a physical body that could be seen and touched.

Biblical Evidence: Jesus Christ fulfilled the prophecies of Scripture (44-46). Jesus took them on a journey through the three major sections of the Old Testament—the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms or Writings—and demonstrated that he is the central focus of Scripture.

 

Messiah would Suffer

Messiah would Rise from the dead

Law

Exodus 12

Exodus 3:6

Prophets

Isaiah 53

Hosea 6:2

Psalms

Psalm 22

Psalm 16:8-11

Add up the evidence and you conclude that Jesus Christ is the focus and fulfillment of Scripture.

Personal Evidence: The disciples were transformed (47-53). Jesus gave his disciples a mission to accomplish. They were to tell of what they had seen. Rather than being a change in direction, this too was spoken of in the Old Testament.

Mission

Law

Genesis 12:2, 3

Prophets

Isaiah 49:6

Quoted in Acts 13

Psalms

Psalm 22:27, 28

Before setting off on their mission, they were to wait for the coming of the promised Holy Spirit. As the book of Acts testifies, the disciples were transformed and were never the same again. They went from cowardice to confidence, from fearful to boldness, from hiding to public, from worry to worship. Add up the evidence and you conclude that the disciples were transformed by the truth of the resurrection.

How should we respond to this account? Let me encourage you to examine the evidence. Ask God to answer your questions. Believe the message. Receive the gift of forgiveness. Let God transform your life.

When we believe the evidence for the resurrection, our lives will be transformed.

The Lord is Risen! He is Risen indeed!

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on April 21, 2019. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Chicopee Easter Egg Hunt 2019

The Chicopee Parks & Recreation Department sponsors a community Easter Egg Hunt the day before Easter. It is normally held at Szot Park, but due to a rainy, soggy day, this year’s event was held in the DuPont Middle School Gymnasium. First Central Bible Church sponsors a refreshment table at the event. We give out water, coffee, muffins, and bags with a coffee mug and literature about the church. It provides us with an opportunity to bless the community and connect with our neighbors on their turf rather than always waiting for them to come to us.

 

 

Before & After the Cross

After reading Romans 5:6-11, I constructed a chart that paints a before & after picture with the death of Christ being a hinge.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Before

 

 

Christ died for us

(6, 8, 10)

After

Weak, powerless (6)

 

Ungodly (6)

Justified (9)

Sinners (8)

Saved (9)

Enemies (10)

Reconciled (10)

 

Rejoicing (11)

This is part of the devotional I shared during our Good Friday service at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on April 19, 2019.

 

Preview of Good Friday & Easter services

 

After the Confetti Settles

Each one of us experiences many turning points in our lives. They are events which paint a distinct before and after picture. Before the event our lives were headed one direction. After the event, we headed off in an entirely different direction. Before we thought one thing; afterwards we had an entirely different perspective.

Sometimes the turning points are joyous occasions. Graduations, weddings, the birth of a child are events that drastically change a person’s life. Sometimes the events are traumatic such as an accident or doctor’s appointment where we are told we have cancer. Sometimes our life changes because of someone else’s action or decision. Whether the turning point is good, bad, or indifferent, life is never the same again.

The day Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday is one such event. Matthew 21:1-11 records his triumphal entry. On this occasion, Jesus presented his credentials as the Messiah/King, the Son of David. The crowds shouted his praise. But what happened after the confetti settled and the parade was over? How was life different for the disciples or the people of Jerusalem? In the same way, how is life different for a Christ follower after Jesus enters his or her life?

Matthew 21:12-22 gives us an answer to that question. (Mark 11:11-12 adds the perspective that these events take place the day after Palm Sunday.) These events help us understand that life is never the same after King Jesus arrives. Jesus will challenge our priorities (12-13), heal our hurts (14), confront our biases (15-16), and expect fruit in our lives (18-22).

The day after Jesus entered Jerusalem, he makes his way to the temple. There he observes how the temple complex had been turned into a place of commerce. There were pens of sheep and livestock available for purchase to use as sacrifices. If you could not afford those, you could buy pigeons or doves. Before making any purchase, you had to exchange your regional coins for temple money.

Jesus begins to drive the merchants and money changers out of the temple (12-13). He declares that the temple was to be a place of prayer, not a safe house for bandits. In his actions, Jesus challenged the priorities of the prevailing culture. Instead of focusing on worship, they were more concerned about busyness. By driving the merchants out, Jesus removed the weapons of mass distraction. He called for people to refocus their attention on the purpose of the temple—a place where people of every nationality could come to pray.

In verse 14, Jesus healed those who were blind and lame. Because of their physical disability, they were not welcome in the temple. They could not worship their creator. Beyond the physical healing, Jesus removed the barriers that kept these folks from entering the temple to worship.

After showing mercy to hurting people, Jesus confronted the bias of the religious leaders who were outraged that people were not worshipping in the proper manner (15-16). Ironically, they put up with the noise of commerce but cringed at the noise of praise. As he often did, Jesus comforted the afflicted and he afflicted the comfortable.

