The Folly of the Cross

1 Corinthians 118 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 Corinthians 1:18–25 (ESV)

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,

and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Understanding and Applying the Word

There really is no middle road when it comes to the gospel of Jesus Christ. A person will either laugh at the foolishness of the message. After all, how does a man come back from the dead? Or a person will see the glorious hand of God and the power of God working through the events of the cross to bring salvation to all who will believe.

The message of the gospel is Jesus Christ crucified. The perfect, sinless Son of God was hung on a cross until he died. He was buried in a tomb. And later, he rose from the dead alive again. That is the message and it is through these events that God is saving mankind. This is the message that Christians are called to proclaim and it is the only message that can give life to a dying world. Many will laugh and consider it nonsense, but for those who believe, their is forgiveness and eternal life.

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We Will All Be Changed

1 Corinthians 1555–57 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 Corinthians 15:50–58 (ESV)

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”

55 “O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Understanding and Applying the Word

We live in uncertain times. The world is in constant turmoil due to political division, economic stress, natural disasters, and the sinfulness of the human heart. It can become overwhelming if we let it. However, as Christians, we know the future is bright. The things we face today are only temporary because God has a plan in place and his plans never fail.

What is the plan God has for the future? It is the same plan that we saw in the days of Jesus. The will be resurrection and new life for all believers. The dead will rise and those who have not died will be transformed. We will be made new and ready for an eternal existence in a new heaven and new earth. When that day comes, there will be no more death because sin will be no more. The troubles of this world will be gone and we will live in the presence of our Savior forever. What a wonderful future is waiting!

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Doubting Thomas

John 2028 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 20:24–29 (ESV)

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Today’s reading is the origin of the phrase “doubting Thomas”. When the other disciples told Thomas that they had seen the resurrected Jesus, he did not rush to believe them. In fact, he did not believe and said he would not unless he saw Jesus with his own eyes. Eight days later, Thomas did see Jesus with his own eyes and cried out, “My Lord and my God!” Thomas not only knew that Jesus had risen, but knew fully what the implications of such a truth meant. Jesus was God in the flesh!

Who was Jesus? That is a question that many struggle to answer. However, when we accept the accounts of the Gospels as true, the question is quickly answered. Jesus is the Lord, just as he claimed to be. And if that is true, we have the answer to our biggest questions about life and its meaning.

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Hope in a Hopeless World

1 Thessalonians 414 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 (ESV)

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Understanding and Applying the Word

As a pastor, this passage is very familiar. It is a passage that I turn to again and again to give comfort to the grieving when a loved one has died. Paul tells us that Christians should not grieve like the world. We do not grieve as those who have no hope. This is true because we know that Christ died and rose again and has promised that all of his followers would be resurrected just as he was. There is coming a day when all believers will be together with Jesus forever. So, we may grieve when a fellow Christian has died, but we know our time apart is only temporary. We have hope.

The secular world has no hope. In a world where there is no God and no afterlife, everything is meaningless. Some try to take away the sting by saying you live for your children or to be remembered well or to leave the world a better place. However, what will all of that matter in the future when the sun has burned itself out and the earth is a cold rock? None of it will matter and none of it will be remembered. In a world without God, death marks the end of a meaningless existence. Now is all there is. Grief is all there is.

Remember Jesus and the resurrection. It changes everything and gives hope to the grieving heart.

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Why Do You Seek the Living among the Dead?

Luke 245–6 [widescreen]

He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Today is the center of the Christian faith. Jesus Christ was crucified and buried, but rose again from the dead. It is the Resurrection that validates all that Jesus said and did. It is the Resurrection that assures us of who the one true God is. It is the Resurrection that gives us hope of eternal life in a new world without sin and all of its consequences. Read the words of Luke 24:1-12 and praise our great God for all he has done!

Reading the Word

Luke 24:1–12 (ESV)

1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

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Jesus Buried

empty-tomb-jesus

Reading the Word

John 19:38–42 (ESV)

38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. 39 Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. 40 So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

Understanding and Applying the Word

After Jesus had died, Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy member of the Jewish council, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Joseph took the body and laid it in a new tomb that was located in the garden. Nicodemus, who had approached Jesus earlier in John 3:1-2, also came with spices to prepare Jesus’ body. All of this fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 53:9, which states, “And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.”

Saturday marked a day of silence. Jesus was crucified and buried on Friday and his body rested in the tomb on Saturday. His disciples were unaware of what would happen on Sunday and were discouraged and fearful. But God’s plans and purposes were still being fulfilled. We may not always have an understanding of what the future holds, but we can be confident in the one who is always working all things for his glory and for the good of those who love him. Our God is faithful and he is trustworthy.

