Category Archives: Bread And Spirit

Father’s Day 2018

First I want to say, “Happy Father’s Day,” to you fathers out there, and I hope you had an enjoyable day. I did. My kids couldn’t make it home, but gifts and cards arrived, and we are scheduled to celebrate the day together in a couple weeks. 🙂

At our local church yesterday, the Bible class teacher, Gary, spoke about our earthly fathers. He honored his own father but was very transparent about some of his failings as a father. He made the point, and I think we all agree, we’re grateful for whatever love, stability, provision, and protection our fathers provided for us. Yet we all know our dads made some mistakes, or there were things they certainly could have done better. They were, and we all are, fallible.

We also acknowledge that their successes and failures as fathers leave a big mark on us. That’s just the way it is. It seems to affect our world view and our view of God to a large degree, and it’s etched so deeply and indelibly in our souls and spirits that it’s hard to change, or even realize that it may not be correct and might need to be changed.

Then Gary spent the rest of his time talking about the “Infallible Father.” God our Father, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, even Jesus of Nazareth who became flesh and walked among us to tell us about His Father, and to show us the Father. Faithful, loving, kind, humble, honest,  present, protector, defender, always the same… are some of the attributes pointed out about our Heavenly Father. 

Then in the preaching service that followed, we were asked, “How did you get your name?” The common answers were [1] Your father, [2] your husband, [3] yourself (as in a good reputation or name which can be chosen or worked at  — Proverbs 22:1.

Stan, the teacher, then connected that last thought with the thought of adoption, the other way we can get our name, or more accurately and importantly, His Name. He then spent a good deal of time talking about the Name of the Lord, the Name above all Names, and the benefits of being called by that Name, our Father’s Name. You might like to give his message a hearing by clicking here, or give it some thought and meditation on your own. 

As the ramifications sink in, so does the largeness of the proposition . Happy Father’s Day!! 🙂

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Before I leave you, I’ll add some tidbits that stood out to me from this Father’s Day message…

… the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” (1 Corinthians 6:17, NASB95)

and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”” (John 17:26, NASB95)

I will bow down toward Your holy temple And give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name.” (Psalm 138:2, NASB95)

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, Loving favor rather than silver and gold.” (Proverbs 22:1, NKJV)

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Romans 8:14, NKJV)

and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” (Romans 8:17, NKJV)

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,” (Philippians 2:8–9, NKJV)

“What A Beautiful Name” (2016 Hillsong) was a song we worshiped with, unplanned I’m certain. But it certainly hit it’s mark in the hearts of the worshipers. Some of the lyrics go like this…

“What a beautiful Name it is… the Name of Jesus Christ my King…” “You have no rival, You have no equal, now and forever God You reign..” “Yours is the kingdom, Yours is the glory, Yours is the Name above all names.”

Stan the speaker said the word of the day was, “Choose Me as the # 1 affection of your heart.” Then he said, “You know He reigns on His Throne. Does He reign in your heart? That’s the question?”

What a beautiful Name it is…

And He offers it to you…. Amen.

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Listen and meditate if you wish… “What A Beautiful Name” (Hillsong Worship)

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Stan ended with this verse, certainly noteworthy, ““Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.” (Jonah 2:8, NIV) Or as an earlier version on the NIV says, “forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” 

Remembering… 2018

At an early morning men’s meeting recently a man prayed about Memorial Day, that we would “remember the sacrifices that gave rise to our freedoms and our futures.” Amen. May it be so. It certainly should be so…

It reminded me of what I journaled on Memorial Day.

“”The Bob Goff book “Everybody Always” that Elizabeth read to me over the weekend is impactful. It was a joy to read and to contemplate, full of “self revealing thoughts” as well as “wonder” at the life of imagination and faith we can live with God… here and now —  with “everybody always.”

The book could be placed in the genre of “dream and believe big” looking to God for favor, leading, and help – like”Chase The Lion” by Mark Batterson … but is remarkably different in it’s  focus on “love” as the motivation and method.

There is a tendency to feel and think you’re used-up and your impact in the world has come and gone – or going quickly —  when you’re mid-sixties in our youth-worshiping, humanistic culture and times.

