Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Sunday: "Life after Death"

Here are the notes from yesterday's message at New Life Community Church.  It was Easter morning and the message was "Life after Death."  If you would like to listen to this message, you may do so by going to our website at God bless!

Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014
 “Life after Death”

It’s Easter Morning.  We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus!  Just a few notes as we begin.  To a degree this is a SYMBOLIC celebration.  We aren’t sure this is the exact anniversary of the resurrection of Jesus.  This is not like the 4th of July or Cinco de Mayo.  The exact date is not so as important as the fact of what happened:  Jesus Christ rose from the grave! 

19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. 20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  I Corinthians 15:19-20 (NKJV)

Question:  Anyone here ever had your computer to crash?

Video about Computer Crash

Seems like the end of the world.

“Technology comes making promises and stays making demands.”

Disciples felt that way but worse.

Picking up the pieces.

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.  46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.  Matthew 27:45-50 (ESV)

51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”  Matthew 27:51-54 (ESV)


about the worst thing that could happen.

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.  I Corinthians 15:1-5 (NIV)



38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.  John 19:38-42 (NIV)

Matthew indicates that the tomb was owned by Joseph of Arimathea.


After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.  There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.  The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he layMatthew 28:1-6 (NIV)

Problem:  differing versions of the same story.

Illustration:  car accident

Matthew has Mary Magdalene and Mary; Mark adds Salome; Luke has a woman named Joanna, John just tells it from the perspective of Mary Magdalene. 




The angel sat on the stone.  What's going on here?
Why did they roll the stone back?
Not so Jesus could get out, but so we could get in … to see that He is not there.


But, let’s back up a little to find out about the Disciples.  Where were they?

But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.  Matthew 26:56 (NKJV)

Matthew 26:56.  “Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.”
CONTRADICTION IN TERMS:  All the disciples – followers stopped following
1.      Forsook.  Gk. Aphiemi.  To send away, dismiss, emit, resign, depart, desert.
2.      Fled. Gk. Pheugo.  To flee, take flight, escape.
3.      Interesting sidelight:
a.       Forsook is a participle
b.      Fled is an aorist past tense indicative
c.       Could be translated “forsaking Him, they fled.”
d.      Their hearts departed and their bodies followed suit.
e.       Forsake speaks to the reason.
f.       Fled speaks to the action.

Illustration:  Movie Open Range.
Standoff between Charlie Waite and Boss Spearman vs. Denton Baxter.

One by one, Baxter’s men cut and run.  Boss Spearman shouts, “Baxter, looks like you’re losing your army.”

PRINCIPLE:  Your body follows your heart.  We freak out when we see someone DO something we call “out of character”.  The truth is they are acting out what has already happened inside them.  It can be a momentary crisis or the culmination of a lifelong battle.

Steps in Grief Management

First Steps to Life after Death

1.     STAY together.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  John 20:19 (NIV)

2.     BELIEVE again.

When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.  Mark 16:11 (NIV)

While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”  Luke 24:41 (NASB)

When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.  Matthew 28:17 (NKJV)

3.     Overcome FEAR.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  John 20:19 (NIV)

4.     HEAR what He SAYS.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  John 20:21-22 (NIV)

The best is yet to come!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Violence of Prayer

One Year Bible
New Testament passage for Wednesday, April 16, 2014:  Luke 18:1-17

1 Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’  Luke 18:1-3 (NKJV)

Corrupt Politicians

In His parables, Jesus occasionally describes an unsavory character.  The unjust judge of Luke 18 is one of the worst.  Political corruption has always been around, but in this parable it takes on a personal flavor.

The judge described in Luke 18 was not a believer.  It was said of him that he "did not fear God nor regard man" (18:2).  This means he was an arrogant individualist who couldn't care less what God or his fellow man thought.  He was rough and hard.

From history we learn that this judge could not have been Jewish.  He was a Roman magistrate of some sort. The Jews did not actually have judges but rather three-man councils from among their own elders.  We also learn that the Roman magistrates/judges were exceedingly corrupt.  They doled out "justice" based on the highest bribe or ripest power bargain.  One nickname for them was "robber judges."

