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Showing posts with label Ressurection. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ressurection. Show all posts

Monday, May 23, 2022

The Ascension of Christ

Introduction
For the Season of Easter this year, I challenged you to read the book of Acts.  It's only 28 chapters.  How are you doing?  It's not to late to read the book.  Try to finish it by June 5th for Pentecost Sunday.

There are 7 Sundays in the Easter Season and then Pentecost Sunday.  Today is the 6th Sunday in Easter.  Jesus rising from the grave is such a powerful event, you can’t celebrate it all in just one Sunday.  Plus, Jesus was alive and on earth in the flesh for 40 days from the time He walked out of the


tomb until the day He ascended into Heaven.  If you’re counting, Easter was 5 weeks ago on April 17th.  That’s 35 days ago.  That means this Thursday would be the 40th day after Easter.  So, that’s the day we call Ascension Day.  It represents the day Jesus “ascended into Heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father Almighty…” as we say in the Apostles’ Creed.  It is tradition to celebrate the ascension on the 7th Sunday of Easter (next Sunday) but I will be out of town that Sunday.  So, I want to study the story of Jesus’ ascension into Heaven with you today.

Act 1:3
During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God. 

[I just want to say here that I really do believe Jesus rose from the grave.  He is alive.  The ressurection is not some nice story or symbol.  True Christians believe that Jesus literally rose from the grave.  If Jesus did not rise, then there is no point to Christianity.  But if Jesus is alive, that changes everything.  I believe Jesus is risen indeed.  How about you?]

Act 1:3-11
Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 

So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”

He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. 

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”

This World Is Not Our Permanent Home
Jesus ascension reminds us of an essential truth which we must not forget. This world is not our home.  Jesus left the glory of Heaven to be born as a baby.  He lived on Earth for about 33 years.  His public ministry was 3 years.  He lived on earth in resurrected form for 40 days.  Then He returned to His rightful place in Heaven.  

Just as this world is not Jesus home, it is not our home either (at least, not in it's current, broken form).  So let's don't get too attached to this world.  We will be leaving this place too, one day.  

I can’t help but think of graduates this time of year.  Families have been posting their graduation pictures on social media.  People are attending graduation ceremonies.  Students spend 13 years of their life attending school.  Many go on for 4 or more years of college.  Education is a huge chunk of everyone's life in our modern world.  However, school isn’t the point of our lives.  Right?  The point of education is to prepare people to live life in the real world.

In the same way, Jesus time on earth and His ministry was to prepare the Disciples and us for something important.  We have a job to do.  Jesus reminds us of our job in verse 8 – “…you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere…”

Witnesses
We are called to be witnesses for Jesus.  In other words, we are to tell people what we know about Jesus.  We are to share how He changed our lives.  We are to share the Good News that Jesus forgives sins when people repent and restores them to a right relationship with God.  

Of course, people like to point out that you can be a witness both by what you say and what you do.  And what you do is often more important than what you say.  This statement is tru, but it often serves as an excuse for people who don't feel comfortable talking about Jesus.  It's ironic.  Most people don't have a problem talking about their spouse, their children, or even an amazing destination they visited.  However, we feel uncomfortable talking about our Lord so we say, "Well, you can be a witness by what you do as much as what you say."

On the other hand, being a witness for Jesus by what you do can be very challenging.  It requires you to fight for the oppressed, clothe the naked, help the needy.  It means you must welcome the outcast and alien.  It means you must forgive people even if they don't deserve forgiveness and pray for your enemies, bless those who curse you.  It can be challenging.  Witnesses for Jesu by what you do can mean picking up a cross and carrying it and maybe even being crucified upon it.

There’s an interesting thing about this word witnesses in Acts 1:8 (and other places in the New Testament).  The original Greek word is martys.  It is actually the same word we use today for martyr.  Originally, the word martyr, which we think of as someone who died for the faith, just meant a witness.  If you had a court case, your would call your "martyrs" up on the stand to testify.  How, then, did this word martyrs come to mean what it does for us today--someone who died for their faith?  Well, the early Christians were telling people everywhere that Jesus was murdered on a cross and rose from the dead and was absolute Lord of all.  The authorities didn't like it and told them to stop or else be executed.  The Christians replied, "Kill us if you must, be we are going to be faithful witnesses!"  And many Christians were killed for continuing to tell people about Jesus everywhere they went.  And so the word that used to just mean "witnesses" took on a whole new meaning.  

