Death is Swallowed
Death is Swallowed Up
Read the above verse slowly and consider its meaning carefully. The first two words are adverbs. The first adverb is then. The word then is used to designate a time, a time when something is to happen. When is also an adverb. It designates a time that an event happened. So, we could start the verse: “At that time, as our bodies are being transformed, then the scripture will be fulfilled.”
I can’t help it, but I must ask: “when is then.” Then, is when our dead and decaying bodies are transformed into living and never aging bodies. When that occurs then the scripture is fulfilled. The scripture that will be fulfilled is Isaiah 25:8, which reads: 8 He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against his land and people. The Lord has spoken! (NLT)
If there ever was a scripture, I want to see fulfilled it is Isaiah 25:8. What, I particularly would like to see is God swallowing up death. God is going to one day swallow up death the great devourer who is relentlessly swallowing life. Everywhere we look we see death gobbling up people, towns, crops, animals, and resources. Death and its henchmen, disease, disasters, accidents, wars, poverty, and famine swallow life as locust swallow the crops. Death has an insatiable appetite. Death is a monster who pursues the young and the old; women, children, and men; it purses the strong and the feeble. Death wants to swallow life. It makes me angry to see the monster we call death initiate pandemics and epidemics.
BUT ONE DAY that all comes to a halt. The end of Isaiah 25:8 ends with the declaration “the LORD has spoken. What has he spoken? He has announced that when he breathes life into all that those death swallowed up; that at that moment, in one gulp, He will swallow death. It is not that death is beaten, broken, and left lying dazed along the side of the road in disgrace. No! death is swallowed. God extinguishes death. There is nothing left. All of death’s henchmen and comrades are annihilated. There is nothing left of any of them.
This is possible because God has raised Jesus from the dead. The message of Easter is that Jesus has risen. But that is only half the story. Because God raised Jesus, he will raise us. There is the whole story of Easter. Because He lives, we can live. Death has been swallowed up. It is annihilated. That is an idea worth celebrating.
If Christ Is Still Dead…Then
If Christ Is Still Dead
Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. 2 It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you— (1 Corinthians 15:1-2 NLT)
12 But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? 13 For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. (1 Corinthians 15:12-13 NLT)
14 And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. 15 And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. (1 Corinthians 15:14-15 NLT)
The purpose of these Lenten meditations is same as the Apostle Paul’s reason for writing 1 Corinthians 15. Paul wanted to remind his readers of the importance of what he called the Good News. This news is important because the Corinthians had welcomed it. They had accepted it. They had embraced it as one might a long-lost friend. Not only had the Corinthians welcomed the Good News, but they are standing firm in it. This standing firm means they are pledging allegiance to the message contained in the Good News. Next Paul makes a bold declaration about this Good News; it is important because it saves you.
Catch the next word. This Good News saves you…if. Here is why Paul wants to remind them of the Good News he had preached, and they had welcomed. There is a condition, they must continue to believe the message they discovered in his preaching. What was this Good News? It is found in verses 3-4 and simply states that Christ died, Christ was buried, and on the third day he rose from the dead. That third statement is the sticking point and the reason that Paul is writing. He wants them to remember the importance of believing in the resurrection of the dead.
Don’t read that last statement too fast and miss the point Paul is making. Paul is writing to underscore, emphasize, and to accentuate the importance of continuing to believe in the resurrection of the dead. Paul is defending the idea that Jesus rose from the dead. But he is also underscoring the importance of standing fast and pledging allegiance to our own resurrection from the dead. In verses 12-13 Paul is wondering out loud with his readers why, if he preached that Christ arose from the dead, then why are some of them saying there is no resurrection from the dead. The Corinthians were not abandoning the idea that Jesus arose. They were dismissing the idea that they would rise from the dead some day in the future. Why is this important? He says in verse 13, if there is no resurrection from the dead, then Christ has not been raised either.
Read slowly and think deeply about the following. Paul is saying that Christ’s resurrection from the dead cannot be separated from the fact that God will one raise us physically from the dead. The central point of the Good News is the resurrection; the resurrection of Jesus and the resurrection of those who have welcomed the Good News. Both are linked. They are inseparable. One happens, the other happens. If one does not happen, then neither does the other. If there is no resurrection, then verse 14 says that message which Paul had preached to them was useless. If his preaching is useless then their faith is useless.
Don’t skim this next statement. Read it word-for-word and carefully consider what these words are saying. Our faith in God, our faith in Jesus, rests on the fact that God will one day raise us from the dead. If God does not raise us, then there was no reason to have raised Jesus from the dead. If God was going to let us die and then leave us to decay to become part of the circle of life, then there was no reason to send Jesus to die. Why? It would have all been useless. Look above at verse 15. Not only would his preaching have been useless, and their faith been useless, but Paul says that he and the apostles would have been lying about God. They would have been lying because their preaching was centered on the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead. But if no one rises then neither does Jesus and the Good News is just a lie.
