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Category Archives: Christian Studies

The Harmonious Resurrection Accounts

Earlier this month, we celebrated the resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ (actually, we celebrate His resurrection everyday, since He is our life!).  As I reflected on Christ’s resurrection from the dead and the accounts left to us by the four gospel writers, a few questions entered my mind.  Was there just one woman (Mary Magdalene) or several women who went to the tomb?  Did they see one angel or two angels?  Was (Were) the angel(s) inside or outside of the tomb?  Why was Mary Magdalene not allowed to touch Jesus but the other women did touch Him?

Have you had similar questions?

We should remember that several people can witness the same event from different perspectives.  I believe that the sources for the gospel writers provided their own perspectives of the same event.  Even one writer, John, was himself a witness of the empty tomb and resurrected Christ.

Below is a chart that I created to sort out and harmonize these four accounts.  The four columns organize the respective Scripture verses about the resurrection according to each gospel writer.  Similar sections of Scripture are color-coded to show what seem to be very similar accounts of the same event.  At the bottom of the last page, the color-coded sections are summarized to give a sequential understanding of the events of Christ’s resurrection.  In conclusion, I believe that the gospel writers present an orderly account of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, albeit from different first and second-hand perspectives.

So, what are your thoughts?  Do you agree with this orderly representation of the gospel accounts of the resurrection of Christ?

I hope that by seeing the orderly account of the Lord’s resurrection, your faith in Him and in the surety of His Word will be strengthened.

Blessings,

Andy

P.S.:  Here is the chart  – Resurrection Harmony

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2015 in Christian Studies

 

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Faith

This past week I listened to someone preach through Hebrews 11, the “faith” chapter of the Bible.  I began to think about what faith really is and looks like.  I thought that I could write a post about faith, Hebrews 11, the faith “hall of fame”, and so on.  But as I recently laid down and had a few moments to meditate, the thought came that I should write about what faith means to me.

First of all, how do I define faith?  Well, let me use the Biblical definition:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb 11:1)

If I could put this into my own words, I would say that faith is my conviction to trust God’s promises, that I have a future hope better than this world, which hope I cannot see at this present time.  I can understand that there are things invisible through observing the things that are visible.  I understand that there is a Creator by observing the things that are created.

My faith comes from believing that God’s Word is true and that He demonstrated His love for me by sending Jesus Christ to take the penalty for my sins in his flesh.  Through believing in His Son, I receive the Holy Spirit of God, who helps me and strengthens my faith.  Through believing that, on God’s accounts, I am now crucified and raised with Christ, I now have guaranteed eternal life and victory over sin.

As I read through Hebrews 11, I see many great Biblical “heroes” who demonstrated great acts of faith.  I read about Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the Israelites, Rahab, and so forth.  I read that people subdued kingdoms, stopped the mouths of lions, escaped peril, received ones back from the dead, and more.  But then I read that others were tortured, mocked, scourged, imprisoned, stoned, cut in half, tempted, killed, or were nomads.  The Scripture says that the world was not worthy of this later group and that they did not receive the promise of their faith during their lifetime on earth.  However, they, along with us, will receive something better from God.

Faith is not just mountaintop experiences, although such experiences are wonderful.  Faith is also walking, well faithfully, though the valleys of life and still trusting God’s promises even when we cannot see.  In Scripture, I don’t see the faith that some of these preachers on television and the radio speak about.  I don’t see God instructing us to speak the word and believe without wavering to get a new car, house, job, or money, money, money.  I once heard someone say that the world will be drawn to God when they see how he causes us to prosper.  I could understand the point trying to be made, but wouldn’t unbelievers also consider God when they see someone trusting Him when their world is falling apart around them and they have a worldly reason not to trust Him?  I’m not saying that the only way to point people to God is through suffering, and believe me I am not going about looking for more, but I want us to consider what would really make a lasting testimony of God’s grace and faithfulness in someone’s life.

My faith in God has caused me trust Him even while in the darkest valley of my life.  Faith has helped me to realize that God knows what is best for me at all times, even when evil happens to me.  He can turn that evil around to work good in me, if I don’t fight against Him.  Faith has led me to trust God at a deeper level and to set my eyes more on the unseen than the seen.  OK, that part is not always true because there are days when what I see pulls at me to indulge in…well whatever.  But through faith in believing God’s Word that says I am crucified with Christ and dead to sin, I can overcome the temptation and press on towards Christ and my promises awaiting in Heaven.  If I do stumble, I also read that even the great “heroes” of the faith stumbled at times, but God was merciful to them and he is also merciful to me.