You see, Christians are still called today to be people who are willing to tell people about Jesus no matter what the cost--even if it costs us our lives.

Everywhere
And we are supposed to be the witnesses willing to die for the truth everywhere.  Many of you will be going on vacation this summer.  I’ll be going on a trip this week to take my daughter to see the redwood forest.  It's a trip we planned in 2020 that was canceled because of COVID.  We are finally just now able to make this trip.  And I'm looking forward to it.  

Many of you will be taking trips this summer for vacation or to see family.  While you are away, you may be around people who don’t know anything about you.  You they don't know whether you go to church or what kind of Christian life you live.  You can do anything you want and it might not even damage your reputation because people will never see you again.  Who cares what they think about you.  (As the saying goes:  What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.)  So we need to ask ourselves, "Will you still be a witness of Jesus by what you say and do--even if you are far away from home and nobody there knows you?"  Some of the greatest opportunities to be a witness can come when we are with people we've never known before.  You may be the only person who ever talked to them about Jesus.

Conclusion
The story of Christ's Ascension ends with the Disciples starring up into heaven in amazement.  I imagine them there, with eyes gazing up at the clouds and their jaws firmly laying on the ground!  They must have stood there like that for a long, long time because a couple men in white robes had to appear and snap them back to their senses.  It’s kind of like they said, “Hey guys!  Wake up!  Why are standing here staring up into heaven?”  And the men said, “Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”

These men remind us all that Jesus is coming back.  We don’t know when, but He is coming.  How will He find you when He comes?  Will He find you faithfully doing what He told you to do?  Will He find you being a witness (a martyr completely committed to His Kingdom’s mission)?

Monday, November 1, 2021

Biblical Ghost Stories

Introduction
For Halloween, I want to share some ghost stories from the Bible.  Halloween is the abbreviated word for what was originally All Hallows Eve.  Halloween is the night before All Hallows Day, what we call All Saints Day.  Therefore, tomorrow is All Saint’s Day.  And next Sunday, we will celebrate Homecoming and All Saints Sunday (the first Sunday in November).  I hope you will come.  All Saints Day is the day Christians remember and celebrate the lives of the saints who have died and gone to be with the Lord.  Since Methodists believe all Christians, believers are saints, “the saints” includes your friends and loved one’s who have “died”.  I use the word “died”, because it is the customary word people use to describe what happens when our earthly body stops living.  However, Christians do not believe people really die when our heart stops beating.  We believe Christians have eternal life through Jesus.  Therefore, we believe when the body dies, the spirit leaves the body and goes to be with Jesus.  2 Corinthians 5:8 says, “…to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”

All the saints—Christians who’s earthly bodies have died—are now with Jesus, cheering us on as we live this life (Hebrews 12:1).  One Day, Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead and give us all a new, perfect body.  We will not be spirits or ghosts.  We will be real people, with a physical body, only it will be perfect—without sin or sickness or suffering or death.  It will be an eternally living body, just like Jesus had.  We will be like the resurrected Jesus.  Listen to this story about the resurrected Jesus and his physical body.  After Jesus had died on the cross, he rose from the grave and appeared to his disciples in a physical body.

Luke 24:36-40
And just as they were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 37 But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost!

38 “Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt? 39 Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” 40 As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet.

The Resurrected Jesus Was Not A Ghost
So we see in this, that the resurrected Jesus is not a ghost.  He has a body.  They can touch him.  He can walk.  He can even eat.  Verse 42-43 say, “They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he ate it as they watched.”

Aren’t you glad to know that we will not be ghosts in eternal life?  We will be living people with a perfect body.  We are incredibly blessed indeed by what Jesus did for us on the cross.  His death and ressurection changed everything.  He truly defeated death.  For all who put their faith in Jesus have eternal life.