But there is never a better time to play offense or go on the offense! [A] You live with more awareness of the brevity of life. [B] This is a strength because you’re seeing and functioning in truth. [C] It helps you with humility, focus, and to act more in accordance with reality. Something along the lines of Solomon’s words,” It’s better to be in the house of mourning than in the house of feasting.” And,”The day off one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.” [D] If you have been blessed and exercised some restraint and wisdom, you probably have more time, freedom from work, and money to play offense. 🙂 [E] You are probably quiet – or more quiet — in your spirit and more philosophical about life and living – its meaning and purpose. [F] You realize it’s your last chapter (or 4-5 chapters) to enjoy your earth life and live it as intended. [G] Or to “store up treasure in heaven” by “feeding His sheep” or acting with His “sheep and goats” story in mind. [H] Or both.:-) [I] Grace to you all. We all need it! And it is His intention. 🙂

So what about those serving now, and those who have gone before? Soldiers in the military and soldiers in the faith, who have laid down their lives, serving others, for our freedoms and our futures?

Let’s remember. And let’s purpose to live lives worthy of their sacrifice, with thanksgiving for  them and to God.””

Right now I’m thinking of Navy Seal Adam Brown who’s from Arkansas and whose story is told in “Fearless.” And another seal who wrote, “Make Your Bed.” And the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us, many recorded in the Bible, and many in books like “7 Men” & “7 Women” by Eric Metaxas. My aunt Reba Gann, 96, who passed into glory last month. My good friends Brian Fields, Justin Blasingame, Charles Saulsbery, Bill Spilman, Clyde Davis, and Harold Hartley… I remember. Thank you for your example, sacrifice, and service for me, for your family, for your friends, for your country, and for your King. 

May He bless your descendants — physical and spiritual — forever. Amen.

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Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” (Hebrews 12:1, ESV)

So with Paul the Apostle we can also say…

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7, ESV)

And with Paul, and those mentioned above, we can say…

in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8, NASB95)

And remember these words…

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” Jesus (John 6:51, NIV)

Remember this Promise! The Bread & the Wine! And the greatest sacrifice of all times, giving us the greatest prospects for the greatest of futures…

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Jesus (John 10:10, ESV)

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John the Baptist (John 1:29, ESV)

Solace in the Smokies

Greetings from the Great Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg TN. I’m in the midst of the annual CSM (Charles Simpson Ministries) Leadership Conference. Since retiring from the airline and starting this new chapter of life, I’ve attended four of these conferences, finding them always refreshing, restful, relational, and renewing. Hearing from God makes one feel very much alive, and renewed. 🙂

On the hearing note, Charles Simpson was the keynote speaker last night. and his message was clearly about miracles– that our faith is based on miracles, and our God a God of miracles. We must grasp this again and own it to have the vibrant faith needed in our time and culture and to finish our races strong.

Around our breakfast table this morning several different brothers shared about   miraclous healings and provisions they had witnessed in the last three or four days!

Charles mentioned Eric Metaxas book “Miracles” several times and talked often and much about God’s goodness and faithfulness. In fact the whole conference this year revolves around testimonies of God’s miracles and faithfulness in peoples lives… incredible, inspiring stories by real, ordinary people.

It’s very encouraging to me, and confirms or validates in a way what I’ve been hearing in recent days! In fact, it’s like the storyline came from my most recent book,”God Came Near,” which I suppose I’ll announce right here and now with a couple links and no more discussion or fanfare for the moment.

I’ll also mention the book I’m continuing to read by Mark Batterson, “Chase The Lion,” that runs exactly along the same lines. Miracles and the faithfulness and goodness of God, with God-sized dreams thrown in the mix. The Spirit has really been speaking to me through the book, and times of solitude and journaling here, as well as worship times and testimony times.

With a full and expectant heart, it’s time to head to the next session. I’ll report more of what Charles shared and what I have heard and seen in another blog post.

Blessings,     Dwayne

God Came Near” by B Dwayne Bell on iTunes

God Came Near” by B. Dwayne Bell on Kindle

 

Books Worth A Look

For sometime now I’ve wanted to start a new category of blogs on books I’m currently reading that [1] seem pertinent to living a life of purpose and adventure in our day,  [2] reflect or speak to what God seems to be saying to His people at our time in our culture, and [3] encourage or equip us to stay in the battle, make our lives count, and enjoy our journey, hopefully with others.

Heavy Rain” by Kris Vallotton of Bethel Church will start the process, and I’ll introduce the book with a letter to one of the three men’s groups I attend weekly.

Heavy Rain Forecast!

[A letter to a men’s group I attend.]

Our leader, Ryan the Curtis, has determined that this week is our last to read and discuss Heavy Rain by Vallotton. Wanting to finish it, and get the most out of it, especially the main point/s, with so many heavy hitting Christian leaders singing it’s praises, I read the last of chapter 10 where I had left off, and now am plowing through to the end.

It’s rich and getting better and better! I encourage you to read it to the end, and be ready to discuss what really stood out to you! Also, you could start journaling your thoughts when something interests you, and see if the Spirit gives you more insight on that point.

