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Bishop Lalachan Abraham
When D. L. Moody, the great evangelist, was dying, his last words were, "Earth is receding, heaven is approaching; this is my crowning day."
Resurrection of Christ is a reminder that we need have no fear about death. Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
Bishop Lalachan Abraham
RAVI ZACHARIAS: SYMBOLS OF THE PURSUIT OF GOD
2 Corinthians 4:6 “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ."
Ravi Zacharias said: "The pursuit of the Hebrews was idealized and symbolized by light. 'The Lord is my light and my salvation.' 'The people that sat in darkness have seen a great light.' 'This is the light that lighteth every man that comes into the world.'
"The pursuit of the Greeks was symbolized by knowledge. That’s why the Biblical writers say, 'These things are written that you might know that you have eternal life.' For the Hebrews, it was light. For the Greeks, it was knowledge.
"For the Romans, it was glory. The apostle Paul, a Hebrew by birth, a citizen of Rome, living in a Greek city, had to give to them the ideal of his ethic. And he says this: 'God, who caused the light to shine out of darkness, has caused His light to shine in our hearts, to give to us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus our Lord.'
"For the apostle Paul, the ultimate ethic was not an abstraction, not symbolized merely by light, not merely by knowledge, not merely by glory, but in the very face of our Lord.
Most of us don’t mind Jesus making some minor change in our lives but Jesus wants to turn our lives upside down. Fans don’t mind him doing a little touch up work, but Jesus wants complete renovation. Fans come to Jesus thinking tune up, but Jesus is thinking overhaul. Fans think a little makeup is fine, but Jesus is thinking makeover. Fans think a little decorating is required, but Jesus wants a complete remodel. Fans want Jesus to inspire them, but Jesus wants to interfere with their lives.
Kyle Idleman, "Not a Fan" (p. 31)
1 Corinthians 13:1-13:8
CYMBALA'S EASTER STORY
Jim Cymbala preaches at a church in the slums of New York. He tells the following story: It was Easter Sunday and I was so tired at the end of the day that I just went to the edge of the platform, pulled down my tie and sat down and draped my feet over the edge. It was a wonderful service with many people coming forward. The counselors were talking with these people.
As I was sitting there I looked up the middle aisle, and there in about the third row was a man who looked about fifty, disheveled, filthy. He looked up at me rather sheepishly, as if saying, “Could I talk to you?”
We have homeless people coming in all the time, asking for money or whatever. So as I sat there, I said to myself, though I am ashamed of it, “What a way to end a Sunday. I’ve had such a good time, preaching and ministering, and here’s a fellow probably wanting some money for more wine.”
He walked up. When he got within about five feet of me, I smelled a horrible smell like I’d never smelled in my life. It was so awful that when he got close, I would inhale by looking away, and then I’d talk to him, and then look away to inhale, because I couldn’t inhale facing him. I asked him, “What’s your name?”
“How long have you been on the street?”
“How old are you?”
“Thirty-two.” He looked fifty--hair matted; front teeth missing; wino; eyes slightly glazed.
“Where did you sleep last night, David?”
I keep in my back pocket a money clip that also holds some credit cards. I fumbled to pick one out thinking; I’ll give him some money. I won’t even get a volunteer. They are all busy talking with others. Usually we don’t give money to people. We take them to get something to eat.
I took the money out. David pushed his finger in front of me. He said, “I don’t want your money. I want this Jesus, the One you were talking about, because I’m not going to make it. I’m going to die on the street.”
I completely forgot about David, and I started to weep for myself. I was going to give a couple of dollars to someone God had sent to me. See how easy it is? I could make the excuse I was tired. There is no excuse. I was not seeing him the way God sees him. I was not feeling what God feels.
But oh, did that change! David just stood there. He didn’t know what was happening. I pleaded with God, “God, forgive me! Forgive me! Please forgive me. I am so sorry to represent You this way. I’m so sorry. Here I am with my message and my points, and You send somebody and I am not ready for it. Oh, God!”
Something came over me. Suddenly I started to weep deeper, and David began to weep. He fell against my chest as I was sitting there. He fell against my white shirt and tie, and I put my arms around him, and there we wept on each other. The smell of His person became a beautiful aroma. Here is what I thought the Lord made real to me: If you don’t love this smell, I...
