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Friday, June 29, 2018

The Resurrection of the Body and the Life Everlasting

 The Resurrection of the Body and the Life Everlasting
 
These last few weeks we have been discussing basic Christian beliefs as they are expressed in the Apostles’ Creed.  Today we will discuss one of the main Christian beliefs – the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. 
 
The Apostles’ Creed
 
I believe in God, the Father Almighty
Creator of heaven and earth.
 
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, died, and was buried:
He descended to the dead.
On the third day He arose again:
He ascended into heaven,
And is seated at the right hand of the Father.
And will come to judge the living and the dead.
 
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
The holy catholic church,
The communion of saints,
The forgiveness of sins,
The resurrection of the body.
And the life everlasting. Amen.
 
 The Apostles’ creed was confessed by the early Christians and by Christians down through the ages.  Before a person was baptized, he or she needed to believe and confess this short list of essential Christian beliefs stated in the Apostles’ Creed.  Today, we will be discussing what happens to us when we die!  Will I be around after death?  Is there something more?  Will Jesus come again?  Is there an afterlife?  To these questions the Apostles’ Creed answers a definite YES! 
 
The Bible speaks about a place called Sheol, where people would go after they died.  Jesus and the Scriptures teach that there will be a final judgment at which time the dead will be raised, and the dead will be brought before the judgment seat of Christ, who will be their Judge. Scripture says that Christ holds the keys of hell and of death. (Revelation 1:18) The books will be opened at this Final Judgment and everyone will be judged by what they have done in their lives. All those who are not found in the Book of Life will not enter heaven. Some will be granted eternal life, while others will be cast out into a realm of “weeping and gnashing of teeth”. (Luke 13:28) (Revelations 20:11-15) 
 
The Bible tells us that if we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and follow Him that His righteousness covers us, and our sins are washed away.  (2 Corinthians 5:21) We will no longer be judged by our own actions, like those at the Final Judgment, since our faith in Christ will change all of that.  (Romans 5:1-5: Romans 3:22: Galatians 3:6-8)
 
Perhaps these many people standing around the Final Judgment seat of Christ are all the people who never had a chance in life to accept Christ.  And also, all the people who openly rejected Christ.  It seems that these people at the Final Judgment are judged by a different standard than the Bride of Christ or the Church is judged – because believers have Christ’s covering of righteousness over them.  All of the amazing promises of eternal life found in Scripture are for the believer.  Here are some of these promises of life after death found in the Bible.
 
Scripture tells us that, “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (Isaiah 25:8) And Paul writes: “We know that if the earthly tent (our dying body) we live in is destroyed, we have a building (our eternal body) from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”  (1 Corinthians 5:1)
 
Jesus promised: “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in Me will live, even though he or she dies.  Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.”  (John 1:25-26) We believe in life beyond death because Jesus died and rose from the dead.  And He promises us: “Because I live, you will live also.”  (John 14:19) Jesus addresses our fear of death and gives us a peace that sustains us in the face of death and pain. 
 
Scripture tells us that Jesus will return to this earth and bring an end to history as we know it!  The Bible says: “The Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)   
 
The Bible also says: “A thousand years are like a day.  The Lord isn’t slow to keep His promise of returning, as some think of slowness, but He is patient toward you, not wanting anyone to perish but all to change their hearts and lives.  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  On that day the heavens will pass away with a dreadful noise, the elements will be consumed by fire, and the earth and all the works done on it will be exposed.” (2 Peter 3:8-10)
 
 
No one knows the day our Savior and Lord will return- and we who belong to Him want to be ready to meet Him, whenever that day is. We are can be ready to meet Christ by trusting daily for His grace and by trying to follow Him and counting on the Holy Spirit to lead us. This world will not continue as it is forever.  When Christ comes as He promised, evil, suffering, sin and death will be defeated and will be no more.
 
When Christ brings an end to the world as we know it, then what will heaven be like?  Scripture says: ”God has prepared things for those who love Him that no eye has seen, or ear has heard, or has entered the imagination of any human being” (1 Corinthians 2:9)   Since heaven is beyond our imaginations and more than anything that can be described, we can only trust that God, our heavenly Father, who loves us and brought us into this world, can bring us into the next world too. 
 
 
The Bible describes a feast taking place in heaven: “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.  And He will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations: He will swallow up death forever.  Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.”  (Isaiah 25:6-8) 
 
This passage of Scripture tells us that Christ will destroy the shroud of death that is cast over all people and the sheet of death that is spread over all nations.  Scripture also says: “God Himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  Death will be no more.  There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.  Then the One seated on the throne said, ‘Look! I am making all things new.”  (Revelation 21:3-5) Death and sin and sickness and sorrow will be no more.   
 