Being prepared for Easter means that we fully understand that Easter is about resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection makes our resurrection possible. Our resurrection is the Good News of the gospel message that Jesus died for our sins, was buried for our sins, and was raised to defeat the penalty and power of our sins. Resurrection negates the power of sin. Resurrection silences the charges against us. Resurrection is the evidence that God loves us and desires us.
Don’t come to Easter just to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. Come and celebrate your coming resurrection.
Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Don’t know much about the French I took.
But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me too
What a wonderful world this would be.
I have several reasons for liking the song but chief among them is that it is a great illustration of the power of an “if…then…” statement. I remember sitting a high school geometry class moaning over not being able to fully grasp the concept of theorems. But I remember the teacher illustrating the concept of if…then in geometry. A if…then statement in math is known as a conditional statement.
Mathematicians and scientists like conditional statements because they can link two events into a relational understanding. If “A” happens then “B” will follow. Conditional statements are important because they are reliable predictors. Sam Cooke in his song declares the surety of his love and then says “I know that if you love me too, then what a wonderful world it would be. Mr. Nelson, my geometry teacher, finally helped me understand a math concept. I saw the if…then conditional statement in a way I could understand.
No doubt you are wondering what this has to do with Lent and being prepared for Resurrection Sunday. There is an important “if…then” statement in 1 Corinthians 15:17: And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Why does the Apostle Paul make this statement? He makes it to address the belief that was emerging in the Corinthian church that belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus was not a big deal. Understand, that the Corinthians were not against the concept of resurrection, per se. They were questioning that a dead body could come back from the dead. The soul could rise from a dead body, and many were thinking that was all that was really needed. They were thinking that the body was the problem. Get rid of the body and you get rid of sin. The physical was the problem, and a spiritual resurrection was the cure.
To that way of thinking Paul addresses his if…then statement. If Christ has not been raised (then) your faith is futile. Why is it futile? Paul continues: (because) you are still in your sins. Our life experience instructs us of the importance of escaping sin. Sin gets us into trouble with people close to us. Sin gets us in trouble with the larger world of community and culture. Sin complicates our lives. The Corinthians knew that being rid of sin was important. You know this as well. We have looked at 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 that declares that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures. Makes sense, doesn’t it. Sin is bad. Sin complicates life and relationships. Let’s get rid of sin. We know that is why Jesus came into the world. John the Baptist said as much in John 1:29, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
But here is Paul saying, that if Christ is not raised from the dead and he means if Christ did not raise physically, then our faith in the idea that are sins are taken away is futile (pointless, fruitless, ineffective, or wasted). Why is this the case? Because we are still in our sins.
Here is why, in our journey toward Easter, it is important to look back on where we have been in our journey and what we have learned. Week 1 we looked at 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 where Paul says, “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word, I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” In the last two posts we looked at 1 Corinthians 15:3-4: For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures… In those post we examined the idea that Jesus died, was buried, and rose on the third day as an idea of “first importance.” We said it was of first importance because it is more than a historical statement. Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection goes beyond just interesting historical facts. They are things that happened according to scripture, making them of first importance. Next, we examined the idea that these events, death, burial, and resurrection are physical and why that is important.
Now, Paul says if Christ did not rise physically then our faith in the statement of first importance is mush. Mush cannot support you in the complexities created by sin. Mush cannot provide hope that the problems created by sin will be alleviated. Mush cannot deliver on the idea that one day we will inhabit a new earth, in new bodies that are free from the curse and consequences of sin. In your meditation consider how important it is to you that your sins have been forgiven and that God has removed the guilt and consequences of those sins.
If that is important to you, that you are no longer chained by your sins, then consider carefully how important it is that Jesus Christ physically rose from death and the grave. We will explore this idea further next week. It is indeed an idea of first importance, and we want a faith that is more than mush.
Father, help us to grasp in confidence that our sins have been taken away. Help us to see that if Jesus has been raised physically from the grave, then we are full of hope and joy. Father, help us understand and appreciate what you the death, burial, and resurrection has accomplished. Amen
Let’s Get Physical
Let’s Get Physical
No doubt you are reading the title and wondering what its got to with Lent or Easter. The answer has to with the message that Paul described as “of first importance.” Consider the content of the message. The message has three parts. First, Christ died—that’s a physical reality. Second, Christ was buried—that is another physical reality. Finally, on the third day Christ arose from the dead—is that physical or something else. Determining if the resurrection is a physical reality is indeed something that is of first importance. The fact is that Paul considered it of such importance that he used a great deal of ink explaining its importance in what we refer to as 1 Corinthians 15.