We are so incredibly blessed by what Jesus did for us on the cross.  Because of His death and resurrection, we can have eternal life.  And we can know this directly from God.  God speaks His unchanging truth to us in His Holy Bible.  Not only that, but God also came to us personally in the flesh as Jesus Christ to live on earth and teach the way to life.  Jesus left the glory of Heaven and came to earth to call everyone to repentance and salvation.  Everything we need to know God and how to be saved is written in the Bible.  But if that wasn’t enough, Jesus even died and came back to life and showed himself to His disciples to prove He is the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the father, but by Him. (John 14:6)

In ancient times, people tried to hear the voice of God through witchcraft and sorcery.  They used black magic to try and conjure up the dead. God told His people, “Do not defile yourselves by turning to mediums or to those who consult the spirits of the dead. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:31).  God didn’t want His people to rely on witchcraft and frauds who take money, put on a spooky show, and pretend to hear ghosts.  If some spirit did speak to the living from the dead, how would you know if you could trust it?

God said, “I am the Lord Your God.”  God speaks to His people directly through the prophets and priest He has authorized to speak for Him.  They don't speak for money; they serve the Lord.  In the Bible, we see that if ever these priest or prophets were unfaithful, they were punished by God.  Therefore, we can depend upon the Word of God.

1 Samuel 28:5-7
In 1 Samuel 28, King Saul broke God’s command and consulted a medium to conjure up the ghost of Samuel.  Saul was desperate because God rejected him and was tearing the Kingdom from Saul to give it to his rival, David.  1 Samuel 28:5-7 says, “When Saul saw the vast Philistine army, he became frantic with fear. He asked the Lord what he should do, but the Lord refused to answer him, either by dreams or by sacred lots or by the prophets. Saul then said to his advisers, “Find a woman who is a medium, so I can go and ask her what to do.”

So God played along and allowed Samuel’s ghost to speak to Saul and the ghost said, “The Lord has done just as he said he would. He has torn the kingdom from you and given it to your rival, David.” (1 Samuel 28:17).  God had already told this to Saul when the Samuel was alive.  God already spoke, but Saul didn’t like the message.  Isn’t that just like people?  When we hear a truth we don’t like, we go looking for someone else to tell us something different.

Well, you don’t have to consult a ghost to tell you what you need to know.  God has already told you in the Bible.  And if there’s anything else you need to know, God gives us His own Holy Spirit to be our guide.  However, it requires you to put your faith in Christ, that you follow Him as Lord, and give Him your full allegience.

Jesus told a parable to teach that everything we need to know the truth about God and the way to eternal life is written in the Bible, but many people still will not listen. 

Luke 16:19-26
19 
Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. 20 At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. 21 As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores.

22 “Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to sit beside Abraham at the heavenly banquet. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and he went to the place of the dead. There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side.

24 “The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.’

25 “But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.’

“There Is A Great Chasm Separating Us”
We see in this a description of the afterlife.  Those who are faithful find grace, forgiveness, and salvation in Jesus Christ and are rewarded with peace and comfort in the presence of God.  These are the saints we remember and celebrate on All Saints Day.  Those who reject God in this life suffer eternal torment and separation from God.  And there is a great chasm in the afterlife that cannot be traversed that separates the faithful from the unfaithful.

Luke 16:27-29
27 
“Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. 28 For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’

29 “But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’

The Bible is Sufficient
Here we see an important truth.  Everything we need to know to find eternal life with God in Heaven is already written in the Bible.  “Moses and the prophets” are the books of the Old Testament.  Are you reading and studying this Book? Are you listening and living accordingly?

Luke 16:30-31
30 “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’

31 “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Jesus Rose From the Grave
“If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.”

And yet, just in case, as an extra measure of abundant mercy and grace, God did indeed send someone back from the dead in order to make sure we get the message.  What did Jesus say?  What was His message?  He said, repent of your sins and be forgiven.  “Unless you repent, you will perish.” (Luke 13:5).  And He said, “Follow me and be my disciple.” (Luke 5:27).  And He also said, “Go and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matthew 28:19).

In the parable, rich man was concerned after he died and was in torment about his five brothers who were still alive.  He wanted someone to warn them.  Who do you have in your life you want to be saved?  You better tell them about Jesus now while you still can.

Closing
So, in closing, what do you need to do today?
Do you need to hear Jesus message, while you are still alive, saying, “Repent of your sins and return to God”?  Do not delay.  Get your heart right with God today.

Do you need to make a commitment to Read God’s Word, the Bible, more faithfully?  If you want to hear God speaking to you, if you want to know what you should do and how you should live, it is all written here.  You don’t have to consult a ghost from the past.  You don’t need a fortune teller to tell you the future.  You need to read and listen to the Word of God in the Bible and obey.  God will be your guide and you can trust Him and Him alone.