So, what is faith?  Is it believing that God will give us our wants, or that He provides us with all of our needs?  What is our greatest need?  Is it not to have His forgiveness and mercy?  I believe that is my greatest need.  Through faith, I believe that all of my sins are forgiven and I am completely righteous in God’s eyes, not because I feel like it (because I don’t) but because God says so.

I don’t believe that faith can be stagnant.  I heard someone say that faith is not like a pond but is like a river.  We can’t rely on a one-time faith experience, but should exercise it daily to keep it vibrant and growing.

Blessings,

Andy

 

 

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Something Precious to God

I recently read Psalm 116.  It is a beautiful psalm about the grace and mercy of God in the face of trouble and death.  I urge you to read the entire psalm, however one gem of a verse may catch your attention (as it caught mine):

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. (Psa 116:15)

Did you catch that?  The death of God’s people is precious to Him.

I looked up this verse in a modern translation because I was curious how modern scholars handle it.  One such translation rendered it as:

The LORD’s loved ones are precious to him; it grieves him when they die. *

Have you ever thought about why the death of one of God’s children would be precious to Him?  I can’t even pretend to think for God, but maybe God grieves because of the pain and heartache death causes for the living loved ones.  Maybe God grieves because death was not part of His original creation and did not enter the world until man sinned.

On the positive side, I could think that the saint’s death is precious because that spirit is finally free from the trials of the world, the flesh, and the devil and is in the company of God.  Maybe God values our relationship and fellowship so much that it makes Him happy to have one of His children close to Him in unhindered fellowship.

Maybe it is because…?

This verse reveals to me something about the heart of the Father.  I am comforted knowing the God grieves with me over the death of one His dear children.  My hope is that you are too.

Blessings,

Andy

* Scripture quotation is taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996.  Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189.  All rights reserved.

 

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Hid with Christ

Some days I wrestle with the words, trying to discern their meaning.  Yet, today the words SHOUTED clearly right off the page:

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Col 3:1-4, emphasis mine)

What, I’m dead and my life is hid with Christ in God?  That means that I am no longer in me but in Him.  I have been spiritually circumcised out of my flesh and placed into the body of Christ.  Though I still walk in this flesh and these bones, I am already seated at the right hand of the Father with Christ:

And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (Eph 2:6, emphasis mine).  Notice the past tense.

Through faith, Christ has put His righteousness on my account, taking my sins on His.

And (Abraham) being fully persuaded that, what he (God) had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (Rom 4:21-25, emphases mine)

Every promise of God to me is already fulfilled in Christ:

For all the promises of God in him (Christ Jesus) are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us. (2Co 1:20, emphasis mine)

Through I may not yet experience these truths in my present physical reality (I am still walking on this earth and living and breathing in this fleshly body), it does not change the truth of God’s Word – that positionally, in His eyes, I am in His Son:

Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. (Rom 4:16-17, emphasis mine)

I am not my own, I am His.  I belong to Him; therefore, what can any power of earth, heaven, or hell do to me?  Absolutely nothing!  Oh, I might be persecuted, face hardships, get a disease, or even be killed, but absolutely nothing evil will ever pluck me from His hand:

What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:31-39, emphasis mine)

For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. (2Ti 1:12)

I just had to rejoice in these truths today.  Thank you for allowing me to share them with you.

Blessings,

Andy

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2013 in Christian Studies

 

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Tax Collectors and Harlots

The words of the Lord Jesus Christ, as quoted by Matthew, a publican (tax collector):

But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him. (Mat 21:28-32)

The setting for this discourse is the temple in Jerusalem during the week leading up to Christ’s crucifixion.  His main audience is the chief priests and elders of the people, who had just challenged Christ’s authority.  Jesus responded by asking them from whom John the Baptist received his authority, from God or from man.  The leaders refused to answer because either response would be met with a challenge, either from Christ or from the people (you can read this exchange in Mat 21:23-27).  Jesus then refused to answer their challenge, however he then proceeded to tell the parable quoted above.