Outside of the city, Jesus saw a fig tree in full bloom (18-22). Normally, leaves meant the presence of figs. But that was not the case. The tree had the appearance of health and fruitfulness, but it was all a sham. Because of its hypocrisy, Jesus said the tree would never bloom again. Through his actions, Jesus taught his disciples that outward appearances are not enough. He expects to find fruit in our lives. Jesus also used the occasion to teach about prayer and faith. He explained that God can do what is humanly impossible.

These same lessons should be true in our lives as well. When King Jesus comes into our lives, life is never the same again. He will challenge our priorities. He wants us to pursue a relationship with him rather than settle for busyness. He will heal our hurts and remove the barriers that hinder us from approaching him in worship. He will make us uncomfortable as he confronts our biases. And he will expect us to be fruitful in serving him.

Have you given King Jesus permission to cleanse and change your life? If we’re honest, we might have given him permission to cleanse our lives. We want forgiveness and heaven. But change our lives? Many of us want to continue living by our own standards. But that is just not realistic. When King Jesus truly comes into our lives, he changes everything. Life is never the same after King Jesus takes up residence in our lives.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at the First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on Palm Sunday, April 14, 2019. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Palm Sunday message preview

 

From Broken Hearts to Burning Hearts

Have you ever felt disappointed about something God did? Have you been disillusioned because God did not answer a prayer the way you wanted? Have you been discouraged because faith is much harder than you imagined? Have you wondered if trusting God was worth the trouble?

Over the past five months, I have wrestled with each one of those issues as I recover from my broken hip. The question of “Why God?” came to the forefront of my thoughts. This is not the first time I’ve questioned God’s decisions or actions. More times than I care to admit, I have wondered aloud why God didn’t give me a different personality or set of gifts to be successful in ministry. “Why did God call me to a task that he did not equip me for?” I’ve thought on several occasions.

If you have ever been disappointed, disillusioned, discouraged, or despairing about your relationship with God, you’re in good company. Jesus’ own disciples felt those emotions following the crucifixion. Luke 24:13-35 tells the story of two disciples who gave up after the crucifixion and went home. The story points out that Jesus can handle our disappointment, discouragement, and doubt. He can restore our hope and reignite our passion.

The story begins at the end of the worst weekend of their entire lives. For three years, the disciples followed Jesus. They learned from him. They believed in him. A few days previously, they hailed him as the triumphant hero as he entered Jerusalem. But then he was crucified. Now, feeling discouraged (17) and disappointed (21), they gave up and went home (13). These two disciples had a threefold problem—they didn’t see (16), they didn’t understand (17-24), and they didn’t believe.

As they are traveling the seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus, Jesus joins them on the journey. He asks what they are talking about (17). Surprised he doesn’t know the current events (18), they fill in the backstory (19-24).

During the course of the conversation, Jesus meets them right at their point of need, though he does so in reverse order. He rebuked their unbelief (25), he explained the truth (26-27), and he opened their eyes (30-31).

While the text doesn’t tell us the content of their discussion, it’s not hard to imagine what they might have talked about. Perhaps Jesus began in Genesis 1 by explaining that God created a perfect world and perfect people. But sin entered the world and people chose to sin (Genesis 3). Perhaps Jesus reminded them that God promised to send a deliver who would crush Satan (Genesis 3:15). Maybe he discussed the story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4) and how Cain tried to earn God’s approval through his own efforts but Abel brought a sacrifice. Chances are Jesus brought up Abraham sacrificing Isaac and his confidence that God would provide a substitute (Genesis 22). Undoubtedly, Jesus talked about the need for the Passover lamb to be without spot or blemish (Exodus 12:5) and that atonement came through the blood of the sacrifice (Leviticus 17:11). Jesus probably spoke of the fact that the Messiah would suffer for our sins (Isaiah 53, Psalm 22).

Arriving at their destination, the two disciples invited Jesus to join them for a meal and to spend the night with them. During the meal, their eyes were opened as he broke the bread and gave it to them. Maybe his language or mannerisms reminded them of when Jesus fed the 5,000. Perhaps they had heard the story of the last supper in the upper room. Possibly they saw the nail prints in his hands when he distributed the bread. Either way, they recognized him right before he disappeared from their presence.

Now that their eyes were opened, they had to tell someone. They hustled back to Jerusalem to spread the news (33-35). The risen Christ gives us a message of hope to share with others.

What can we take away from this story?

  • Jesus suffered and died for our sins as the Scriptures foretold.
  • He rose from the dead on the third day as the Scriptures predicted.
  • Not only did he appear to these two people, he also appeared to over 500 others.

How should we respond to this message?

  • Examine the evidence. See for yourself what the Bible says about Jesus.
  • Ask God to answer your questions. He can handle your doubts.
  • Believe the message. Ultimately, it comes down to making the choice to believe the facts.
  • Receive the gift of forgiveness. Jesus died on the cross so we can be forgiven.
  • Tell others what Christ did for you. Be like these two disciples and spread the good news.

The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on April 1, 2018. It is one of several messages preached on the resurrection of Jesus. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.