We have now finished our study of the Apostles’ Creed.  Do you believe these Christian truths found in this creed?  In the end we make a choice to believe.  If you are not yet a Christian, I invite you to believe and to trust in this set of truths that Christians have professed for nearly two thousand years.  Build your life on this foundation and take a leap of faith.  Because of your faith, your life will be changed.  I promise you.
 
 
Most of the ideas in this blog were taken from Adam Hamilton’s book, “Creed, What Christians Believe, and Why” Chapter 6, “The Resurrection of the Body”.    
 
  
 

 
 


 
 




 
 
    
 
 
 
 



 
 
 
     
 

 
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Saturday, June 23, 2018


I Was a Stranger and You Took Me In



I Was A Stranger and You Took Me In
 
In the Jewish Torah, and also in the Bible, God is calling His people to take in the stranger and the alien.  And to make room for the refugee.  In Leviticus 19:33-34 God commands His people: “When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him or her.  The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born.  Love him or her as yourself, for you once were aliens in Egypt.  I am the Lord your God.” 
 
Four thousand years ago, when God gave this command to the Israelites, they were living in a society that was very different from ours today.  The ancient Israelites lived in a communal society where everyone was supposed to work for the common good of the tribe.  And God was their ruler. (Later they wanted an earthly ruler like all their neighboring tribes.). The Israelites who had more than enough were expected to share with those who were hungry or needy. At least that was the way God, their ruler, had commanded them to be. 
 
God spoke to the ancient Israelites through their prophets and taught them that everything they had was a gift from Him.  Their land belonged to God, along with their crops, and their lives.  They didn’t “own” anything since everything belonged to God. Scripture tells us that greed was (and still is) considered a great sin. Down through the ages most of the wars and the miseries that go with war were all caused by greed. When the Israelites followed God and gave Him their lives, He blessed and protected them.  They didn’t need to be greedy for things because God gave them everything they needed.  He even healed their diseases.  But when they became greedy and mistreated the poor and forgot their God, well that was a different story! 
 
Today capitalism is the way most industrialized nations do business. We value individualism, wealth, power and competition and we find it difficult to understand some of God’s commands to the communal nation of Israel so long ago. We believe in private property and we think that everything we have and own belongs to us.  We believe that we are self-made men and women and we are proud of what we have achieved, often never thinking that God gave us the abilities to achieve. We take care of ourselves first and let the devil take the hindmost. The more luxuries we acquire and the more money we earn, the better!  We compete and show off and we believe that greed is good. The person with the most toys wins!  And we dare to call all of that “Christian”??
 
When we modern folk experience large groups of desperately poor people trying to come across our borders to live and work in our communities, we fear that if we move over and let them in, we will have less.  We have worked for all we have, and we are afraid that we might have to give up some of our comforts to accommodate these “lesser” people.  We feel we are better than the poor refugee since we have money and they don’t.   
 
But God calls His people, the “Church” to take up our cross and follow Him.  And following Christ means to do what He asks us to do and to “feed His sheep” (John 21:17). Following Jesus means to give to the poor if we are able. Give up our claim to running our own lives and give our lives to Him.  Trust God to take care of us when we obey Him and open our hearts to the poor and desperate. The “Church,” like ancient Israel, belongs to God, and is called to follow and obey God.  It is a walk of faith, not sight. The things that charm the world so much– money and power, are not to run our lives. We are to be humble as Jesus was humble. Our lives belong to Christ and we will be guided and blessed, as ancient Israel was guided and blessed when they obeyed.
 
Scripture says that we cannot serve God and money.  Matthew 6:24 says: “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other.  Or she will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money.”  Scripture also says that when we  live for ourselves we won’t be blest.  Jesus spoke these words written in Matthew 10:39. “Whoever finds his life shall lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.” 
 
Matthew 25:31-46 records a scene in the future when Christ comes again in glory with His angels.  All the nations of the world are gathered around Him on His throne and He divides them into two groups – the sheep and the goats.  He puts the sheep on His right side and the goats on His left.  Scripture tells it this way: “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat.  I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink.  I was a stranger and you invited Me in.  I needed clothes and you clothed Me.  I was sick, and you looked after Me.  I was in prison and you came to visit Me.’ 
 
The righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you?  Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite You in?  Or needing clothes and clothe You?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go visit You?’  The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for Me.’ 
 
Then Jesus will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels, for I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat.  I was thirsty, and you gave me nothing to drink.  I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in.  I needed clothes, and you did not clothe Me.  I was sick and in prison and you did not visit Me. ‘ 
 
They will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help You?’  And He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’  They will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”   
 
Loving others means learning to live for others as well as for ourselves. Jesus calls us to love God with all our hearts and all our minds and all our souls and to love others as ourselves.  (Luke 10:27) Loving others means serving, helping, forgiving and being merciful. Let’s pray and ask God to open our hearts and help us love Him and others the way He wants us to.  To help us be the sheep and not the goats.
 