This widow came to the judge with neither money to bribe or power to barter.  She represents all those who are poor and defenseless before their adversaries.  She had nothing to offer but her own pitiable condition. She is just like many of us who face a cold, uncaring, cruel world.

The Secret Weapon

She did have one secret weapon -- her persistence.  She was unrelenting in her cries for help.  She unashamedly pounded on the judge's door at all hours.  She WOULD NOT STOP.  She was like the neighbor's little dog that keeps yipping and nipping at your heel.  You can kick it, but it still keeps coming back!

The judge finally gave up and gave in.  He said, "OK!  She keeps troubling me -- I'll give her justice 'lest by by continual coming she weary me'" (18:5).  The Greek word for "weary" indicates far more than physical exhaustion.  It is upopiadzo, and could be translated, "beat me black and blue."   In fact, the NIV translates this phrase "so that she won't eventually come and attack me!"  The literal translation is "hit me in the eye."

Bad Judge -- Good God

At this point Jesus' parable shifts.  The reason He told this story was so that we not lose heart in our praying (18:1).  Jesus uses a bad judge to contrast with a good God.  If low-life judges finally respond to persistent requests, how much more with your Heavenly Father "avenge" those who call on Him?

There is something about God that loves for us to be persistent before Him.  He will answer "speedily."  That means He will always be ON TIME.  "Speedily" does not mean we can push His buttons and immediately out pops the ice cream. It means He will dispatch our best answer to arrive at just the right time.

Give the Judge a Black Eye

There is a VIOLENCE in prayer.  That may sound strange, but you will find it throughout Scripture.  Jacob wrestled with an angel all night long (Genesis 32:24-30).  David agonized in prayer throughout the Psalms. Even Jesus sweat blood in Gethsemane (Luke 22:44).  According to this parable, there is a "black and blue" element to "getting justice from our adversaries" (18:3).

The lesson is faith and persistence.  Martin Luther, the great Reformer, once said, "Prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness."  Jesus calls us.  He loves for us to "cry out day and night to Him" (18:7).  That's exciting!  That's powerful!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

God's Kingdom Near You

One Year Bible
New Testament passage for Tuesday, April 15, 2014:  Luke 17:11-37

20 Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”  Matthew 17:20-21 (NKJV)

Jesus was constantly shocking those who listened to Him.  He still shocks us today.  Men come asking life-questions, and His answers turn us on our heads.  

Here's a quick example:  a Jewish rabbi once came to Jesus investigating His miracles.  Jesus insinuated that this good man needed to back up and start his life all over again -- to be "born again" (John 3:3-8).  It shocked Nicodemus, and took the conversation in an entirely new direction.

In Luke 17, the Pharisees came to Jesus asking about the great climactic arrival of the Kingdom of God. Jesus' answer confused them.  It still causes people to scratch their heads even today.  He told the Pharisees that they were looking in the wrong place. They were looking for a dramatic revolutionary invasion by God that would throw out the Romans and re-establish Jerusalem as political capital of Israel.  

That's the human dilemma -- the problem we all face.  We're usually looking for answers in the wrong place! It's like the old Johnny Lee song "Looking for Love" -- (in all the wrong places). It may be the right question, but we need to wake up and be ready to hear the right answers.

Jesus told them that the Kingdom of God had already arrived and they did not have eyes to see it. They were looking for a whole set of observable signs when, all along, God was showing up in a totally different way.  He told them, "the Kingdom of God is WITHIN YOU."  What does that mean?

There are two answers often given by biblical scholars.  First, Jesus was saying the Kingdom of God is INSIDE YOU.  It is internal -- a matter of the heart.  Second, Jesus was referring to Himself.  He was saying, "the Kingdom of God is AMONG YOU, walking around in your midst."

I believe both interpretations have validity.  The real point, however, is that THEY COULDN'T SEE IT. They did not recognize the way God was working in their lives and in their world.