CHRIST IS THE WIND, CHRISTIANITY IS THE SAIL
Does the practice of our religion reflect the God we serve?
In Shane Hipps' book, "Selling Water by the River: A Book about the Life Jesus Promised and the Religion that Gets in the Way," he uses an analogy from sailing to express what has happened in the church over the past generations. He says (I quote loosely),
One thing that might ease our anxiety is to remember that Christ and Christianity are not the same thing; If Christ is the wind, then Christianity is the sail. Some sails are better than others at catching the wind, some sailors are better at using the sail, but there is always and only one wind. A sail without the wind is a limp flag; wind without a sail is still the wind. The relationship is only one way.
The wind (Christ) is the pre-existent creative power of the universe with no birthday or death date. The sail (Christianity) on the other hand is an institution built with the intention of harnessing that power. If the institution goes away, the power remains. Put simply, Christ is much, much bigger than our religion.
Listen to me, just because my religion bears his name doesn't always mean it bears His likeness. Such misconception is a dangerous, even an arrogant illusion. If we buy into this assumption, we become like the sail who believes it controls the wind.
THE LUKEWARM SHEEP
Now, for the sake of my illustration, I want to break a flock of sheep down into 3 groups.
1. The first group of sheep had DECIDED to look to Shepherd & follow Him wherever He leads.
These are the "Good sheep" who follow the "Good Shepherd. Jesus said: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." John 10:27 KJV
2. The 2nd group wants nothing to do with the Shepherd. They want to run their lives their own way and they deliberately DECIDE to walk away from Him. These are the pagans and atheists of society. They don't want to hear Jesus' voice... they don't want to follow.
3. But the 3rd group DECIDES that they like the Shepherd. They want to hang out with Him... but they don't want to get TOO close to Him. They still want to keep their options open. They want to look for their own grass once in a while. They want to nibble at a little of this and a little of that....
George Orwell once observed: "On the whole human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time."
That's the problem with this 3rd group of sheep.
They like being close to Jesus... just not too much, and not just all the time. And because they have this "loose" connection to the shepherd they're the ones who end up wandering off. They're the ones that end up getting lost. They're just close enough to the Shepherd to feel secure. And just far enough away to not hear His voice.
"My sheep hear my voice... and they follow me." says Jesus. John 10:27
And so, they wander off into their own little world, and they end up getting hurt and making bad decisions. And those bad decisions cause them pain and heartache.
As Proverbs 13:15 says, "...the way of transgressors is hard." (KJV)
Because they've chosen NOT to listen to the Good Shepherd and to follow Him closely, they are without the protection of that Shepherd and open to the attacks of Satan and this world.
A number of years ago, Dr. Waltke, a seminary professor, & three pastors, one of which was Charles Swindol toured the mother church of the First Church of Christ Scientist in downtown Boston. The four were unknown to the elderly lady who was going to give them a tour. They didn’t tell her who they were, at least not at first. She showed them several interesting things on the main floor. When they got to the pipe organ she began to talk about their doctrine & especially their belief about no judgment in the life beyond. Dr. Waltke waited for just the right moment & then very casually asked: "But, Ma’am, doesn’t it say somewhere in the Bible, ’It is appointed unto man once to die & after that, the judgment?" The scholar could have quoted Hebrews 9:27 in the Greek, but he was so gracious & tactful. Swindol confessed he was thinking, "Go for it Bruce. Now we’ve got her where we want her!" Without a pause, the lady simply ask, "Would you like to see the second floor?" Dr. Waltke said, "We surely would, thank you." She smiled, somewhat relieved, & started to lead the men up a flight of stairs. Swindol recalled he couldn’t believe it. He was thinking, "No, don’t let her get away. Make her answer your question!" He pulled on the scholar’s arm & said in a low voice, "Hey, why didn’t you nail the lady? Why didn’t you press the point & not let her get away until she answered?" Swindol said he replied, "But, Chuck, that wouldn’t have been fair. That wouldn’t have been very loving, either- now would it?" Swindol said, "Wham, the quiet rebuke left me reeling. I shall never forget that moment. And to complete the story, you’ll be interested to know that in less than 20 minutes he was sitting with the woman alone, gently speaking to her about the Lord Jesus Christ. She sat in rapt attention. He, the gracious servant, had won a hearing by being kind.
