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The Kindness of Joseph of Arimathea

“And a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Sanhedrin (but did not consent to the death of Jesus) who was from Arimathea and was waiting for the kingdom of God; this man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. He took it down from the cross and wrapped it in a linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock where no one had ever lain.”
Luke 23

We tend to think of the Jewish Elite of Jesus day as all villains, but Joseph was an exception. The key phrase is “he was waiting for the kingdom of God.” Everyone else sought the kingdom of man, not of God, as they claimed. Joseph waited for the city not made by human hands. He took down the body of Jesus, carefully wrapped it, and placed it into his own tomb where no one had laid. Despite the fact Jesus would soon rise and have no use for either, I doubt our Lord would forget this measure of kindness from Joseph, the one who waited for Him.

Today as I reflect on the death of my mama, I want to thank the folks at Sanderson Funeral Homes for taking such good care of my mama’s body. For taking good care of it and laying it in a tomb no one has lain in. For although I know she has no further need of it, I will not forget the care and kindness they have taken with the one so dear to me. I also hope that they all, like our friend Joseph, are waiting for the One who is the Resurrection and the Life and long for His appearing.

I believe in Resurrection.

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Posted by on January 12, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Curtain Call

Hamlet Cast17231The picture you see here is of a curtain call. The curtain call is the moment at the end of a play when all the actors come out from behind the curtain to take a final bow. I chose this particular curtain call as an object lesson, because this curtain call is from the play Hamlet. Why is that significant?

Because just a moment ago, nearly all of these people were dead.

For those familiar with William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet, the story ends with a climatic duel that ends up causing the deaths of just about every single character. The very last scene see Hamlet’s friend bursting on the scene to find a castle hall full of the dead. The story ends, everyone dies.

But lo! The curtain call! Everyone is alive again! It turns out this play was just a work of imagination, just a brief lesson in miniature, and everyone is actually OK. Death was not the end for these people.

But real life does not work that way. Or does it? What does the bard say?

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII and Macbeth Act V, Scene V

Even the bard agrees, life is a play. The only thing I would disagree with is that last bit. The tale we are a part of is significant.

The Creator God is our Playwright. He gives us all a part to play and a job to do. A man, as the Bard says, might play many parts in his life. Everyone has entrances and exits onto the stage. The entrance is birth. The exit is death.

And yet, death is not the end. There is the Curtain Call. We call it the Resurrection.

It will be a day when all who belong to Christ who have mourned the dead and felt the sting of its loss will awake to find it was all just a play and that the deaths they suffered did not last. Everyone who was dead is alive once again!

The beloved elder cut down in Act I holds hands with the young man who died in the battle of Act V. Abraham, Paul, William Wilberforce, and Billy Graham will all take a bow and toss their crowns at the feet of the Great Playwright upon the glassy sea.

Then there will be the Cast Party called the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, and nothing waiting but endless paradise.

Play your part well. The curtain soon falls.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2015 in Soteriology

 

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I am Doulos

Slave-of-Christ-Doulos-GreekI am His slave.

There is no greater freedom than to be a slave of Yahweh.

I do not have to despair of my life, for my life belongs to Him. It is not mine to take up and it is not mine to lay down.

He purchased me with a price. The price was the blood of His Son Jesus the Messiah.

By His blood I am bought and I am no longer my own.

My decisions are His, my career is His, my house is His, my wife is His, my children are His.

He kills, He makes alive. I live and die at His command.

He gives, He takes away. Blessed is He.

Who is Yahweh? He is my Master!

Those who wish to be their own master have not tasted His goodness. They do not know the freedom His bondage brings.

For bondage to the Righteous One is freedom from unrighteousness, freedom from evil and despair.

Because all happens in accordance to the pattern of His will, it is therefore impossible for misfortune to befall me.

For all things work together for good to who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

When I am alone in the darkness, He is there. When I have no friends He is there.

If I find myself in the Abyss, yes He will still be there.

My life has its meaning in Him. He is my meaning, my life, my song in the night of this world.

The world and all its wonders were formed by His command, they will fall by His command.

What greater Master can a man serve? Show me!

His bondage is my freedom, His discipline is my redemption, His word is my life’s food.

No happiness exists apart from Him, no peace is made without His counsel.

Those who run from Him will only find death. Those who find shelter in His chains will find life.

Would you begrudge chains that bring eternal life? A prison full of joy? This is what Yahweh provides.

A day to serve Him as a slave is worth a thousand without Him.

