Hope

Think About the Future

Romans 4:13-25 (NLT)

Clearly, God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith. If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless. For the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it. (The only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!)

So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.

Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb.

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.


If you engaged with last week’s sermon, you’ll notice that Paul this week simply continues to discuss Abraham and the nature of faith. I want to focus on a particular idea Paul raises, the importance of hope as an attitude to bolster our faith.

I’m liable to sound a little like a self-help guru today, but frankly, the ones I’ve heard simply repackage ancient concepts found in the Bible, enriching themselves in the process. That’s between the self-help gurus and God, I suppose. Maybe I’m just jealous—I could’ve been rich, if only I were better looking and not feeling bound to give credit where credit is due.

Let’s try a little exercise. I’m going to say a phrase and then we will pause for a few seconds. Here we go: Think about the future.

So, did you get a generally warm, happy feeling, or did you find yourself growing a little anxious? When it comes to the future, are you bullish or bearish?

Some of you felt a twinge of anxiety or fear, and that’s normal. We can always find reasons to be a little anxious. Bad things happen to good people. It’s a fact of life we all learn at a fairly early age.

Whether we let that anxiety control us says a lot about how much hope we carry in our hearts, however. And again, as Paul is telling us, hope and faith are intricately linked. At times, they seem to me to be almost indistinguishable.

Abraham had hope because he had heard from God and kept hearing from God. God was saying to Abraham, I know you’re really old and you don’t have any children by your wife. I promise you, you will. And from that child will come uncountable descendants, and blessings on the whole world.

As we discussed last week, Abraham sometimes struggled with how to move forward in life, but his faith grew even as he made mistakes. He had hope for the future, a future beyond his very long life, and his hope grew stronger as God slowly began the fulfillment of the promises.

He saw those promises fulfilled to the point where he was able to die a happy and confident man, having lived a “long and satisfying life” (Genesis 25:7). He was one who knew God would, in some mysterious way, care for him and his offspring forever.

If you’ll allow me, I also would ask you to think about something else. Think about the promises God has made us. I’m speaking to you as believers, of course—we who call ourselves Christians have accepted as valid and trustworthy these promises I want you to consider.

We are promised that death ultimately is meaningless. Death had great power over us, but Jesus broke that power when he died on the cross. We no longer slam into death and stop. We pass through death, it reduced to a thin veil, and we move on to eternal life with Christ.

We are promised that healing and holiness are available to us now. We are not simply afterlife gazers, people biding our time for a reward to come. We know that a life in Christ means this life, now.

Sure, we remain broken. We struggle, like old Abraham did. We slip and we sin. We carry the pain of wrongs done to us. But the more we engage with God, the more we are changed in this life. We are allowed to taste holiness and heaven now. That means the days ahead in this life should be brighter than the days behind us.

We are promised that the pain and suffering we already have experienced will be put away, reversed, healed in full. This is maybe the most mysterious promise of all, but it certainly should give us great hope. Those terrible events that have happened or may happen will not have everlasting effects. Somehow, God will make even the worst tragedies temporary ones.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes,” Revelation 21 tells us, “and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

See a bright future before you, Christians. Live as people with an unending future, and let hope and joy into your present lives, strengthening your faith.

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Seeing Christ in Full

This is the first in an Easter season series on Revelation.

Revelation 1:4-8

When I was in seminary, one of my pastoral duties was to provide support for a very large assisted-living apartment complex in Lexington, Ky.  A dozen ladies there asked if I would lead them in a Bible study focused on the Book of Revelation.

What surprised me was the reason they wanted to have the study. In short, they were afraid.

At the time, there was a lot of talk about Revelation, in particular because a set of books known as the “Left Behind” series had been getting a lot of attention. Not one of these ladies could have been younger than 80, and I’m sure most of them had been going to church most of their lives. But all of a sudden, what is essentially the end of the biblical story kept them awake at night.