AN EASTER PARABLE: EDITH EASTER
Edith Burns was a wonderful Christian who lived in San Antonio, Texas. She was the patient of a doctor by the name of Will Phillips. Dr. Phillips was a gentle doctor who saw patients as people. His favorite patient was Edith Burns. One morning he went to his office with a heavy heart and it was because of Edith Burns.
When he walked into that waiting room, there sat Edith with her big black Bible in her lap earnestly talking to a young mother sitting beside her.
Edith Burns had a habit of introducing herself in this way: "Hello, my name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?" Then she would explain the meaning of Easter, and many times people would be saved. Dr. Phillips walked into that office and there he saw the head nurse, Beverly. Beverly had first met Edith when she was taking her blood pressure. Edith began by saying, "My name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?" Beverly said, "Why yes I do." Edith said, "Well, what do you believe about Easter?" Beverly said, "Well, it's all about egg hunts, going to church, and dressing up." Edith kept pressing her about the real meaning of Easter, and finally led her to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Phillips said, "Beverly, don't call Edith into the office quite yet. I believe there is another delivery taking place in the waiting room."
After being called back in the doctor's office, Edith sat down and when she took a look at the doctor she said, "Dr. Will, why are you so sad? Are you reading your Bible? Are you praying?" Dr. Phillips said gently, "Edith, I'm the doctor and you're the patient." With a heavy heart he said, "Your lab report came back and it says you have cancer, and Edith, you're not going to live very long." Edith said, "Why Will Phillips, shame on you. Why are you so sad? Do you think God makes mistakes? You have just told me I'm going to see my precious Lord Jesus, my husband, and my friends. You have just told me that I am going to celebrate Easter forever, and here you are having difficulty giving me my ticket!" Dr. Phillips thought to himself, "What a magnificent woman this Edith Burns is!"
Edith continued coming to Dr. Phillips. Christmas came and the office was closed through January 3rd. On the day the office opened, Edith did not show up. Later that afternoon, Edith called Dr. Phillips and said she would have to be moving her story to the hospital and said, "Will, I'm very near home, so would you make sure that they put women in here next to me in my room who need to know about Easter."
Well, they did just that and women began to come in and share that room with Edith. Many women were saved. Everybody on that floor from staff to patients were so excited about Edith, that they started calling her Edith Easter; that is everyone except Phyllis Cross, the head nurse. Phyllis made it plain that she wanted nothing to do with Edith because she was a "religious nut". She had been a nurse in an army hospital. She had seen it all and heard it all. She was the original G.I. Jane. She had been married three times, she was hard, cold, and did everything by the book.
One morning the two nurses who were to attend to Edith were sick. Edith had the flu and Phyllis Cross had to go in and give her a shot. When she walked in, Edith had a big smile on her face and said, "Phyllis, God loves you and I love you, and I have been praying for you." Phyllis Cross said, "Well, you can quit praying for me, it won't work. I'm not interested." Edith said, "Well, I will pray and I have asked God not to let me go home until you come into the family." Phyllis Cross said, "Then you will never die because that will never happen," and curtly walked out of the room.
Every day Phyllis Cross would walk into the room and Edith would say, "God loves you Phyllis and I love you, and I'm praying for you." One day Phyllis Cross said she was literally drawn to Edith's room like a magnet would draw iron. She sat down on the bed and Edith said, "I'm so glad you have come, because God told me that today is your special day." Phyllis Cross said, "Edith, you have asked everybody here the question, 'Do you believe in Easter?' but you have never asked me." Edith said, "Phyllis, I wanted to many times, but God told me to wait until you asked, and now that you have asked..."
Edith Burns took her Bible and shared with Phyllis Cross the Easter Story of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Edith said, "Phyllis, do you believe in Easter? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is alive and that He wants to live in your heart?" Phyllis Cross said, "Oh I want to believe that with all of my heart, and I do want Jesus in my life." Right there, Phyllis Cross prayed and invited Jesus Christ into her heart. For the first time Phyllis Cross did not walk out of a hospital room, s...