The title of chapter 10 is “The Tipping Point.” Indeed, that chapter maybe a tipping point of the book. From there he gets rapid fire, real, and states a lot of truth — no punches pulled. I’ll include a couple quotes as examples from chapter 10. Then I’ll end with a coincidence, or “God-wink “as we call them, indicating to me that this is a word from the Lord–one that he wants us to hear.

“I will not allow someone’s fear to constrain my own exploits. I will not bow down to anyone’s idol or be conformed to old religious ideologies that will render me irrelevant to the Kingdom.”

“I therefore will allow the Holy Spirit to lead me, guide me and correct me. I will submit to true leadership and remain moldable, teachable and humble. I will love passionately, live zealously, work wholeheartedly, laugh joyfully and be completely spent at the end of my life. I will walk powerfully, pray unceasingly, give extravagantly and serve God with my whole being.”

“It takes courage to break ranks with religious clones and think for ourselves.” “What you know can keep you from what you need to know.”

“Mobs become swamps–stale, murky waters of inaction.” “The majority does not rule in the natural world… and God is not moved by the masses in the unseen realm, either.” “He is not the cosmic pollster..” “That is ridiculous, yet it is the predominant mindset of the Church.”

“God told the Israelites,” The eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely is.” (2 Chronicles 16:9)

“God is not looking for a crowd; He is longing for a person.” “Neither is He put off by the powerless.”

“He is simply longing once again for a person like David to emerge from the wilderness and let the giants of life know that… they have taunted the armies of the living God. When we step out of of the crowd and become God’s courageous people, we create tipping points where breakthrough is inevitable.”

See what I mean about the clear message? And it gets stronger and better. It is a message for now — and for the past, present, and future leaders of City Christian Fellowship / Hope Fellowship. To not hear it and heed it will spell hurt for us, our families, and the Kingdom in the River Valley. Brian was right in suggesting it. And Ryan for leading us through it. I’m thankful for the book at “such a time as this.” I hope you feel inspired, as I have, and enlightened … and that you will come with what you hear the Lord saying to you, whether different or the same.

See you Thursday!

Oh, yeah, the synchronicity? Or God wink? I received this Charles Simpson newsletter the same day I read Chapter 10 and started to finish the book. Reading his letter is like reading the same message from a different author. Perhaps it’s what the Lord is saying to His church? 🙂

And a few days later I was led to download and read “Chase The Lion” by Mark Batterson, with much the same message! The synchronicities continue… the Lord is speaking this “now word” to men and leaders in our day of delusion. Listen! Live! Enjoy your journey! For the Lamb’s reward…

Blessings in Jesus Name,

Dwayne

 

Movie Making for the King

Gary practices Jeep Operations for Film Shooting

This story began for me one week ago exactly. A good friend Devon called me just as I was about to leave church, and since he’s moved away and I don’t hear from him often, I quickly found a quiet place to take his call. Were I a better FaceBook friend, I would have seen his message earlier, but in his call he repeated his message:

“Hello Dwayne! I hope you’ve been well since that last time we saw each other! Such a random and strange story, as you may or may not already know, I’ve lived in LA for the past 4 1/2 years working in the film industry as I was pursuing back when we shot with a camera hanging out of your plane! I’ve been back in Arkansas not only shooting a feature film but also working on a television series for TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network). The largest Christian broadcast network in the world. We’re shooting a 10 part series based on the best selling book, Chase The Lion by Mark Batterson. That said, we’ve shot all but one and we’re shooting the last episode on April 28th which is what’s leading to my message. Last night at about 3AM I saw some pics you posted in a field with a plane, and accompanied by an old Jeep. I’ve been scouring the area for a Jeep nearly identical to that, that could serve as a picture vehicle in the last short we’re doing, which would be driven down a road by four Congolese rebels before they “kill” the well know Missionary J.W. Tucker. All of that to say, I wanted to reach out and see if this is even in the realm of possibility! Would love to chat more if so! Just let me know a time we can connect! All the best, Dwayne!”

My brother agreed to loan his Jeep for the project to honor the fallen missionary. I delivered it to a set on the banks of the Arkansas River about 5 p.m. yesterday. Amazingly my good friend Gary Phillips showed up about the same time as an extra for the movie, and was assigned to drive the Jeep, which was a relief for me because I know how my brother values his Jeep! :),  and at 12:30 a.m. this morning, after watching the shooting of the last four scenes, I loaded the Jeep and headed to the house to sleep, full of wonder and amazement at God’s working in the lives of His friends, through the centuries and extending on to “Today” and until “That Day.”  “Those are the two most important days for each of us, whether we know it or not,” our preacher said in his sermon today.