The saints are in glory with God cheering you on (Hebrews 12:1).  They want you to succeed.  But you must decide how you will live your life today.  Only you can choose. 
So make your choice.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Love Never Gives Up

Introduction
If you followed football yesterday, you may know that Ole Miss beat TN.  Alabama beat Mississippi State.  Georgia beat Kentucky. Auburn beat Arkansas. LSU beat Florida. GT beat Duke.

You know, in a football game, there often comes a certain moment in a game where the tide turns for your team and the game is no longer winnable.  You can sometimes gauge when this critical moment comes, because you may see fans start leaving the stadium.  They know their team is beat at this point.  So they start leaving to get ahead of the traffic.

If you’re a true fan, you may hold on to hope.  You may think, “That’s Ok.  We can still get this back.”  And you’re rooting for your team and you’re hoping that they will retake the lead and win the game.  Then, the opposing team get’s another score.  And you’re frustrated.  But it’s still not over. You still believe—because you’re a true believer.  You believe your team can still pull out a win.  But the time is ticking off the clock and soon your down to the final minutes.  And you’re hoping beyond hope that your team can still do it.  Maybe you’re thinking, “If they get the ball back, and this happens and this happens… They could still do it. It’s possible!” You start running through different scenarios in your mind.  “It may take a miracle, but it’s still possible!”  But then the clock is down to the last minute, then the last seconds, and all your timeouts are gone…

I remember watching a few football games with my dad and older brother as a young kid, I would always be the last one to give up hope.  Dad and Nelson were older and knew the game better.  They could read the writing on the wall when the game was lost.  But I was young and na├»ve and I loved our team and was full of hope.  I would hold on till the last seconds.  But then our team would lose.  It was inevitable. 

Well, that’s football.  But love, according the 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, love is another story. Love never gives up.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

The City of Corinth
This passage is from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  The Corinthians lived in Corinth, an important port city in Greece.  Corinth was especially important because it was located on the isthmus of Corinth—a narrow strip of land separating the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf.  Ships could be carried over land about four miles on a special paved road made just for moving ships.  It saved a tremendous amount of time and money and was much safer than sailing 185 miles around the treacherous Peloponnesian peninsula.  Corinth’s strategic location made it a very wealthy city, and with it’s wealth also came debauchery.

Ancient Corinth was the home of the temple of the goddess, Aphrodite—the Greek goddess of love.  It was said that the temple employed 1,000 professional prostitutes to “help” the people “worship” Aphrodite.  (I guess that's one way to get people to church!)  

By the time Paul wrote his letter, Corinth had been taken over by the Romans, who converted the Temple of Aphrodite to the Temple of Venus (the Romans name for the goddess of love).  Both Aphrodite and Venus “are known for their jealousy, their beauty and for their affairs with both gods and mortals.”[i]

Study notes in the The MacArther Study Bible say, “Even by pagan standards of its own culture, Corinth became so morally corrupt that its very name became synonymous with debauchery and moral depravity. To ‘corinthianize’ came to represent gross immorality and drunken debauchery.”

Despite Corinth’s centuries of sin and debauchery and corruption of the virtue of love, God did not give up on them.  God sent Paul to Corinth in AD 49 or 50.  According to Acts 18:11, Paul spent 18 months discipling a group of new Christians who then formed the Corinthian church.  God is always working to save people and bring them back from the brink of destruction.  And it doesn’t matter how far gone they seem to be, God still cares.  We see this clearly in the Corinthian church.  From a city as wicked as Corinth, God established a group of Christians to be a beacon of God’s light.

But they still had a lot to learn.  The Corinthian church had some severely warped ideas of love—no wonder; they were a product of a city that worshipped the so-called “goddess of love” that taught love was only a carnal, consuming thing.  Paul wrote about the One True God’s love that is demonstrated in Jesus self-sacrificing love on the cross.  And Paul wrote “Love is patient and kind.”  It had to teach the Corinthians that real love is not jealous like the so-called love of Apphrodite or Venus.  And love “is not boastful or proud or rude.” So they shouldn’t fight amongst themselves about who was the most important or who was more spiritual or who was in charge.  And today we’re learning that “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful…” just as God never gave up on the Corinthians, despite their centuries of wickedness and sexual immorality and moral corruption.  God's love neve gives up and it changes people's live and even changes the whole world.