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The Ongoing Influence of Jesus

Luke 2452–53 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 24:50–53 (ESV)

50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

Understanding and Applying the Word

With today’s reading, we come to the end of our time reading through the life of Jesus Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts. After Jesus’ resurrection he spent forty days on earth revealing himself to different individuals and groups and making final preparations for the future of his followers. At the end of those forty days, Jesus departed and ascended into heaven.

We might think that with Jesus no longer in the world that his teaching and influence would fade and disappear. However, nothing could be further from the truth. After Jesus’ departure, his fame and influence spread quickly. His original followers went throughout the known world proclaiming all they had seen and heard and many believed. Even today, the name of Jesus is known and discussed throughout the world. There are many who still hear the news about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and believe. It is amazing to think how influential Jesus has been on our world. There is none like him!

The Bible tells us that those who hear the news about Jesus, repent of their sins, and turn to Jesus in faith, will be saved and have eternal life. He came into the world to give his life as a sacrifice for sin. He died. He was buried. And he rose from the dead in victory over sin and death. That is the Good News. He came to save us. Have you trusted in him?

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Jesus on the Shore

John 2112 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 21:1–14 (ESV)

1 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Understanding and Applying the Word

After the disciples had returned to fishing, Jesus appeared to them again. They had been fishing all night, but had caught nothing. That’s when Jesus called out to them to cast their net on the right side of the boat. When they did, the net was filled with fish. John called out, “It is the Lord!” and Peter jumped into the water and swam to shore to be with Jesus. When they reached the shore, they ate some of the fish they had caught for breakfast.

Jesus had told the disciples that he would meet with them in Galilee (Matthew 28:10; Mark 14:28). Evidently, they had gone there to wait, but had become restless and discouraged and returned to fishing. When they realized that Jesus was on the shore, their feelings of discouragement quickly faded. Look at Peter’s excitement as he jumped into the water to swim!

We too can become discouraged when we feel like God has abandoned us or is distant. However, Jesus has promised to never leave us. In whatever circumstances we are facing, we know that the Lord is walking right beside us. We often fail to recognize him, but we are assured he is there. Let us be like Peter as we find strength and encouragement in his presence.

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So That You May Believe

John1

Reading the Word

John 20:30–31 (ESV)

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Understanding and Applying the Word

These verses tell us why John wrote his Gospel. He wrote so that readers might know Jesus and believe that he was truly the Christ and the Son of God. John makes his case throughout his Gospel by recording Jesus’ words where he claims to be God and he also makes his case by recording the miraculous signs that Jesus performed to validate that what he claimed was true. Of course, the greatest proof that Jesus was who he claimed to be was the resurrection.

It is often said that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Well, John begins his book by making the extraordinary claim that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). A few verses later, John tells us that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). That is truly a great claim! However, John goes on to provide the extraordinary evidence. He tells of Jesus turning water into wine, feeding a great crowd with only a few fish and small amount of bread, walking on water, healing a man born blind, raising Lazarus from the dead, and ultimately rising from the dead himself. That is extraordinary evidence!

Jesus was God in the flesh and John wrote so that we would know and believe that God had visited mankind and provided salvation and eternal for all who would turn to him. What an amazing Savior!

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My Lord and My God!

John 2028 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 20:24–29 (ESV)

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” 26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

This passage gives us the origins of the phrase “doubting Thomas.” It also gives us insight into the mindset of the disciples as word of the resurrection spread. They were not quick to believe the reports. They doubted. In fact, Thomas commented that he would not believe unless he saw with his own eyes  the wounds in Jesus caused by the nails and spear.

Not long after Thomas’ remark, Jesus paid a visit. When he did, he showed Thomas his hands and side and encouraged him to believe. Thomas stood face-to-face with the risen Lord and called out, “My Lord and my God!” Thomas knew that Jesus was really alive and he also knew that Jesus was no ordinary man. He was God in the flesh!

Thomas had the benefit of seeing Jesus with his own eyes and coming to belief as a result. We do not have that opportunity, nor have the large majority of Christians through the ages. Those who actually saw the risen Savior are few in number, but this does not mean we cannot know what transpired. We have the word of God written by those who were there and we also have the Spirit of God to convict us of the truth of that word. Jesus told Thomas that he believed because he had seen, but there would be others (like you and me) who would not see, but still believe. Those people would be blessed because they would belong to Christ and have the promise of eternal life.

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