Keep an eye out for the TBN special when it appears later this year. And even though I’ve read only half of the book, I highly recommend “Chase The Lion” by Mark Batterson.

Blessings

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But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:8–9)

but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18)

 

See You at The Movies!

There are two very excellent Christian movies in theaters now that you should make every effort to see! Paul Apostle of Christand I Can Only Imagine are still playing on the big screens across the land, but probably not for much longer. Go see them!

Why? [1] Your faith will be strengthened and your soul encouraged. [2] By our attendance and our dollars we encourage the people who risked making these films and encourage future movie makers to do the same. 

Why now? [1] They are showing now, and the Word encourages us to live in the present. With the media pouring out bloodshed, violence, and negativity each day; it’s refreshing to see God using the media to remind us that Truth wins, and He’s still pouring out His life changing Spirit into people who will turn to Him and trust Him in our  times and in every part of the globe. [2] These two movies are a cut above what we normally see from the industry. While movies like “Noah” featured talking trees and all sorts of non Biblical mixed messages, these are straight up true to the Biblical and historical records we have. And according to “rottentomatoes.com” they have been in the top ten weekly grossing movies for at least a couple weeks, which is catching a lot of attention.* Perhaps showing movie makers there is a lot of evangelical support for movies when they are accurate, and avoidance when they are not.

On the note of accuracy, I want to point out that in the movie about Paul there is lots of poetic license used in the story line. The Spirit through Scripture didn’t choose to reveal what Paul’s final imprisonment was like nor his final days. He may have been healing the sick, casting out demons, preaching the good news, and raising the dead to his last day; or it may be more like the movie maker envisioned it? Nonetheless, they handled the Scriptures accurately when used, and they were empowered to powerfully communicate the enormity of Paul’s sacrifice and service, and how he willingly laid down his life as His Lord had done some thirty years earlier. This type sacrifice touches all humans deeply. And we do know his friend, physician, and disciple Luke had the privilege of recording for people of all times The Acts of the Apostles, the birthing and beginnings of the Church of Jesus Christ, and the advancement of the Kingdom of God.

On the note of imagination, “I Can Only Imagine” is much lighter, and points out in an inspiring way, against all odds, how the resurrected Lord is still at work in people’s lives and stories today. 🙂 We can really only imagine how He works, and what it will be like to be with Him. Such is the greatness of His power, and the humility He exercises to hide Himself, so that we may choose Him as our King, or not.

Choose to see these movies! Godspeed on your life’s journey. Make it count! Live it fully. These movies will inspire you to do so. His peace to you and yours.

Moreover … where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,” (Romans 5:20, NKJV)

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:51, NIV)

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20–21, NASB95)

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*[The opening week, March 16-18, the movies ranked #3 & #8 in the top ten. In a subsequent week they ranked #3 & #10.]

Easter on Wall Street

Spring on Adelaide Ave. Our Neighbor’s Home

HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN, INDEED! Many will recognize this ancient greeting exchanged between Christian believers. Easter is for some reason still ringing in my ears and warming my heart. That greeting lies at the very heart and focus of the Christian faith, then and now. 🙂

Paul the Apostle of Christ said, and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14, NASB95). Blunt, well said, and of course, true.
You might question, “Why are you still writing and thinking about Easter, it’s come and gone for 2018?” Well, we are between the feast of “First Fruits” when Jesus was raised from the dead by God His Father, and the “Feast of Weeks” (Pentecost, May 20, 2018), a celebration in Judaism of when God sent His Word down to Moses on Mt Sinai, and in Christendom when God sent His Spirit to an upper room in Jerusalem to write His Word on the first human hearts.
Between those fifty days, Jesus was showing Himself for forty days (Acts 1:3), to more than five hundred people (I Cor 15:6). So we are still in that season. A season and event that changed time and history! For then, for now, forever. Can we really over state the importance and significance of this? You decide. In fact you will decide, for yourself, anyway.

Spring Like Easter Speaks of Hope and New Life

In our home group last week our people still wanted to discuss the resurrection and what new insights they had been given this year, and during that time, a sister shared an article she saw in The Wall Street Journal!

It shows, among other things, that God is still reaching out to people by many means and in every walk of life, “not wishing that any should perish” with His truth, love, and ever abundant grace with mercy, for salvation from our sins, power to live above sin, and eternal life. 🙂
I shared the article with one of my best friends of more than thirty years, who is also a spiritual mentor and he blogged about it and thought it powerful enough to send on to those on his email friendship list. This is part of what he wrote, and it’s all available on his blog.

