Living BEYOND the difficulties

Our Easter celebrations have come and gone so quickly!

Back to our routines

“We stopped to celebrate Easter only a week ago, yet we are back into our normal routines before we know it.”

We stopped to celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ only a week ago, yet we are back into our normal routines before we know it. Yet, the resurrection is so profound its truths transform every part of our lives, and in a very real way Easter lives with us every day.

In his first letter to the believers living in Corinth Paul writes how “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, [and] that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). While his death dealt with our sins, God vindicated Jesus by raising him to life again. His resurrection changed everything.

It transformed Peter from a mistake-prone bungler who denied and disassociated himself from Jesus, into a bold provocative advocate who stood in front of thousands of people on the day of Pentecost and called them to repent. What changed Peter? He later wrote, “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). The resurrection radically changed Peter for ever.

Peter’s life demonstrates a powerful insight, that the resurrection is more than a victory to be celebrated it is a reality to be lived.

It’s not by chance that the early church began meeting on Sundays, the day after the Jewish Sabbath. Read More >>>

 

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God’s Hidden Presence

On the morning of his resurrection Jesus walked through the near-empty garden unnoticed.
Well almost
.

The_Garden_Tomb_2008

The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem where some scholars say Jesus was buried. Click the image for more info

Had he not asked Mary Magdalene why she was crying he would have remained hidden. Then even as she answered Jesus’ question she didn’t recognise him. That is until he called her by name, then the recognition came. (John 20:11-18)

There is a mystery about the presence of God. In Matthew’s gospel when he relates the story of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God,” implying that if one is not pure in heart then God may be hidden from view. Although the Bible makes clear that God is present everywhere and in everything is God’s presence (for instance Psalm 139:7-12), the darkness of our heart distorts our perception.

St Ephrem

St Ephrem

The 4th Century theologian St. Ephrem the Syrian expressed it neatly in the following verse . . .

Lord, your symbols are everywhere,
Yet you are hidden from everywhere.
Though your symbol is on high,
Yet height does not perceive that you are;
Though your symbol is in the depth,
It does not comprehend who you are;
Though your symbol is in the sea,
You are hidden from the sea;
Though your symbol is on dry land,
It is not aware what you are.
Blessed is the Hidden One shining out!

St. Ephrem uses the word “symbol” in its ancient meaning >>>

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Why Have You Forsaken Me?

In these weeks leading up to Easter I am focusing on the “Seven Sayings of Christ from the Cross.”

This week it’s Jesus’ words of abandonment taken from Matthew 27:46, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which translated means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Hanging on the cross, his body in agony from the torture of crucifixion, Jesus uses the opening verses of Psalm 22 written by David to express the depths of his agony. But it was not the physical pain that was the source of his cry, although it was no doubt intense, it was something far deeper and darker. In that excruciating moment, he felt the unbearable painfulness that comes from rejection and separation.

Jesus entered into a place where, as Paul the apostle expresses it in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (NIV).

Suffering

“His suffering was a mirror of our sufferings”

Such is the mystery and the majesty of the salvation of humanity that we can’t possibly know the depths of what Jesus felt in that moment. We can however appreciate it in some measure. Why? Because Jesus was as human and you and I are. His experience was that of every human being. His suffering was a mirror of our sufferings.

There are times when many of us, perhaps all of us, have experienced dark times when it felt like God had abandoned us. Life was hopeless, prayers went unanswered and despair was overwhelming. It such moments we too cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

But that’s not where the story ends. Read More >>>

Crucify Him!

As Christians we are perhaps more familiar than most with the slow and painful execution by crucifixion.

Invented by the Persians around 300 BC and perfected by the Romans by 100 BC, crucifixion describes the process where a convicted criminal is tied or nailed to a large wooden cross and left to hang until dead.the-crown-of-divine-grace1[1]

Did you know that the word ‘excruciating’ comes from the Latin, ‘to crucify’? It means pain like the pain of crucifixion, which is variously described as unbearable, severe and excessive mental and physical pain. It is believed to be the most painful death ever invented. Shockingly, it is used by ISIS in the Middle East today.

In Roman days, the condemned were usually stripped naked, nails were then driven through the wrists and just below the ankles, ropes provided reinforcement to tie the arms to the crossbeam, and then they are raised on the cross to hang. Although this process alone would cause severe pain and blood loss, it was not normally be the cause of death. With crucifixion, people die by suffocation.

Read more >>>

Pentecost: A Birthday!

The day of Pentecost is one of the most important days in the life of the church.

Just as each year you celebrate your birthday, at Pentecost we celebrate the birthday of the church. The events of that day so empowered a group of people and ignited such a passion in them that the effects are still felt in the world today. Have you ever prayed that God might do it again in your life, in your city?

Birthday candles, flame, wind

Just as each year you celebrate your birthday, at Pentecost we celebrate the birthday of the church.

On that day Jews from across the known world had gathered in Jerusalem for one of their annual celebrations. Only weeks before they had come for another festival, the Passover, when there had been a small disturbance when yet another messianic hopeful, Jesus of Nazareth, had been crucified by the Romans. His small band of followers were in hiding fearing reprisal and nowhere to be seen. There were rumours circulating that some people had seen Jesus alive.