That was when I first began to understand that teaching—or in this case, preaching—is a special case where Revelation is involved. A lot of Christians have poorly formed or misinformed ideas about the book, and I generally have to convince people to put their preconceived notions aside if we are going to travel to the place Revelation wants to take us.

The author’s name is John, a man we know to have been imprisoned for his faith on the island of Patmos. He may or may not have been the Apostle John; that matter is highly debatable, although ultimately irrelevant to the message the book sends. John’s point in writing Revelation was to communicate a powerful vision he had to churches who apparently knew of him.

The first thing I want to note is how, in his greeting to the churches, he used a couple of important words to set the tone for his vision. “Grace to you,” he told them. “Peace.” And he rooted this greeting in the holy, loving nature of God, as expressed in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

His greeting expressed freedom, particularly freedom from the power of sin. John spoke of power and hope for Christ’s followers, not punishment. Fear was not an emotion he seemed to be trying to elicit.

John’s greeting continues to remind us of where our story is headed. Christ will return in a most undeniable way. The “tribes of the earth” may wail, but only because they failed to acknowledge a great truth still serving as the core of our faith, the truth of Jesus Christ as savior for all of humanity.

These words of hope and peace make Revelation a wonderful way to explore the continuing Easter season. Christ’s resurrection was just a beginning, a promise of more to come. A remaking is underway, and it will continue until it ends with everything in heaven and earth conformed to the will of God, made holy by the sacrificial work of Christ on the cross.

I want you to keep that good news of the ultimate outcome in mind as we go through the next few weeks. Because, again, Revelation is a strange book, and it is easy to become confused.

Part of the problem arises because we have no other forms of literature like it. Westerners try to read it like a story, a standard kind of narrative familiar to our culture, but it was never intended to be read in such a way.

Instead, it is:

A special genre known as “apocalyptic.” Time flows differently than it does in a standard Western narrative. Viewpoints shift from heaven to earth with little warning. Reading Revelation as a straightforward narrative can generate some bad theology.

Highly symbolic. Very little of it is intended to be taken literally, but at the same time, there’s a deeper meaning communicated by the symbols. For example, after the text we’re hearing today, John launches into a vision of Christ in heaven. This description symbolically shows our Savior’s deeper nature—his purity, his all-knowing mind, and his uttered words as the purest truth, capable of cutting through worldly confusion.

An invitation to imagine. Apocalyptic literature was written for audiences facing persecution. They were being asked to see a better day, a great Day of the Lord promised since the Old Testament. We also are being invited to imagine and work toward the same dream.

Back to my ladies in Bible study: When we were finished studying Revelation, one of the oldest ones, a lady around 90, came up to me with tears in her eyes. “I’m not afraid any more. It’s about joy!” she said.

I pray that when we’re done with this series, we will all feel the same way.

Visiting Graves

John 11:32-44

I am a big Star Trek fan. As a pastor and preacher, I am aware others may not share my love of these shows, so I put severe limits on how often I reference Star Trek in conversation, and certainly, in my sermons. I don’t want people’s first thought about their pastor to be, “What a geek!”

That said, I decided to use one of my Star Trek reference rations today. I recently was watching an episode from 1994, the last season of “The Next Generation” Star Trek series, the one with the bald-headed captain with the English accent. A scene brought to mind what we are doing as we gather here on this All Saints’ Sunday.

We are, of course, considering what it means to remember those who have passed on. And frankly, I was disappointed as I watched this episode with pastor’s eyes for the first time. If this episode were to truly represent the future, the future would be a bleaker time than what we experience now.

Oddly enough, this is one of the few episodes with at least an oblique reference to Christianity. It opens with a graveside service for the grandmother of the ship’s doctor. As the service concludes, the character filling the role a minister would normally play says, “And so, we now commit her body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in sure and certain hope that her memory will be kept alive within us all.”

Pretty words, largely because they are rooted in a prayer that goes back centuries from our own time. But ultimately, they are hollow words. The prayer has been changed in one key way. That alteration represents a devastating shift in thinking and a loss of hope. (Odd for a show that is beloved because it so often projects hope.)