Hope Eternal and Life Eternal In Christ’s Resurrection

“Yesterday in one of our ongoing times of fellowship, a dear brother in the Lord, Dwayne Bell, shared the article entitled “The Easter Effect and How It Changed the World” (see below, with my editing and adding of passages from the Word and some bolding), which is a very good read.  A bit long, but worth the effort!  And, wonder of wonders, this appeared in the Wall Street Journal!”

Charles Angel 
Been Pondering…
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The Easter Effect and How It Changed the World

https://eppc.org/publications/the-easter-effect-and-how-it-changed-the-world/

The first Christians were baffled by what they called ‘the Resurrection.’ Their struggle to understand it brought about astonishing success for their faith

By George Weigel

March 30, 2018

In the year 312, just before his victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge won him the undisputed leadership of the Roman Empire, Constantine the Great had a heavenly vision of Christian symbols. That augury (sign) led him, a year later, to end all legal sanctions on the public profession of Christianity.

Or so a pious tradition has it.

But there’s a more mundane explanation for Constantine’s decision: He was a politician who had shrewdly decided to join the winning side. By the early 4th century, Christians likely counted for between a quarter and a half of the population of the Roman Empire, and their exponential growth seemed likely to continue.

How did this happen? How did a ragtag band of nobodies from the far edges of the Mediterranean world become such a dominant force in just two and a half centuries? The historical sociology of this extraordinary phenomenon has been explored by Rodney Stark of Baylor University, who argues that Christianity modeled a nobler way of life than what was on offer elsewhere in the rather brutal society of the day. In Christianity, women were respected as they weren’t in classical culture and played a critical role in bringing men to the faith and attracting converts. In an age of plagues, the readiness of Christians to care for all the sick, not just their own, was a factor, as was the impressive witness to faith of countless martyrs. Christianity also grew from within because Christians had larger families, a byproduct of their faith’s prohibition of contraception, abortion and infanticide.

For theologians who like to think that arguments won the day for the Christian faith, this sort of historical reconstruction is not particularly gratifying, but it makes a lot of human sense. Prof. Stark’s analysis still leaves us with a question, though: How did all that modeling of a compelling, alternative way of life get started? And that, in turn, brings us back to that gaggle of nobodies in the early first century A.D. and what happened to them.

What happened to them was the Easter Effect.

There is no accounting for the rise of Christianity without weighing the revolutionary effect on those nobodies of what they called “the Resurrection”: their encounter with the one whom they embraced as the Risen Lord, whom they first knew as the itinerant Jewish rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth, and who died an agonizing and shameful death on a Roman cross outside Jerusalem. As N.T. Wright, one of the Anglosphere’s pre-eminent biblical scholars, makes clear, that first generation answered the question of why they were Christians with a straightforward answer: because Jesus was raised from the dead.

Now that, as some disgruntled listeners once complained about Jesus’ preaching, is “a hard saying.” It was no less challenging two millennia ago than it is today. And one of the most striking things about the New Testament accounts of Easter, and what followed in the days immediately after Easter, is that the Gospel writers and editors carefully preserved the memory of the first Christians’ bafflement, skepticism and even fright about what had happened to their former teacher and what was happening to them.

In Mark’s gospel, Mary Magdalene and other women in Jesus’ entourage find his tomb empty and a young man sitting nearby telling them that “Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified…has risen; he is not here.” But they had no idea what that was all about, “and went out and fled from the tomb…[and] said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. And he *said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. “But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.'” They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

(Mark 16:5-8 NASB)

Two disciples walking to Emmaus from Jerusalem on Easter afternoon haven’t a clue as to who’s talking with them along their way, interpreting the scriptures and explaining Jesus’ suffering as part of his messianic mission. They don’t even recognize who it is that sits down to supper with them until he breaks bread and asks a blessing: “…and their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” They high-tail it back to Jerusalem to tell the other friends of Jesus, who report that Peter has had a similarly strange experience, but when “Jesus himself stood among them…they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a ghost.”

While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and *said to them, “Peace be to you.” But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit.

(Luke 24:36-37 NASB)

Some time later, Peter, John and others in Jesus’ core group are fishing on the Sea of Tiberias. “Jesus stood on the beach,” we are told, “yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.” At the very end of these post-Easter accounts, those whom we might expect to have been the first to grasp what was afoot are still skeptical. When that core group of Jesus’ followers goes back to Galilee, they see him, “but some doubted.”

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus *came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He *said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus *said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”  (John 20:24-29 NASB)

This remarkable and deliberate recording of the first Christians’ incomprehension of what they insisted was the irreducible bottom line of their faith teaches us two things. First, it tells us that the early Christians were confident enough about what they called the Resurrection that (to borrow from Prof. Wright) they were prepared to say something like, “I know this sounds ridiculous, but it’s what happened.” And the second thing it tells us is that it took time for the first Christians to figure out what the events of Easter meant—not only for Jesus but for themselves. As they worked that out, their thinking about a lot of things changed profoundly, as Prof. Wright and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI help us to understand in their biblical commentaries.