Let’s first examine the second son in the parable.  He said that he would obey his father but did not follow through in his actions.  He represents the religious leaders, who appeared to say all the right words and followed the letter of the law.  However, their hearts were not turned to God.  They had a form of godliness, but denied His power to change a person from the inside out.  Here is a group of people who knew the Scriptures, yet would not heed the call to personal repentance presented by John the Baptist.  Do we know anyone who is “religious” yet in his/her heart is rebellious towards God?  How about ourselves?  Are we saying that we follow God yet in our hearts are harboring bitterness, greed, envy, etc.?

Now let’s examine the first son in the parable.  He initially said that he would not obey his father, but then changed his mind and did what his father commanded (i.e. he repented).  Jesus associates this son with publicans (tax collectors) and harlots.  These people groups could be classified as the most despised and immoral members of society, the worst of all sinners (do you think this parable spoke especially to Matthew, a tax collector?).  They did not initially follow the law of God, but when they heard the call to repent they changed their ways and obeyed.  What is God’s command?

And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. (1Jn 3:23)

There are days when I need to be reminded of the simplicity and purity of the Gospel.  It is the message of salvation to anyone who will believe in Jesus Christ, regardless of their past.  His blood was shed to cover and take away our sins.   That is why I believe that the gravest of sinners can be saved.  Repentant tax collectors and harlots understand that they have nothing to boast of before a holy and righteous God.  They can only cast themselves upon His great mercy, which was displayed at the cross.  That mercy and goodness leads to repentance.  Yet, those who are considered “good” by society can easily be fooled into thinking they have something to boast of before God.  They often don’t see their need for a Savior, but often measure themselves against their own standard of righteousness.  They foolishly believe that they have led a “good enough” life.  Yet, no matter how good of a life we have lived, we cannot be made right with God by our own efforts for “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).

So which of these sons in this parable do you most identify with?  Are we willing to see ourselves as tax collectors and harlots and repent of our sinful ways and place our faith in Christ alone?  I hope that you have or will consider making that decision today.

Blessings,

Andy

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2013 in Christian Studies

 

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Coincidence?

I believe that God is intimately involved in the details of our lives.  I don’t believe that He is some sort of 161cosmic puppeteer, but I do believe that He works in mysterious ways and could even provide signs to encourage His children.  Something happened yesterday that I am “choosing to see” as divine encouragement rather than just mere coincidence.  You may choose to see otherwise.

Please allow me to provide some background first.  Our son Isaac really liked trains.  Someone who worked for Norfolk Southern gave him a gift bag of various train-related items, which included the “Toys for Tots” train hat that he frequently wore and a bumper sticker that read “I brake for trains”.  Isaac had placed the sticker on the side of one of our toy containers.  Below is a link to an example of that sticker:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jritch/2698131993/

Yesterday I was faced with a rather difficult situation.  As I was driving and asking God for wisdom and that He would be glorified through me in handling the situation, I imagined a conversation in Heaven.  I imagined Isaac watching these events unfold along-side of God.  I then imagined that God told him “you see, your dad’s heart is to glorify me in how he conducts himself”.  I finally visualized a satisfied smile across Isaac’s face as if to say “I’m proud of you dad – keep going on for God”.

As I closed my prayer, I intellectualized that it is nice to imagine such a conversation but I can’t be sure that such a one would take place.  Actually, I can still not wholly make that claim.  However, immediately after closing my prayer, a white truck passed me on the left – and guess what bumper sticker was pasted on its tailgate!

So, a divine sign or merely coincidence?

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2013 in Christian Studies

 

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Just Sleeping

Mat 9:18-19, 23-26 (emphasis added):

While he (Jesus) spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live. (19) And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did his disciples.

(23) And when Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, (24) He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. (25) But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose. (26) And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land.

As we recently read through this passage together as a family, I was impressed by its relevance and truthfulness.  Here, Jesus visually demonstrates His power over death by raising this girl back to physical life.  As I related this to our circumstances, I captured the truth of these words in my heart.  For our son Isaac is not truly dead, but lives.  His body is sleeping in the grave, waiting for the resurrection.  His spirit lives on in Heaven, rejoicing with his Savior, Jesus, and all of the saints who have passed on to that glorious place.  Even though Isaac did not experience a physical healing and resurrection like this girl did, the spiritual reality of this truth (he is not dead, but sleeping) renews hope to a grieving heart.

I pray that this truth renews your hope and strengthens your faith in the One who has the power over death.

Joh 11:25-26: Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: (26) And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

1Th 4:13-18: But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. (14) For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. (15) For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. (16) For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: (17) Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (18) Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

 

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