As we see in our Bible text today, Jesus confronted a similar loss of hope. From this text we get our shortest Bible verse, “Jesus wept.” I provided it in the King James Version so this one verse would come out the way people raised on childhood Bible drills in Sunday school would remember.

Jesus knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. He made that clear before he ever headed for Bethany. And yet, before performing this great miracle, he cried in solidarity with the grieving people around him.

Jesus understood the deep pain we experience when we feel we have lost all hope. He shared that pain with his friends, even knowing the great healing he was about to perform. I take great comfort in knowing God doesn’t watch our pain from a distance and impassively; instead, as Jesus, God understands his creation’s suffering intimately. And when Jesus called, “Lazarus, come forth,” he replaced pain with hope.

Now, as spectacular as the event was, Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead was a short-term fix, a microcosm of what was and is to come. We have no reason to believe Lazarus did not eventually experience death again, although I think probably at a ripe old age. Jesus’ greatest work remained.

Death met its resounding defeat in Christ’s resurrection from the grave—at that point, death lost any real grip on us. We are promised that through our belief in Jesus Christ, we will experience resurrection and eternal joy, too, even if our physical death comes before Christ’s return.

That truth should color our view of life, even when we do inherently sad activities like visit our loved ones’ graves. Some might find it strange, but I actually enjoy walking through cemeteries. The headstones (sometimes, you have to study them together as a family) often tell little stories. It is possible to imagine the broad outline of people’s lives—their loves, their relationships, their pain.

And so often, in the midst of one of those stories, you see evidence of Christ at work. Bible verses on tombstones tell us a lot. I particularly enjoy little inscriptions referencing the resurrection. They can be as short as “Rest in Peace,” an acknowledgement a person is in a physical and spiritual state that will result in renewed, eternal activity one day.

That’s why I didn’t like that alteration of the prayer in Star Trek. Just one clause was changed, but it is critical. How long can we truly live on in the memory of others? A couple of generations, maybe three at most?

The proper prayer, the prayer you can still hear at many funeral services today, goes this way: “And so, we now commit this body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in sure and certain hope of resurrection to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

As Christians, that is the prayer of hope we bring to the world.

This Will Get Messy

 

Entry into Jerusalem; Christ (played by Anton Lang) and John, with donkey; at the Oberammergau passion play, Bavaria, Germany, 1900

Entry into Jerusalem; Christ (played by Anton Lang) and John, with donkey; at the Oberammergau passion play, Bavaria, Germany, 1900

Matthew 21:1-11

Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem looked and sounded like a celebration. Even today, when we hold Palm Sunday worship, we cannot help but look and sound like a celebration, too, waving palm fronds and shouting “Hosanna!”

It was at best a party of mixed emotions, however, and the man at the center of it all must have been deeply disturbed at what was to come. I wonder if he was able to enjoy the moment at all.

As Jesus passed through the gate into Jerusalem, all sorts of conflicting interests would have come together to watch the raucous scene. Some studies estimate Jerusalem’s normal population of 30,000 certainly doubled and possibly even tripled during this highest and holiest of Jewish holidays, the Passover. The formal city limits had to be temporarily extended, so travelers could say, “I was in Jerusalem for Passover this year.”

And in the midst of all of this, along came Jesus, riding on a donkey. It was a deliberate, overt act, one any good Jew would have recognized from prophecy. In particular, there were the words in Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

The miracle man, the one who had already impressed so many with healings and feedings, was declaring himself king. The common people who gathered in the streets partially understood this sign, reacting by rolling out a palm-and-cloak carpet and shouting, “Hosanna!” Literally they were crying, “Save us,” although by this time “hosanna” was more a shout than words with real meaning.

We should pause here and acknowledge that the people weren’t fully understanding Jesus’ declaration. They failed to remember his teachings in the Sermon on the Mount—blessed are the peacemakers, turn the other cheek, love your enemies. In particular, they missed the significance of the donkey, something a king would ride only if he came in peace. Their failure to understand what it truly means for Jesus to be the king of peace would become evident as the week progressed.