 The way they thought about time and history changed.

During Jesus’ public ministry, many of his followers shared in the Jewish messianic expectations of the time: God would soon work something grand for his people in Israel, liberating them from their oppressors and bringing about a new age in which (as Isaiah had prophesied) the nations would stream to the mountain of the Lord and history would end. The early Christians came to understand that the cataclysmic, world-redeeming act that God had promised had taken place at Easter. God’s Kingdom had come not at the end of time but within time—and that had changed the texture of both time and history. History continued, but those shaped by the Easter Effect became the people who knew how history was going to turn out. Because of that, they could live differently. The Easter Effect impelled them to bring a new standard of equality into the world and to embrace death as martyrs if necessary—because they knew, now, that death did not have the final word in the human story. 

 The way they thought about “resurrection” changed.

Pious Jews taught by the reforming Pharisees of Jesus’ time believed in the resurrection of the dead. Easter taught the first Christians, who were all pious Jews, that this resurrection was not the resuscitation of a corpse, nor did it involve the decomposition of a corpse.  Jesus’ tomb was empty, but the Risen Lord appeared to his disciples in a transformed body.  Those who first experienced the Easter Effect would not have put it in these terms, but as their understanding of what had happened to Jesus and to themselves grew, they grasped that (as Benedict XVI put it in “Jesus of Nazareth–Holy Week”) there had been an “evolutionary leap” in the human condition. A new way of being had been encountered in the manifestly human but utterly different life of the one they met as the Risen Lord. That insight radically changed all those who embraced it.

Which brings us to the next manifestation of the Easter Effect among the first Christians: 

 The way they thought about their responsibilities changed.

What had happened to Jesus, they slowly began to grasp, was not just about their former teacher and friend; it was about all of them. His destiny was their destiny. So not only could they face opposition, scorn and even death with confidence; they could offer to others the truth and the fellowship they had been given. Indeed, they had to do so, to be faithful to what they had experienced. Christian mission is inconceivable without Easter. And that mission would eventually lead these sons and daughters of Abraham to the conviction that the promise that God had made to the People of Israel had been extended to those who were not sons and daughters of Abraham. Because of Easter, the gentiles, too, could be embraced in a relationship—a covenant—with the one God, which was embodied in righteous living.

 The way they thought about worship and its temporal rhythms changed.

For the Jews who were the first members of the Jesus movement, nothing was more sacrosanct than the Sabbath, the seventh day of rest and worship. The Sabbath was enshrined in creation, for God himself had rested on the seventh day. The Sabbath’s importance as a key behavioral marker of the People of God had been reaffirmed in the Ten Commandments. Yet these first Christians, all Jews, quickly fixed Sunday as the “Lord’s Day,” because Easter had been a Sunday. Benedict XVI draws out the crucial point here:

“Only an event that marked souls indelibly could bring about such a profound realignment of the religious culture of the week. Mere theological speculations could not have achieved this… [The] celebration of the Lord’s day, which was characteristic of the Christian community from the outset, is one of the most convincing proofs that something extraordinary happened [at Easter]—the discovery of the empty tomb and the encounter with the Risen Lord.”

Without the Easter Effect, there is really no explaining why there was a winning side—the Christian side—for Constantine the Great to choose. That effect, as Prof. Wright puts it, begins with, and is incomprehensible without, the first Christians’ conviction that “Jesus of Nazareth was raised bodily to a new sort of life, three days after his execution.” Recognizing that does not, of course, convince everyone. Nor does it end the mystery of Easter. The first Christians, like Christians today, cannot fully comprehend resurrected life: the life depicted in the Gospels of a transphysical body that can eat, drink and be touched but that also appears and disappears, unbothered by obstacles like doors and distance.

Nor does Easter mean that everything is always going to turn out just fine, for there is still work to be done in history. As Benedict XVI put it in his 2010 Easter message: “Easter does not work magic. Just as the Israelites found the desert awaiting them on the far side of the Red Sea, so the Church, after the Resurrection, always finds history filled with joy and hope, grief and anguish. And yet this history is changed…it is truly open to the future.”

Which perhaps offers one final insight into the question with which we began: How did the Jesus movement, beginning on the margins of civilization and led by people of seeming inconsequence, end up being what Constantine regarded as the winning side? However important the role of sociological factors in explaining why Christianity carried the day, there also was that curious and inexplicable joy that marked the early Christians, even as they were being marched off to execution. Was that joy simply delusion? Denial?