We ought to pray as Paul did in Ephesians 1:18:  that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know ..."  In all likelihood, the answer to your deepest prayer is not far from you right now. You just need the ability to see it.  Jesus said it this way:  "The Kingdom of God is at hand..." (Mark 1:15).  The Kingdom is within you and all around you.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Traps, Trials, and Hurdles

One Year Bible
New Testament passage for Monday, April 14, 2014:  Luke 16:19-17:10

Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come!   Luke 17:1 (NKJV)

There is an unrealistic view of life that can float among Christians.  I think it has its origins in idealistic promises made about the Christian life.  We tell someone, "Come to Jesus and He will solve all your problems; you will have nothing but love, joy, and peace forever."  While this is certainly God's ultimate will, the practical truth is that for now life continues to be filled with challenges and difficulties.

Jesus said it this way, "It is impossible that no offenses should come" (Luke 17:1).  That's the "King James-y" way of saying, "Bad things still happen."  It is inevitable that stumbling blocks will clutter our path.  The word for "offenses" in the Greek New Testament is skandalon, which refers to the bait stick that holds up a box trap.  Life is filled with traps to ensnare us.  It can be as simple as distraction or as serious as destruction.

Every follower of Jesus must learn how to handle traps, trials, and hurdles.  They are coming!  It's part of the path.  Jesus never promises absence or avoidance of difficulty; He promises power and presence IN the difficulty.  While conflict and challenge may be uncomfortable, they are prerequisite for proven character (see Romans 5:3).

So, what traps surround you now?  What road-blocks seek to derail you?  What hurdles seem too high to overcome?  Jesus knows that in a fallen world, the path to eternal life is littered with pitfalls.  He makes His power available to us so that we can run the race well.  That's not a false promise; it is a real one.  The hurdles are not there to stop you.  They are your next step toward ultimate victory.

Monday, April 7, 2014

"Heart Hurdles" 4th message in series Dinner with a Perfect Stranger

Here are the notes from the message at New Life Community Church for Sunday, April 6, 2014.  Fourth in series DINNER WITH A PERFECT STRANGER, entitled "Heart Hurdles".  If you desire to listen to this message, you may do so by going to our website at  God bless!

Dinner with a Perfect Stranger, 4                                                                  Sun., Apr. 6, 2014
 “Heart Hurdles”

Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, … and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’  Matthew 22:4 (ESV)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  James 1:2-4 (NIV)

Blaise Pascal:  “The heart has reasons that reason cannot know.”

21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.  Matthew 15:21-28 (ESV)

1.     God KNOWS.

The story of Hagar and her son Ishmael.  She was badgered by Sarah and finally driven out into the desert.

She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”  Genesis 16:13 (NIV)

One of the worst parts of any trial is ISOLATION.

Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.”  Job 1:8 (NLT)

Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil. And he has maintained his integrity, even though you urged me to harm him without cause.”  Job 2:3 (NLT)

2.     God LIMITS the TRIAL.

“All right, you may test him,” the Lord said to Satan. “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” So Satan left the Lord’s presence.  Job 1:12 (NLT)

“All right, do with him as you please,” the Lord said to Satan. “But spare his life.”  Job 2:6 (NLT)

No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.  I Corinthians 10:13 (Message)

3.     Seek to GROWTH not VINDICATION.

E.M. Bounds:  “The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men.” 

One of the hardest lessons is to be MISUNDERSTOOD.  Job had 3 “miserable counselors” (Job 16:2).

4.     The “WHY” isn’t always clear.

C.S. Lewis:  “That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, "No future bliss can make up for it" not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.” 

5.     We EMERGE when we LEARN what God is teaching.

I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.  Job 42:5 (NLT)

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.  Hebrews 11:6 (NLT)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Best People in Town

One Year Bible
New Testament passage for Sunday, April 6, 2014:  Luke 11:37-12:7

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them.”  Luke 11:44 (NKJV)

Jesus' Strongest Rebukes

Jesus was unrelenting and unflinching in His negative evaluation of outward, hypocritical religion.  His words are scathing.  The strongest rebukes of Jesus' ministry do not go to the Roman invaders, nor to the prostitutes and thieves.  They go to the best people in town -- at least by outward appearance.