And of course, there were others watching Jesus strike a match near what they considered a political powder keg.

There were the Sadducees, the Jewish faction in control of temple worship. They were fine with the system as it was, and they kept one nervous eye toward the Roman occupiers, hoping they weren’t picking up on the symbolism of Jesus’ ride.

There were the Pharisees, like Jesus reformers, but reformers deeply annoyed by Jesus’ constant criticism of their highly refined legalism and jealous of his miracles and popularity.

There were the Zealots, revolutionaries carrying sharp blades beneath their cloaks, hoping Jesus’ rousing of the crowd would lead to Roman blood in the streets.

And there were the Roman politicians and soldiers, fully armed and on high alert because of the crowds, determined to keep this backwater province under control.

Jesus knew what he was doing. He already had foretold his death and resurrection three times before riding into Jerusalem. And as he rode into the city, he must have looked around and thought, “This will get messy.”

We used to debate in seminary whether Jesus had to be crucified to save the world. Was it possible for people to fully acknowledge who he was, and then salvation to occur without his holy blood being shed?

The question is largely unanswerable in this life. I do like Clarence Jordan’s attempt, though: To be in “mortal combat” with the world, Jesus had to be in what Jordan called a “crucifiable situation.”

Palm Sunday marks Jesus’ willing entry into the valley of the shadow of death, a place where worldly factions fall on you with little warning, and where those who cheer you on may call for your death just a few days later. And he entered it for us, to free us from the power of sin and death.

Here’s the sobering part: As Christ’s followers, we’re called to walk through this broken world in the same way. Philippians 2:5-8:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.

“Let the same mind be in you,” in whatever we do. In politics, we are to be little kings of peace, remembering the Sermon on the Mount. And where there is a thin understanding of Jesus Christ and his role as Savior, it may require deep sacrifices on our part to give that truth weight.

When we consider Jesus on the cross, our following his example almost seems like a losing proposition. It would be, except for what we celebrate next Sunday.

But that’s a story for next week. This week, remember the boldness, and the all-important death that cleanses us.

God’s Pawn

Life can seem pretty tough at times, even if you are certain you are following God’s will. In a world filled with evil, being on the front line for God can be exhausting, and exhaustion can lead to doubt and even despair.

We see it in the Old Testament in the prophet Elijah. At the height of his ministry, he overcame the priests of Baal in a battle of prayers and worship, bringing the destruction of those who were leading the Israelites astray. And yet, when faced with the evil Jezebel just a short time later, Elijah for all practical purposes ran away and collapsed in a heap in the wilderness, asking God to take his life.

We see it in our New Testament text for this third Sunday in Advent. Jesus would declare to the crowds that John the Baptist is “Elijah”—that is, John the Baptist was the prophet the people had been expecting, the one sent by God to declare the arrival of the Messiah. And yet, in the story, John the Baptist comes across as uncertain and even confused as he sat in prison.

“Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” he asked Jesus through messengers.

When you consider all of John the Baptist’s story, it is an astonishing question. If he was not certain, who can be certain?

To understand John the Baptist, you have to read his story in all four gospels. In Luke, we learn John the Baptist was a miracle child in whom the Holy Spirit dwelled even before he was born. He leaped in his mother’s womb at the sound of Mary’s voice, capable of recognizing the mother of the Messiah before he has seen the world.

We also understand from Luke that Jesus and John the Baptist were related through their mothers, cousins separated in age by only six months. We can only speculate how much time they spent together. Luke also tells us John the Baptist grew up in the wilderness, meaning he may have lived all his life as a hermit prophet, possibly among a sect of Jews known as the Essenes.

When John the Baptist began his adult ministry as recorded in all four gospels, he seemed certain enough, preaching a fiery call that the people should repent of their sins in anticipation of the coming of the Messiah. When Jesus came to be baptized, he seemed certain enough, protesting that Jesus should baptize him and not vice-versa. In the Gospel of John, he seemed certain enough when he first saw Jesus, declaring, “Here is the Lamb of God.”