Perhaps it was the Easter Effect: the joy of people who had become convinced that they were witnesses to something inexplicable but nonetheless true. Something that gave a superabundance of meaning to life and that erased the fear of death. Something that had to be shared. Something with which to change the world.

 Mr. Weigel is distinguished senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.

Happy Easter!

I was up by the fire early this rainy Easter morning contemplating the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. I mused that there have been almost 2000 Easter celebrations in the almost two millennia since that day, April 5, 33 A.D.. And four millennia since it was first spoken about to Abraham, the Father of the Faith.

But I was up to hear something warm, close, personal, and new about the events, if the Spirit would reveal them to me. A close friend from another city called last night to discuss something about the resurrection he was preparing to teach his young married class today.

It was about the women at the empty tomb, that first resurrection Sunday. It set me to thinking, and researching the Scripture and commentaries, and meditating on the events of that day as recorded for us in the Bible. These women to the tomb were the first human witnesses to Jesus’ victory over death and the grave.

Their story enlarges and gets personal. Completed by Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, 100# of spices, a large stone covering the tomb, Roman guards, an imperial seal, Shinning ones, grave wrappings on the floor (no body thief would do this!), and a folded face cloth, as if to say, “It is finished, indeed!”

It’s a dreadful, passionate, beautiful event to real people — then and now.

This morning in church a prophetic brother stood and read the words to a song some of us remember well by Don Francisco, a gifted singer of ballads about our faith, written and sang with pathos and bitting truth. [I have included it for your mediation and consideration at the bottom.]

And as a pastor said in our service today, “There is plenty of evidence everywhere, He’s alive.” “Just look around this room.” He was referencing the changed lives and people in our room who worship and honor Jesus for Who He Is, and what He did, in His sacrifice, and then in His power, by rising from the dead, just as He said. Then think of what went on around the world today!

The teacher this morning said it this way: “Through His life, He came down to our level. Through His resurrection He raised us up to His.”

John finished his gospel and the story with these words (John 20):

“but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31)  Amen אמן

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“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.” (Lamentations 3:22)

“Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.” (Psalm 150:1–2)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

Jesus said to her, … go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’ ”” (John 20:17)

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[YouTube Link to “He’s Alive!” by Don Francisco. The video clips are good, but I might suggest, the first time through, you listen with your eyes closed, and let the Spirit bring the story to your mind and heart. Many thanks to Don Francisco for his insightful lyrics and music.}

End Times or Again Times

 

I don’t really want to  add myself to an endless list of fruit cakes predicting or obsessing over “the end times.” But it’s been a hot topic of discussion all around me lately, even yesterday morning after a men’s meeting, with friends at a local coffee and breakfast shop.

And there are at least two things that have long stood out to me as a reasons we shouldn’t ignore the end times possibility either, and that it could be coming sooner than we’re thinking. [1] There will be an end times on the earth as we know it, with unprecedented chaos and fury, if you believe the Bible — the most remarkable guide to the earth’s past, present, and future we have. [2] Jesus thought it worthwhile to answer his disciples when they asked what the signs these times were imminent might be. Indeed there is similar information on the signs in several books of the Old Testament and New Testament.

My friend Larry piped up, “The Bible is so valuable! It prepares us to look for the signs and helps us understand some of the things that will happen to keep us from being deceived, to be informed, and to endure those terrible times.”

He then asked our little group, “Will the world know it’s happening?” “Probably not,” I piped in. “Think of the German people during the build up to WWII and through it’s early days. The same in Russia when Stalin was coming to power. The people welcomed the change and the (humanistic) promise of great progress. Until it was too late. Isaiah’s time and culture was in the same situation before 586 B.C. too.” Why?

Delusion! Deluded! A few people saw the signs and tried to act to stop it. And a few saw it coming and tried to prepare for it, or flee from it. But the vast majority didn’t see it coming, and by their actions (or inactions) exacerbated or hastened its coming, to their own hurt and destruction. (Isaiah 6)

What may lead to this delusion of the earth’s people in the last times will ironically be, in part, the signs that it is happening. A few signs that our table came up with quickly are: [1] May 14, 1948, Israel becomes a nation. No one assisting her or blessing her, but rather attacking her will invite the end, according to the Bible and history. [2] Russia, Syria, Iran, and others listed in the Bible circling to destroy Israel, which is happening again at this hour. [3] Languages no longer confused due to computer translators and translations, e.g. Google Translate. [4] An enhanced version of eVerify, or something similar is an easy way to control buying and selling in the future as the masses embrace conveniences like Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc. [5] The phenomenal advances in communication: fast, world wide, in our hands and our pockets, with the world wide web for news, markets, business, research, organization, and collaboration.