This is important enough for you to explore. Paul stated that Christ died. That is easy to grasp. Jesus had been alive. There was no question he was a physical being. They had seen him with their own eyes. They had heard him preach and teach. They had touched him and had been touched by him. They had sufficient evidence that he was physical and not a ghost or a specter. What Paul is stressing is that this physical Jesus had died. Jesus’ body was dead—all who saw him knew he was dead. They had heard his final cry. They had seen his bodily fluids drain as the soldier pierced his side. They knew there was no life in his physical body.
Those who had watched Jesus physically die did what people do with dead bodies. They buried him. Consider the perspective of those who witnessed the life drain from Jesus’ body. They are seeing a dead body and when this now dead body, had been alive they had hoped that he was the promised hope of Israel. But now all they see is a dead body. In their grief they did not abandon his body. They took it off the cross and lovingly prepared it for burial and placed in a tomb. Jesus died physically. Jesus’ physical remains were buried.
But he did not lie dead long. He died on Friday (day 1). He lied buried on Saturday (day 2). On Sunday (day 3) this dead body burst from the tomb full of life. This is important. The man and his body had died. He had died for all the sins of humanity. This included those who had ever lived, were living then, and who ever will live. This same man and his same body are seen by his disciples, a crowd of 500, James the brother of Jesus and Paul says he too say the risen Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:5-8).
Meditate on this as you prepare for Easter. The one who had walked among the people of Palestine, who had been seen, heard, and touched had died. They had seen his death. The one they saw die and saw removed from the cross to be buried, now stood in their presence, scars, and all. How much more physical could it be? What was the result? Hope was rekindled. The lost confidence that he might be the one is now a secure confidence that he is the One. Doubt was erased. Courage replaced fear. The death of an obscure man in an obscure part of the world becomes the most important death of all time. The obscure man became the most important man in all of history. How did this happen? A physical body died, a physical body was buried, and the same physical body that had died and was buried stood alive and fully physical. It was not a different man. It was the same man who had died, been buried that is physically alive. He breathes the same air. He walks on the same roads. He eats the same food. He who had died and was buried is now living and interacting with people.
Now you understand the title and the importance of getting physical. Explore this idea as you prepare for Easter.
An Idea Worth Considering
An Idea Worth Considering
A Lenten Reflection
Take a moment and read the statement again slowly and discover for yourself what the Apostle Paul is saying. Paul is saying that he has an idea that he wants to share. He wants his readers to know that this idea does not originate with him. He says he received this idea from others. But it is an idea that he does not want to keep to himself. He says he is passing it on to those of us who are reading what he wrote. Why does Paul introduce this idea in this manner? He wants his readers to understand that this idea is important. If Paul was alive today, he might tell us that this idea is not just another data point among the 2.5 quintillion bits of data that humans generated every day in 2021 (https://techjury.net/blog/how-much-data-is-created-every-day/#gref).
Paul is saying that among the thousands of images we are exposed to each day, all of which are trying to advance an idea, the idea he is sharing with us is of first importance, it is a priority. He is saying pay attention to what I am saying. Why would he say this? It is correct to say that embedded in the thousands of images and the hundreds of thousand words we encounter every day there are ideas that are important and should be noted by us. The Apostle Paul would not argue against this point, yet he would insist that among all these ideas there are few that qualify as being of first importance. This idea that he received and which he wants us to be aware is at the top of the list of important ideas.
What idea has Paul received and passed on that is of first importance. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 continues:
that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…
The idea that Paul received and passed along as having first importance is twofold. First, Christ died for our sins and second, he was buried and was raised on the third day. We understand that Paul is talking about the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus. These ideas are not three separate ideas; 1) Christ died; 2) Christ was buried; and 3) Christ was raised on the third day. They are one idea linked together by the qualifying phrase that these things happened according to the Scriptures. It is this phrase that moves the idea from an ordinary and maybe interesting idea to an idea of first importance. Consider the following with me.
The idea that Jesus lived and died is not controversial. There are few people who would deny that there was a man by the name of Jesus who lived in the early part of the first century. There is no controversy about the fact that he died. The fact that Jesus lived in Palestine and died there is a historical idea and though some of us might find it interesting it would not be an idea of first importance. When you say Christ died and add that he died according to the Scriptures you create an idea of first importance. Why? Because it moves the idea out of the purely historical realm that all are comfortable with into the realm of a religious doctrine. People rarely make important decisions based on historical facts. However when we move the idea from mere history to saying it also part of a religious reality, now something significant is being said. The statement about Christ’s death is more significant that a statement about the death of a historical person. His death was more than giving up the ghost, taking his last breath, and succumbing to the ravages of nature. Jesus died but he died for our sins, and he did so according to the scriptures, and this elevates this statement or idea to being of first importance.