It would seem the uncertainty crept in during imprisonment, which happened after the prophet rebuked Jewish King Herod for taking his brother’s wife as his own. Just as it was with Elijah, there’s no telling what caused doubt to creep in. Certainly, for a man who had lived all his life freely outdoors, eating locusts and honey and going where the Spirit drove him, being locked in a cell must have been disorienting.

Perhaps as a prophet, John the Baptist also began to sense where all of this was going. He wasn’t going to leave the cell alive. In fact, he was going to have his head delivered on a platter to a dancing girl and her spiteful mother. Had John the Baptist heard of chess, he might have begun to use the word “pawn” to describe himself, feeling like a disposable piece in God’s grand plan.

Jesus’ answer to his cousin’s question was not the obvious “Yes, I am the one,” the answer that would have provided comfort. “Go and tell John what you hear and see,” Jesus told the messengers. “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

Here is what I hear in this response: “John, you are a prophet, filled with the Holy Spirit. You know the signs; you know the answer.”

We do not know how John the Baptist received that response. The range of possibilities would run from despair to joy, I suppose.

I believe that like his Old Testament predecessor, Elijah, John the Baptist at least moved from doubt to strength. An angel of the Lord ministered to Elijah; messengers from Jesus returned to John. I think their straightforward words would have fed him spiritually, giving him a renewed faith that God’s kingdom was present through Jesus.

As I study John the Baptist, I’m also reminded how much Jesus loved his cousin, even if his reply was almost businesslike in its tone. When Jesus heard of John the Baptist’s beheading, he took to a boat to find a deserted place—he was grieving. And when the people found him, one of Jesus’ great acts of compassion occurred, the feeding of the 5,000.

When we find ourselves exhausted and doubtful, perhaps even feeling like pawns, it is good to remember we worship a God who treasures every piece in his creation. This life may not always go as we hope, but we need not doubt the joy God’s plan ultimately brings us.

Letting Go of the Locust Years

If you’re going to hear from prophets past or present, there are three overarching messages they’ll use repeatedly. Understand these broad concepts, and you’ll understand how prophecy remains relevant and life-changing even today.

I’ll work from the book of Joel today, including our reading, Joel 2:23-32. It’s a concise little book of prophecy, just three chapters, and it illustrates these three messages well. I would encourage you to read the whole book start to finish to get a feel for it.

Message no. 1: Life actually is full of trouble.

Joel had a particular form of trouble that was the context for his prophecies. Locusts had overwhelmed the land of Judah, destroying everything in sight, and then a drought ensued. The livestock longed for food; we can assume people were starving to death. Joel prophesied during a particularly bad time, but it was the kind of bad time the world has seen repeatedly.

Trouble as an ongoing event is an underlying theme of the Bible. The Bible as a whole doesn’t pull any punches about that particular truth. If you know your Book of Genesis, you know the root of that trouble, sin. God made things right and holy, but he also gave his creation free will. When that free will was exercised wrongly, sin occurred.

It was like tapping a perfect porcelain vase with a hammer. Cracks ran everywhere, and the brokenness impacts every aspect of our lives.

Fortunately, the prophets never just leave us with our troubles.

Message no. 2: God gives us tremendous promises and signs assuring us of his love. Despite our unholiness, God relents in regard to the punishment we deserve.

Much of the Old Testament contains promises that God will provide us a way out of trouble. That promise largely has been fulfilled through Jesus Christ, whom Christians acknowledge as the promised Jewish Messiah. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, sin has been overcome, extending God’s grace to all the world. The resurrection of Christ is a sign this work has begun.

Pentecost, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the early church, is another sign of God at work in the world. Look at Peter’s Pentecost sermon. He spent a lot of time quoting Joel, placing Christ and the church in the context of Joel’s promises.