Recent card sent to an agnostic friend 🙂

So, if these end times the prophets like Daniel and John told us about are looming near, what do we do as we see them draw closer? As we see these signs taking place?

Might we stand with Israel to the end? Personally. As a nation. Politically encouraging our leaders to do so?

Might we remind ourselves and our friends not to be passive? But to be alert and engaged in positive ways during these times. Be “light and salt” where you live, with your friends, family, neighborhoods, and cities. Father planted you right there. (Acts 17:26)

Remember who you are. More importantly, remember Whose you are! Remember the weapons of our (spiritual) warfare (Eph 6) — and prayer. Sons and daughters calling out to our King and Father. (II Chron 7:14 & Rev 8:1-5)

Remember Father’s word to all mankind in II Chronicles 16:9, “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.”

Live with these truths in mind. It’s been said, “God does not call the qualified, but qualifies the called.” Reread the story of Gideon. And remember “We have this treasure in (our) clay vessels,” (2 Cor 4:7) His Holy Spirit.

Perhaps most importantly, remember the chief end of man according to the Westminster Catechism which tells us that, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him for ever.” This is the Preacher’s conclusion as well.

I’m heading out the door to see a new movie, “Paul, an Apostle of Christ”, in a few minutes because some friends invited me. Among this world changer’s most famous words were, “…to know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings.” (Phil 3:10) That’s what drove Paul. His life was “Light and Salt” in a dark place and time, in his end times, and well beyond! A life well lived indeed! He’s a great example to us with the days growing gloriously dark. 🙂

The Lord’s Spirit be with you. Enjoy a Good Friday…

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Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

And following Him was a large crowd of the people, and of women who were mourning and lamenting Him. But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. “For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ “Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ “For if they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” Two others also, who were criminals, were being led away to be put to death with Him. When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:27–34) (Bolding mine.)

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doing God A Favor

Or “Theology 101”

Hannah with the children of La Balsa

When I heard what Gary, Tim, and Kevin had prepared to teach the pastors at this year’s pastors conference, I was a little bit incredulous. They were teaching the pastors theology, which is the study of God and his attributes, from a book entitled “The Attributes of God” by A. W. Pink.  My first thought was that something a little simpler and a little more practical might be in order. But my second thought was that these men are led by the Spirit and they probably heard correctly about what they were to teach.

The power of what they were teaching was apparent to me the first morning as I sat with the Honduran pastors and listened, being encouraged and instructed right along with them. Further confirmation of its power came immediately after lunch as I was riding in the back of a pick up truck to Capucales with Giovanni, a young Honduran minister and worship leader.

He was fired up about the teaching and freely shared with us what impacted him. He said, “Many people think they’re doing God a favor to believe in Him or serve Him.” And “People who are not believers think that about believers, that they are just doing God a favor to follow Him or believe in Him. But nothing could be further from the truth!” he exclaimed. “God does not need us. We need him.”

The steep road from La Balsa 🙂

In two short sessions, Giovanni’s awareness of the greatness and power of God had been greatly increased, leaving him inspired and sensing God’s true place in His creation. It’s a privilege to know him, serve him, and make him known. That’s the truth, according to the thousands of years of revelation we have recorded about Him in Holy Scripture. He indeed needs nothing nor anyone. Something akin to the summary of philosophy and theology that Solomon, reportedly the wisest man who ever lived, wrote at the end of his life, recorded in Ecclesiastes. “When all is said and done, fear God and keep his commandments.”

A. W. Tozer also wrote some books on theology, “The Attributes of God,” and  “Knowledge of the Holy.” The second he said was written for worshipers, not theologians, although it would stand up to theological rigor. I love that. And I love his book which I try to read one or more times each year. It’s a very small book, but there’s an old saying,”Beware of small books.”:-) In the introduction Tozer says something else amazing, “What you believe about God is the most important thing about you. Because it will affect everything you do.”

Pastor Kevin – One of the Teachers

So Theology 101 was indeed what the Lord had for these pastors and it hit it’s mark, as evidenced by the lively questions and discussions during and after the teaching times. The Scripture comes to mind, “They that know their God will do valiantly.” So these pastors who came to receive from the Lord left encouraged and empowered. Encouraged that they knew the Lord better and should continue this pursuit. And empowered with a renewed level of faith in the Most High.

May the Word of the Lord continue to accomplish what it was intended to do. Amen.

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And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.” (Psalm 9:10)

Through God we shall do valiantly, And it is He who will tread down our adversaries.” (Psalm 60:12)

The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.” (Isaiah 40:22)

[Link to trip video]          [Link to trip photos]