I cannot live without His provision. I cannot die without His leave. My living and my dying are His to ordain.

Such freedom from life’s burdens and death’s sting are only found in Yahweh. Seek Him while He can be found!

I am His slave. He is my master.

I am His. He is mine.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2014 in Sanctification

 

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The Special Tree

One-Tree-Hill-D-green-19839104-1280-1024Once upon a time there stood a tree planted in a great forest.
Day by day the tree stood in its place among its kin, its great boughs reaching for the heavens, its leaves swaying to the breeze.
“Perhaps I will stay here forever,” thought the tree, “swaying forever with my kin in this beautiful forest?”
And the tree was happy.

Many years it stood, until men had need of its lumber.
With axes they came and felled the tree to the ground.
“Men have come to shape and make me to their will!” thought the tree.
“I wonder what I will be made into?” pondered the tree.
“A great ship tall and proud, bearing men across the sea?”
“A strong house secure and warm, sheltering generations of families?”
“The throne of a mighty king, supporting him in great matters?”
So the tree sat as lumber, dreaming of what it might become one day.
And the tree was happy.

But one day men came for the tree’s lumber.
“We will make a device of cruelty and suffering from you,” they said, “Criminals will be put to death on you.”
How could this be?
All those years in the forest, growing tall and strong to end this way?
An instrument of cruelty and shame.
An instrument of death.
And the tree was very sad.

The tree was carried out to the man who would die on him.
“Do not be sad,” He said, “for you are My most special tree.”
“I am special? What will I do?” asked the tree.
“You will lift me high on your branches, and I will show God’s love to all the world.” He said, “And when they remember you, they will remember Me.”
So the two walked up the hill, and the tree held its Maker while He gave His life to save the world.
And the tree was happy.

– Jason Cohoon
(Inspired by The Dream of the Rood and The Giving Tree)

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2013 in Christology, Soteriology

 

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The Death of Sin

ImageRomans 6
6 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

I have been a Christian for 18 years. Yet recently I realized that for all those years, I don’t think I’ve truly experienced repentance more than a handful of times.

I know that sounds scary. It scared me too.

About two weeks ago, I attended the Men’s Conference at Woodstock GA. God struck my heart with the truth of His word, and convicted me of an old sin. There was something in this world I loved too much. Something bigger to me than God. If I told you what it was, you would think it trivial, unimportant. Trivial like a small wooden doll is trivial, but oh what snares they were to our ancestors.

For years I’d try to put it away for good, only to take it back up again. I just couldn’t decide in my heart it was really sin. I justified it. I compromised. I suffered. My family suffered.

Finally, I put it down. I turned my heart away from the detestable idol and toward God.

Then something awful happened. I felt a void in my heart, like a wound that I could not explain. Depression swept over me, rather than the joy I expected. My life felt a little less bright for a few days, like I had lost a part of me.

I had. The sin part.

The pain, the loss, the depression was the idol dying inside of me. The sin’s last breath. The death rattle of iniquity. It hurt so much because of how close it had clung to my heart. This evil cancer breeding death was a part of me. Now it was dying.

The temptations came like a flood. Take it back! You cannot live without this! You will be lost! Many times past I had believed such lies. Not this time. I watched this part of me die a cruel death. A death it deserved. The sin was drawn back 2,000 years and nailed with Christ to the cross, and died.

After that, something amazing happened. I drew in a deep breath and suddenly I could see more, understand more, feel more. A part of me had died. A new part of me was suddenly very much alive.

It was at that point that the Word from Romans 6 came to life before my eyes. This was what Paul was talking about. Death was not just a metaphor for repentance, it was repentance. Death to Life. Just like Jesus.

It was also then that I realized I haven’t really repented of much since my conversion. Other than my conversion, I can probably count three other times when I truly repented of a sin and let it die the death it deserved on the cross.  Sure, I’ve asked for forgiveness countless times during my Christian life, but repentance is a different matter.

Now that I have tasted the freedom and life it brings, I hope in Christ that will change. I want to kill more sin in me to see more of me brought to life in Him.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
– Galatians 2:20

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2013 in Sanctification

 

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Fall of the Empire

American-Capitol-RuinsYesterday, I came upon this interesting quote;

“The average age of the world’s great civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back to bondage.” – Sir Alex Francis Tytler 1742-1813

I was at once pleased to read it, for it reads what I’ve been saying for years; that all that is happening to our nation happened to all other great civilizations, and that it has only one conclusion; the end of this “political experiment” (as our nation’s founders once called it) and the beginning of some other folly of man.