Message no. 3: Full, permanent restoration of creation is coming. God’s work will be complete; creation will be re-made as holy and unbroken.

It’s a fulfillment we await today. Faithful Christians know they move toward this time each day, regardless of what trouble we may face now.

As we hear from Joel or any other prophet, the question before us becomes simple: Where in the prophetic pattern are we going to live? Do we stay mired in misery, letting the locust years of our lives consume us? At a minimum, I would prefer to live in a state of expectant watchfulness, excited by glimpses of God at work now and trusting the signs that there is more to come.

Occasionally, we even run across people who seem to be able to live at least some of their lives as if the promises already have been kept in full. Call them what you want—kingdom people, the perfected ones, saints. I call them “forward thinkers.” At the end of his life, Paul was one of these people, facing trouble after trouble yet clinging joyously to what was already his, eternal life with God.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” a battered Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:7-8. “From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

I also feel I’ve known such people. In particular, I think of a woman prayer warrior I once knew who could take any situation and make you see it in the light of the resurrection and a fully restored relationship with God.

Spiritually, these forward-thinking people already are what we hope to be when Christ returns and completes his work in the resurrection of creation. I look at them and wonder what the world would be like if more of us were to bear such holiness now.

A Crucial Question

Luke 24:1-12

If two angels ask a question, it is a question worth pondering.

The question comes as part of the angelic announcement that Jesus is risen from the dead, his body remade to be indestructible, a state of eternal living we describe as “resurrected.” It is a truth we celebrate whenever we gather as Christians to worship, and it is a truth celebrated in particular on Easter Sunday.

The question, “Why do you seek the living among the dead,” almost sounds rhetorical. I don’t think God intends us to read it that way, however. The question is as valid today as it was in the middle of a Jewish cemetery nearly 2,000 years ago. For those of us who acknowledge the truth of the resurrection, the question challenges our view of the world, our very approach to life.

Sometimes we can see people literally looking for life in the midst of death. A few years ago, at the last church I pastored, our community had problems for a few weeks with a group of what were either older teens or young adults. They had became enamored with the rural community cemetery next to our church building.

Dressed in black, they lounged against the headstones at twilight like they were on living room couches. Sometimes they took pictures of each other draped across the tombstones. I heard some of the photos were on a web site. It was weird.

I feel certain this was more than mischief, however. As misguided as they were, like all human beings, they were seeking some kind of deeper truth, some sort of connection with each other and to a larger purpose. But you cannot find life in the midst of death. We as a church wanted to reach them, but it was like trying to approach a conspiracy of ravens—their instinct was to fly away.

Other than paying our occasional respects to a loved one, most of us are not going to be found lingering in cemeteries. There are other similarly wrong ways to pursue truth, however, and we can inadvertently find ourselves hovering in the world of the dead. When we find ourselves in these situations, it’s good to ask ourselves why we seek Christ where Christ is not.

So many people seek truth through anger these days. But anger is something of the cemetery. Anger is rooted in woundedness and bitterness over slights and losses, real or perceived. How are we to find the living, resurrected Christ where there is anger?

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Those were Jesus’ words after nails had been driven through his flesh, pinning him to the wood to bleed and dangle until death.

Other people seek truth through what is temporary, and the world is full of temporary distractions. The distraction can be as noble sounding as deep commitment to work or sports or as deadly as drugs, but if it is not of God, then it obviously is not where you will find the risen savior.

Here’s a test for whether we’re searching where there is life. Remember the story of the resurrected Jesus on the road to Emmaus? We know when we’re in the presence of the living Christ. What we are doing creates a holy burning within us.

When we sense the presence of the living Christ, everything begins to change. In the midst of a broken world we can feel the joy of eternity. Life, we realize, has boundless potential, simply because the resurrection tells us there are no more boundaries.

We also begin to live into the truth that even the cemetery one day will no longer contain death. In Christ, there ultimately is no death, no pain, no fear. Like Christ, we shall rise, remade holy and indestructible, ready to live forever in the presence of our creator.

Why would we look for anything else?