It is of first importance because it has a noble dimension, and it does not merely happen at a particular time and in a particular place. The addition of the phrase according to the scriptures interjects a divine being and a divine source into the idea. It is of first importance because it involves an exceptional reason and an extraordinary supporting source. This catapults the discussion from the mundane to the incomparable.
As you journey from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday consider what it means to you that Christ died, was buried, and rose again according to the Scriptures. How does the phrase according to the scriptures propel the information contained in Paul’s statement to a statement of first importance. Don’t just read these familiar words. Ponder them. Consider them. Decide what the implications are. If you do then you have started to prepare yourself for a great Easter celebration.
It Has Begun
It Has Begun:
A Lenten Reflection
That’s right. It has begun. What has begun? What has begun is the annual 40-day journey from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. The journey from Ash Wednesday to Easter is a journey that countless of Christians have made for nearly 2,000 years. It is a journey that Christians use to reflect on the teaching and life of Jesus. This period of reflection is used to prepare the church to appreciate and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.
The resurrection of Jesus is a foundational belief at Northpark that unites us and serves as a compass to guide us in our ministry. This is why you are invited to return here for a weekly Lenten reflection. Our desire as a church is that a journey like this will allow you to experience the love of God by hearing the good news that Jesus is alive. Northpark also believes this journey will be a means by which God shows his love to you through us as we discover together the wonder and majesty of the resurrection of Jesus the King. Our journey begins with this from the Apostle Paul’s found in 1 Corinthians 15:1-2
Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
There are four key ideas in this passage that serve to guide our journey. The first idea is that the gospel or good news is the same gospel, the same good news that Paul preached, and we have received. This gospel has been described as the old, old story. Indeed, though it may be an old story it is as fresh and meaningful today as it was when Paul preached it to the Corinthians in the mid-first century A.D. Paul might say to us that this gospel he preached, and we have received needs nothing added. He would tell us that the gospel we heard and received is a solid foundation on which to stand.
Second, Paul would have us understand this gospel of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is a secure place on which to stand. This gospel, that contains the good news of what Jesus did, furnishes us the indispensable condition that makes it possible for us to stand resolutely during the storms created by evil and its comrade chaos.
The third key idea is linked to the previous idea. The cross and the tomb provide a place to stand steadfastly. Both the cross and the tomb give us our standing before God. Our standing is the product of what Jesus accomplished. It is our belief in what Jesus accomplished at the cross and through the empty tomb that gives us our standing with God. This standing is that we are at peace with God (Rom. 5:1). Our standing before God is secure because we stand on the solid rock of the salvation made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. What is salvation? Salvation results in our forgiveness; God’s acceptance of us; God’s favor; a lasting peace with God; a transformation from sinfulness to righteousness; and a new heart guided by loyalty and allegiance to one who made this all possible.
Finally, the last key idea is found in the declaration that we are saved if we hold firmly to what Paul preached and we have received, believed, and accepted as God’s truth. Holding firmly steadies us in the storm. Tenaciously holding on means holding onto what Jesus accomplished and being established in and by the salvation that the gospel offers. Holding on is not grasping desperately onto a wish or unspecified hope. Holding on hold means we allow the salvation Jesus provided to hold us securely in its transformative power as we link hands with our Savior King.
Start your journey to Resurrection Sunday focusing on these ideas. Next Wednesday you will find a new Lenten reflection to help you prepare your heart and mind for a grand and hope-filled Easter.
Prayer Tent Ministry
The idea of having a prayer tent is nothing new. The idea of setting it up in a different venue began with a conversation between Pastor Lonnie Anderson and myself. We prayed over it, knowing that God would lead us in the right direction. We were granted permission from The Livable Forest to open a prayer tent in the middle of their Town Center.
Pastor Lonnie and I have a desire to take the Power of God out into the community in the fulfillment of the Great Commission:
Matthew 28: 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
Since we began in October of 2021, we have met various types of people and have prayed for numerous people from all over. We have yet to hear anything negative regarding our presence there. Quite the opposite, many shared their thanks for our presence, praise reports, compliments, and we have even heard testimonies from many people and we are still in our infancy stages. We continue to pray that God uses us more in reaching the lost.
The most rewarding part of being able to pray for people is being able to share the love of God with our community. We play games with them; we laugh with them; and most importantly, we get to pray with them. To those who belong to churches we are still able to show them the Love that God has blessed us with. For those that do not attend church, we are able to plant the seeds of God into their hearts. We hope to see them in our church, but if not, with the Love of God we will still love on them
1 Corinthians 3: 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
We are a para-church ministry, meaning we are an extension of Northpark Christian Church’s Monday Night Intercessory group, as well as our Outreach Ministries. We are a small group of prayer warriors who have been doing this for 2 years and we believe we are making a difference in our community. We can feel our spiritual walk growing. If you care to join us, you can email me or ask any church leader to point you in the right direction. We hope to see you, if for no other reason than to pray and share God’s love with you.