 


   

 

 
 

 
 
 





Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Forgiveness of Sins


The Forgiveness of Sins
 
These last few weeks we have been discussion basic Christian beliefs as they are expressed in the Apostles’ Creed.  Today we will discuss one of the main Christian beliefs – the forgiveness of sins.  Here below is another copy of the Apostles’ Creed.
 
The Apostles’ Creed
 
I believe in God, the Father Almighty
Creator of heaven and earth.
 
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, died, and was buried:
He descended to the dead.
On the third day He arose again:
He ascended into heaven,
And is seated at the right hand of the Father.
And will come to judge the living and the dead.
 
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
The holy catholic church,
The communion of saints,
The forgiveness of sins,
The resurrection of the body.
And the life everlasting.  Amen.
 
The Bible says that “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  (Romans 3:23) All of us have sinned and all of us need forgiveness. Sin can enslave us and rob us of joy.  The lure of sin over-promises and under-delivers.  In the last seventy-five years, hundred of millions of people have died because of wars, greed, terrorism, racism, lack of food and health care and more.  And the causes of all these can be attributed to sin. 
 
 
Scripture tells us that we cannot enter heaven with our sins.  We and every other sinner would quickly turn heaven into hell if sin were allowed to be there and grow.  We need someone to wash us clean and make us new.  Someone to forgive us and change us.  And God in His love and mercy has provided that very One for us.  Jesus Christ who washes us and makes us clean! Scripture tells us that His blood cleanses us from our sins.  “The blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) 
 
 
I love this story in the Bible about the importance of Jesus washing His followers: “Jesus got up from the meal, took of his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.  He came to Simon Peter, who asked, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”  Jesus answered, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”  “No”, said Peter, “You shall never wash my feet.”  Jesus answered: “Unless I wash you, you can have no part with Me.”  “Then Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “Not just my feet, but my hands and my head also.” (John 13:4-9)   Along with Peter, you and I also need Jesus to wash us and make us clean.  Or we will have no part with Him. 
 
The Bible also tells us that Jesus does not only take away our sin, but He also covers us with His righteousness.  What an amazing exchange!  Our sin for His righteousness!  2 Corinthians 5:21 says: “God made Him (Jesus) who had no sin, to be sin for us, so that in Him (Jesus) we might become the righteousness of God.”  Amazing! “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (1 Timothy 1:15)
 
Scripture tells us that God is rich in mercy and abounding in steadfast love. (Psalms 103:8, 145:8, Joel 2:13, Exodus 34:6) Jesus revealed a God who is more willing to forgive than we are to ask for forgiveness.  After Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus told His disciples, “The forgiveness of sins must be preached in My Name to all the nations.” (Luke 24:47)   The word “forgive” means “to release” We are asking Christ to release us from the burden of guilt and sin. 
 
 
God is the God of second chances.  Jesus died to redeem you.  God offers you new life.  We need to turn from our sins and ask God to forgive us – and to allow Jesus to wash us –  to cover us with His righteousness. To become a Christian.  
 
Because God forgives our sins, He commands us to forgive others of their sins.  In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”  (Matthew 6:9) 
 
Forgiving others is not the same as saying that what he or she did was all right.  But forgiving is choosing not to hold on to the wrong done to us, or to hold it against the other person.  Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean that we release the one who sinned from all the consequences of their sin.  There are legal consequences to crimes.  God doesn’t want us to carry bitterness in our hearts against another person or persons.  Forgiveness is a central part of the Christian faith. 
 
 
When we recite the Apostles’ Creed and confess that we believe in the forgiveness of sins, we are affirming that God is willing to forgive our sins.  And that we are willing to try to turn from our sins. That we are asking God to forgive us of our sins. And we are willing to try to obey Christ’s call to forgive others of their sins.  I believe in the forgiveness of sins.
 
 
 
 
Many of the ideas in this blog were taken from Adam Hamilton’s book, “Creed, What Christians Believe and Why”  in his chapter “I Believe in the Forgiveness of Sins”
 
 
 


 


 



 
 
 
 




 
 
 
 

 
 


























Friday, June 8, 2018

The Holy Catholic Church and the Communion of Saints


The Holy Catholic Church and the Communion of Saints
 
In these last few blogs we have been discussing basic Christian beliefs as they are expressed in the Apostles’ Creed. Today we will discuss one of our main Christian beliefs – the holy catholic church and the communion of saints.  Here below is another copy of the Apostles’ Creed.
 
The Apostles’ Creed               
 
I believe in God, the Father Almighty
Creator of heaven and earth.
main
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, died, and was buried:
He descended to the dead.
On the third day He arose again:
He ascended into heaven,
And is seated at the right hand of the Father. 
And will come to judge the living and the dead.
 