This nation was founded on the vain philosophies of men, and not God. And we know even the greatest wisdom of man is foolishness to God. (1Cor. 3:18-21)So every lofty idea of man and every beacon of man’s so-called greatness will succumb to the power of sin and will vanish away. Only the Kingdom of God, which currently is in the body of believers that is the Church, will endure, and nothing will prevail against it. (Matt 16:18)

As believers, we should not fail to stand up for what is good, what is holy, and what is just in the eyes of God, but we should simultaneously not expect a sinful and fallen world to listen either.

Our only hope should be that our testimony of Christ’s power and love, our refusal to live the lifestyle encouraged by the world, and our ability through Christ to live a holy and consecrated lifestyle for Him will prompt some of them to turn their hearts away from sin and towards God, to accept the offer of salvation He offers to all mankind and join us in the Kingdom of God.

Our mission is not to save the nation of America, but the people who dwell in it, indeed the people of all nations.

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2008 in History

 

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Resurrection in the Old Testament

In the due course of my historical studies at my university, I have heard from some professors that the concept of a Resurrection and eternal life with God is a post-ancient concept, found only in the New Testament and other works of that age. This, however, is an outright fabrication. From the beginning, the Most High has told us of His plan to raise us from the dead, to be judged, and thereafter to spend eternity either with Him, or separated forever from Him.

What by ignorance or by design these “learned” professors fail to distinguish the distinct difference between the truth of God’s Resurrection and the gnostic philosophies created by Greeks in the later B.C. and early first centuries. In Greco-Roman thought generally, the body was thought to be the prison of the soul. Evil matter is temporal and the spirit is eternal. In Gnostic religious systems, moreover, the believer required special revelation knowledge to ascend through the dangerous celestial spheres to escape the material universe. The god of spirits – sought by Gnostics – was not interested in the revival of dead bodies. According to their religious system, the material universe was composed of evil matter, which is contrasted to the spiritual realm. Greeks longed to be free from the confines of the body. While they did believe in the survival of the human soul after death, the notion that the body would be reunited with the soul in a physical resuscitation was foreign to their conceptual world.

The Jewish people, however, believed that God created our world. Our physical world is God’s creation, and it is good. The Pharisees, in contrast to the Greco-Roman religious beliefs, vigorously affirmed the doctrine of the resurrection of the physical body, which would be reunited with the spirit of an individual. Their worldview embraced a future restoration of God’s original design for His world. The Pharisees envisioned a time of redemption in which God would realign the physical creation with the ethereal realm.
Contrary to what some teach, the concept of bodily resurrection is not one that is mentioned only in the New Testament. God has been revealing this truth to us from the beginning. The Pharisees (Jewish experts on the Old Testament, or Torah) had been teaching and proclaiming this truth since before the time of Christ.

Rabbi Gamaliel, the Apostle Paul’s mentor, had this to say when confronted by people claiming there was no resurrection. (You’ll remember Gamaliel’s wise words to the Sanhedrin in Acts 5:34-39.)

~The heretics asked Rabban Gamaliel, “How do you prove that the Holy One, blessed be He, will resurrect the dead?”
He answered, “From the Torah, from the Prophets, and from the Writings. From the Torah: it is written, ‘And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold you are about to sleep with your fathers; but then you will rise again”‘ (Deut. 31:16).”
“But perhaps,” they argued, “the text reads, ‘and they shall rise up.'”
[But Rabban Gamaliel countered], “Also from the Prophets: as it is written, “Thy dead shall live, their bodies shall rise. O dwellers of the dust, awake and sing for joy! For thy dew is a dew of light, and on the land of the shades thou wilt let it fall'” (Isa. 26:19)
[The Saducees retorted,] “Perhaps this is referring to the dead who were resurrected to Ezekiel?”
[Rabban Gamaliel, however, argued, “The resurrection is] also taught in the Writings, as it is written: ‘and your palate like the best wine that goes down smoothly, making the lips of the sleepers to speak [in Pharisaic interpretation, “sleepers” may be understood as “the dead”]’ (Songs of Solomon 7:9).”~

This entire argument was made from the Old Testament (Torah, Prophets, and Writings) alone, with no New Testament references. There are more such scriptures, such as Daniel 12:2,
“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
This proves the doctrine of Resurrection is not one introduced only by Christ and the New Testament, but one that has, from the beginning, been revealed to men by God as His plan for the last day.

[Some excerpts here are from Paul, the Jewish Theologian]

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2008 in The Bible

 

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