It's a warning to us.  The Pharisees started out as sincere as anyone can be.  They fell into a spiritual trap.  They knew their Bible.  They had spiritual mileage under their belts.  They even felt they had sacrificed for their relationship with God.  

The Fatal Flaw

But Jesus exposed their fatal flaw.  They ceased trusting God and began trusting their own pedigree.  As a result, they majored on...

...the SHOWY

Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.  Luke 11:43 (NKJV)  The admiration of others became everything to them.  

...the SINFUL (hidden)

Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness.  Luke 11:39 (NKJV)  While looking pure on the outside, they carried dirt on the inside.  


“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.  Luke 11:42 (NKJV)  In Matthew 23:24, Jesus said it another way.  The Pharisees "strained a gnat but swallowed a camel."  It's called selective obedience.


When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner.  Luke 11:38 (NKJV)  Ceremonial washings were symbolic of something deeper.  If you separate the ritual from what it stands for, you are left with lifeless religion.

Religion Stinks

Clean and unclean were huge in Old Testament Judaism.  In an endeavor to be the cleanest people in town, the Pharisees became the dirtiest.  It was not outwardly obvious, but underneath the slick exterior was a stinky interior.  Jesus said it was like an unmarked grave.  

Old Testament law (Num. 19:11-22) stated that anyone touching a dead body or a grave became unclean -- unable to enter worship until ceremonially cleansed.  The Pharisees were like a walking graveyard, defiling everything they touched.

We Need Cleansing

Have you ever stepped in dog dookie and didn't know it?  The smell follows you around.  That's something like the Pharisees' condition.  They carried to stink of religion -- the smell of "unclean" -- all the while thinking they were the best people in town.

The answer to hypocritical religion is heart-felt relationship with God.  Like David, we pray, "Cleanse me, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow" (Ps. 51:7)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Nature Abhors a Vacuum

One Year Bible
New Testament passage for Saturday, April 5, 2014:  Luke 11:14-36

24 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. 26 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”  Luke 11:24-25 (NKJV)

"Nature abhors a vacuum."  So postulated the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle. If this is true in the natural world, it is also true in the spiritual.  Nothing is as dangerous as an empty soul.

Jesus tells the tough story of a man who only majored in the NEGATIVES.  First off, the poor guy is under demonic attack.  A bit of good news comes his way.  He gets set free.  Delivered!

The expelled demon wanders aimlessly around for a while but decides to re-visit his old home.  The demon finds the former house "swept and in order."  EMPTY!    With delight, the demon decides to throw a party -- a house warming (no pun intended), and invites seven of his fellow demons.

In the end, the man is worse off than at the start.  Even though he had a powerful deliverance and, for a while, was FREE, he ends up more demonized than ever.

The man is a picture of people who go HALF WAY.  They only deal with getting bad things OUT OF their life, but never go on to getting good things INTO their life.

True Christianity is not built on NEGATIVES.  It is not a matter of what you stop doing.  It is a matter of what you start doing.

Paul addresses this in Ephesians 5:18 when he says, "And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit."  The first part is NEGATIVE:  don't get drunk!  But the more important instruction comes next:  Be filled with the Spirit.  That's POSITIVE.

Nothing is as dangerous as an empty soul.  Men and women everywhere are constantly striving to fill the void (vacuum) inside.  Life can be a succession of swapping one addiction for another.  The end result is never satisfying.

It really doesn't matter how many wonderful spiritual experiences you have had in the past.  What is filling your soul today?  If you fill it up with the love of God, with truth and light, with peace like a river, God says He will give you more of the same.  If you remain empty, just remember: nature abhors a vacuum.

Jesus sets a table before us and invites us, "Come, eat and drink to the full!"