One day the reformer Martin Luther was feeling rather down. The Pope was after him. His colleagues were bickering among themselves. He felt the heavy pressure that came with being a professor, pastor, and father. And he was in excruciating pain from kidney stones. As he moped around the house muttering underneath his breath, his wife Katherine announced in a solemn voice, “God is dead.” Luther looked at his wife with puzzlement and replied, “God is not dead” Katherine went on to say, “It sure seems like God is dead by the way you are acting.” Luther thanked his wife and etched a Latin word on his desk: vivit. Vivit means, “He lives.” Whenever things weren’t going well and Luther was tempted to complain about them, he looked at that one simple word and was invigorated. Because Jesus was alive Luther had every reason to be upbeat. John tells us what Katherine told Luther: “Cheer up, Christian” John urges us to cheer up no matter what our circumstances or our prospects because we are God’s children, and because we will soon exchange our cross for a crown.
More than anyone else Christian parents can have the most influence on their children, because when Christ died upon the Cross the veil was ripped open so they could enter into the presence of God who sits on the Throne of Grace. The call to pray is from God’s Word and we are given a sure promise, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16b) One mother who knew this truth was Monica Augustine, the mother of St. Augustine who after a long struggle was converted to Christianity. St. Augustine was born in North Africa (Tagaste, Numidia) to a Christian mother and his father was a pagan until very late in life. Augustine’s childhood was marred by stealing pears and his ability to learn led him to one humanistic philosophy after another. He even had an obsession with the occult for a season in his life. During his period of exploration he lived a life of excessive fleshly desires causing him to become the father of a child by a mistress. After his conversion to Christ Augustine became the author of many great works writing about the “…City of God,” “On the Trinity,” “On Faith,” “Hope,” “Love” and “Christian Doctrine.” Augustine’s most widely read book is “The Confessions” which are several books that record how he felt about the Lord and his prayers to God. Studying Augustine’s life during that period of living in selfish sin shows that the Christian living he saw in his mother and the Christian teaching he received was not a waste of time. Thirteen years before his conversion he was moved in his prayers to return to God (Confessions #3:4) but he could not make himself do so. One year before his conversion Augustine was influenced by a man (Ambrose) who he knew was presenting “healthy teaching on salvation,” yet he could not return to the teaching and lifestyle he saw in his mother because of self-living. Listen to these confessions of Augustine while he struggled with sin and surrendering to Christ. “I was storm tossed and you [God] held the tiller.” “I was swept away by your beauty [Lord] and then I was torn away from you by my own weight [of sin] and fell back groaning toward these [lesser] thing [in life].” While being exposed for nearly a year to “healthy teachings of salvation” he wrote, “But salvation is far from sinners of the kind that I was then.” When Augustine was being moved to prayer to return to God he writes, “[I was] on fire to leave earthly things behind and fly back” [to God]. But there was an obstacle that kept Augustine from reaching God, he writes, “The Name of Christ was not there…” Augustine writes about how the Name of Jesus Christ was his mother’s milk and His Name touched his heart tenderly, but the fruit of his life was surrendered to self-will and not God’s will. Finally in early August 386 Augustine abandoned his teaching career and his proposed marriage and went off with some friends to live a life of contemplation. One day he heard how some men had moved to give their whole heart and life to serve the Lord. Augustine was suddenly confronted with his sin of self-living. He rushed out into the garden and flung himself under the fig tree and wept bitterly, crying out to God, “How long, how long, why should not this hour be an end to my baseness?” From a neighboring yard he heard the voice of a child say, “Take and read” Augustine went over to a bench where laid a copy of the Apostle Paul’s Epistle and he read Romans 13:13-14, “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Romans 13:13-14) At that moment Augustine put on Christ, took on the Name that was missing, the only key person missing in his life that would enable him to live for God. Long before we even came into this world the grace of God confronted Augustine as dramatically as God’s grace did the Apostle Paul. At age 31 Augustine’s struggle came to an end and through him came teachings and service that laid the foundation of Western theology. Augustine has often been call “Bishop of Hippo” and “Doctor of the Church.” The opening prayer of Augustine’s “Confessions” sums up his whole experience in life. He writes, “Our hearts are restless until they can find peace with you [Lord Jesus].” Augustine and one of his friends put on Christ and they went and told Monica his mother. Fredrick S. Leahy wrote about this time in Christian history, “Over the years she had prayed for her wayward son with tears. Now her prayers were answered yes to and her heart’s wishes granted.”