Then, something unheard of took place.

Read More >>>

He Dared to Dream

The carriage was tightly packed with passengers as they settled down for the long journey. Among them were the regulars, those tired workers returning home from long night shifts in city factories. There were also children returning home after their term at boarding school, and there were some tourists eagerly anticipating their new adventure.

In the corner, near the window, was an old man. Next to him, by the window, was a younger man in his mid-30s. As the train moved out of the station the younger one started talking excitedly and loudly. “Dad, do you see the trees and the way they move in the wind. It’s wonderful isn’t it?” “Dad, look at the rain. Isn’t the way it falls beautiful.” “Hey Dad, look at the grass, what a lovely colour green is.” And so on.

“Hey Dad, look at the grass, what a lovely colour green is.”

“Hey Dad, look at the grass, what a lovely colour green is.”

Everyone heard the running commentary and thought it a somewhat strange. However, the longer it continued the more frustrated they become and began murmuring amongst themselves. The young man, unaware of their discomfort, continued his joyful observations.

Suddenly it became too much for one passenger who turned to the old man saying, “Can’t you keep him quiet? It is all very off putting. If he is unwell take him to hospital.”

The old man gracefully turned to the passenger and smiled.
Read More >>>

Resurrection life . . . making a difference

Over Easter the New York Times ran an article that commented in passing that Easter Sunday is the day Christians honour Jesus’ “resurrection into heaven.” A mistake which, once pointed out, was quickly corrected. Nevertheless, such an error reminds us of the growing ignorance in our Western world of Christian belief.

A new day dawning

A new day dawns . . .

This year’s Easter has come and gone and life returns to normal, almost as if the resurrection has no effect. But it wasn’t like that on the first Easter. I wonder whether Easter should make more of an impact in our lives. Maybe we too reflect the ignorance of the rest of our community.

Read more . . .

Droughts and Flooding Rains

Over the past months we have seen many natural disasters across Australia. It seems this summer we have lived up to Dorothea Mackellar’s description that we are a land of “droughts and flooding rains”. In fact Tasmania has not been immune with even the chaplain of our own Hobart Boy’s Brigade losing his family’s house in the bushfires.

Bushfire!

Even Tasmania has not been immune to
bushfires in 2013

While there are quite a few differing opinions regarding the extent to which humanity’s actions are the causes of recent climate change; that the climate is changing is quite obvious. How fast and in what ways it is changing is still open to debate.

These recent events serve to show that despite our best efforts we cannot control the weather no matter how much we would like to think we can. They remind us that we are at the mercy of weather patterns that are more powerful than we are.

Yet our desire to control the weather reveals, I believe, how we struggle to maintain a biblical view of our responsibility over creation. While we are called to be good stewards of creation we are never called to control it, but rather treat it with appropriate care.

Today the consensus of scientists is that the level of CO2 in the air and global temperatures are increasing, polar caps are melting, and sea levels are rising. The subsequent call for more care of our environment resonates deeply with our God given responsibility. However, I tend to agree with those who suggest . . .  Read more >>>

There’s Something About Jesus

Like many others leaders of messianic movements, Jesus’ life was nothing special when it ended as many of them did with a crucifixion. He was another dead leader with a band of

Resurrection

The Jesus they followed was alive!

disillusioned and scattered followers. But something happened. Before long numbers exploded and over the next 300 years they spread across the entire Roman Empire.

What was the difference? This Messiah was alive.

The Jesus they followed was alive

For nearly two thousand years Christians have . . .   Read More >>>

Resurrection Sunday – New Life!

Did you know that the word Easter comes to us from the word “eastern” or “easterly?” That was the direction that a worshipper from the west should face when they reflect on the place of their redemption – namely Jerusalem.

From the Bible there is little evidence that Jesus was worshipped before the resurrection, yet it is certainly clear he was afterwards. In one of Paul’s early letters written to the church in Corinth around 55 AD, we read the famous Maranatha prayer, “Come O Lord”. Here Paul uses the Aramaic expression Maranatha giving us an insight into the prayer life of the early Jewish followers of Jesus. They knew he was alive and longed for his return just as he promised.

The resurrection had changed their lives completely. They hadn’t seen the resurrection, only the angels saw that, but they had seen the resurrected Jesus. This was no wishful thinking that came true in a dream or a vision. No, the focus in the Bible is that Jesus took the initiative and “appeared” before his disciples. In fact 1 Corinthians 15 says he appeared to a number of different groups and individuals at different places times in different places, even up to 500 people at one time.

On Easter Sunday we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus. It stands as the focus of our faith as we join with millions through history and around the world in celebrating the bodily resurrection of Christ. Without the resurrection there is no faith and reason to worship. But with it everything is changed. Death has been defeated, and victory over sin has been declared.

This is the hope of the world, the promise of new life for everyone, everywhere. May your life and family be full of this hope today and throughout the coming year.

Stephen L Baxter