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
The holy catholic church,
The communion of saints,
The forgiveness of sins,
The resurrection of the body.
And the life everlasting. Amen.
 
The definition of the “church” has nothing to do with a church building!  The Biblical definition of the “church” is the community or group of believers in Christ as the Son of God and Savior.  Jesus said this: “Where two or three of you come together in My Name, there I am in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20) The church is not a building with a group of religious people in it.  Gods’ Spirit is alive and moving in the church (the group of believers who are open to Him.) Scripture also says that the church is the bride of Christ.  The mystical body of Christ.  And the church belongs to the Lord. (1 Corinthians 12:27, Revelations 21:9-10, Matthew 18:20) Ephesians 5:32)  
 
The Apostles’ Creed calls the church “holy”.  Many people don’t view the church as holy.  Many folks stay away from church because they think the church is full of hypocrites and judgmental people. And they are sometimes right about that. The word “holy” in the Bible doesn’t mean perfect.  The word “holy” means “belonging to God” or “set apart for” God.  Christians are not perfect people, they are broken and sinful people who are slowly being made well.  But they are “set apart for God.”
 
And the Apostles’ Creed calls the church “catholic”.  This does not refer just to the Roman Catholic Church, but to all Christian churches as well.  The word “catholic” means “universal”, or “everywhere”.  It was a reminder of the church’s unity.  Every group of Christian believers around the world are bound together in Christ.  Despite differences in nationality or language or customs, all Christian church groups all over the world are part of the one universal Church.  All are part of the body of Christ.  Scripture says: “We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jew or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” (1 Corinthians 12:13) 
 
 
Jesus prayed that God would make His followers one, as He and the Father are one. (John 17)
Jesus calls His followers to love one another, forgive one another and not judge one another.  Even though we don’t live up to what Christ has called us to be, we are all part of one universal Church! Since the church belongs to the Lord, the job of every local church is to pray and discern what Christs’ will is for that church and then to do it. 
 
 
The Bible tells us: “Let us believers not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25) We need each other to grow spiritually.  We need to care for other believers and we also need to be cared for by our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need other “saints” to encourage and challenge us.  We all need to work for the good of one another and for the good of our communities.  We are all called to spread the gospel of Christ to the world.  (Matthew 28:18-20) Scripture says: “Carry each other’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”  (Galatians 6:2)
 
 
The church that loves Christ is not a human invention.  The Christian church is founded by God, not by humans. And the church needs you as much as you need the church.  Scripture says: “You are the body of Christ and parts of each other.”  (1 Corinthians 12:27)   God has a place for you and a mission for you to fulfill in His church.   Jesus said: “As the Father sent Me, so I am sending you.” ((John 20:21) Right after Jesus said that, “He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (John 20:22) The presence and power of the Holy Spirit is all important to the church in fulfilling her mission in the world.     
 
 
The church has a mission.  And we as Christian are to be part of that mission.  Jesus told His followers: “You are the light of the world.  A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden …Let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good works and praise your Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:14,16) The “light” is Jesus, but since we belong to Him, we have His light within us.  And we are to let His light shine out of us and not cover it up. We are His hands and feet.  The church is the continuing presence of Christ in the world.  We are to help push back the darkness.  We are to spread the light or gospel of Christ.
 
When the Apostles’ Creed speaks of “the communion of saints” it is important to know that the word “saints” in the Bible means “all Christians”.  The Catholic Church refers to a “saint” as a Christian who has been canonized after death.  But in the New Testament the word “saint” means a believer in Christ as Savior and Lord.  It means “One who belongs to God”. Most Christians are very ordinary people who have yielded their lives to God. 
 
 
The Bible teaches us that we sinful Christians are in the process of being transformed through the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.  (2 Corinthians 3:18) When we pass from this life to the next, the Holy Spirit will finally complete the work of sanctifying us.  In heaven we will be what God intended us to be.  And when we see our loved ones in heaven, they also will be what God intended them to be.  Scripture says that after death we will be changed and covered in Christ’s righteousness and we will not sin any more in heaven.  All of us will be perfected in love. 
 
 
When Jesus came He called out His disciples to form a community, or a family, chosen to love and follow Him and continue His work in the world.  We are not called out by God to be individual stars or to be competitive and shine on our own. God’s church is not a “competition” of saints, but it is a “communion” of saints. We are bound together as members of God’s family – the church. Those believers who have gone before us to heaven and we who are still living on earth.  We, the church, are all part of the mystical body of Christ.  I believe in the holy, catholic church and the communion of saints!   
 
 
Most of the ideas in this blog were taken from Adam Hamilton’s book, “Creed, What Christians Believe and Why” Chapter 4, “The Church and the Communion of Saints”.
 
 


 

 

 
 
 
 
 

 


 



 
 
 

  
 

  
 
 
 







 
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