John 3:16
John 3:16 is probably one of the most well-known verses in the whole Bible, and for good reason.  John 3:16 could be a summary of the entire story of the Bible.  “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

The whole story of the Bible—from beginning to end—is the story of God’s love that “never gives up, never loses faith, and is always hopeful” that people will turn from their evil ways and return to a love relationship with God.  Throughout the centuries, while God is reaching out to people to beckon them to come back to Him, God is also setting up His plan to save the whole world.  The ultimate message of God’s love is given through Jesus Christ.  In Jesus, God came in the flesh to show the world His love.  He came teaching people the truth about how to live.  His presence brought healing and life—everywhere he went, the lame were made whole, the blind could see, and the deaf could hear.  Leprosy and deformity and demonic possession were banished.  And so, hoping beyond hope, God reached out to fallen humanity.  There is a way to heal your spirit!  There is a way to be made whole again!  There is a way to be saved!

And there was a tremendous sense of hope.  The Disciples followed Jesus.  And crowds of people heard his teachings and saw his miracles and they believed.  Could this be the Messiah who was sent to save us, even when it seems all hope is lost?

But They Crucified Him
Jesus came in love, but we crucified him.  Can you imagine the disappointment of Jesus’ disciples and followers?  Jesus was love.  He was hope.  They put all their faith in Him.  And then He was brutally murdered on a Roman cross.

Roman crucifixion was the most painful, humiliating, degrading way to kill someone.  It was intentionally designed to make a bold statement to anyone who dared challenge Roman rule.  Crucifixion’s message was: “We own you.  We can do whatever we want to you—any of you.  It doesn’t matter if you are a peasant, a religious leader, a king, or even supposedly a messiah or god, we can strip you naked and beat you to a pulp and nail you to a cross and hang you up to die and agonizing death that will take days while everyone watches in horror—including your mother.”

If ever there was a moment in history when the game was lost, it was on the Friday they nailed Jesus to the cross.  And I don’t care who you were or how much faith you had, everyone who saw Jesus die new the game was over.  Love had lost.

Some cried bitter tears.  Some got angry and cursed Jesus and spat on him.
Some just left, because they knew the game was over. Some ran away in horror and hid in shame.
Some just stared in disbelief.
How could this happen?  How can evil triumph over good?  What do we do now?

There’s a certain point in a football game that’s the point of now return—when the game is lost and there’s no hope to win.  But football’s just a game.  What do you do when it’s real life?

What do you do when the marriage really is over and ends in divorce?
What do you do when your son’s addiction finally takes him?
What do you do when cancer wins?
What do you do when the game clock of real life finally says zero and it really is over?
What do you do when Jesus is really dead?

A Childlike Faith
Jesus was dead and buried in a tomb.  A stone was rolled over the door. 
Soldiers guarded the entrance.  No one was going to get in. 
But Jesus was going to come out!  On the Third Day, Jesus rose from the grave!

With God’s love, true love, divine love, there is always hope.  1 Corinthians 13:7 says, “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful…”  Love never fails.

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:15)

Children often have more faith than adults.
Adults know better.  We know how the game of life works.  We know when the game is over—even if the clock hasn’t finished running out.  We think we know when all hope is lost and how it will all end.
But children believe in magic.  They believe in hope.  They still believe in miracles.
And God can work through miracles.  He saved the world through a miracle.
Jesus was dead, but then He was alive!
Jesus can save you with a miracle.  

So, we need to be mature and use our intelligence, but we also need to keep our childlike faith.
“Humanly speaking, it may be impossible.  But with God, everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Invitation
I want to tell you something though. 
Sometimes you've got to lose before you can win.
Sometimes you've got to die before you can rise to new life.
There may be something you've got to let go of before God can give you something new.
Do you trust Him?
Open your heart. 
Let go. 
Let God do a new thing in you.



[i] http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/culture-miscellaneous/difference-between-aphrodite-and-venus/

Monday, April 12, 2021

Seeing is Believing?

Introduction
For our messages over the last couple of months, we’ve been comparing the conventional wisdom of our world with what Christ actually said.  

Today, we conclude this series with the common expression “Seeing is believing.”  Seeing is believing means you need to see something before you can accept that it’s real. 

We live in the age of science.  Most people don’t believe in silly superstitions anymore because science has shown them to be imaginary.  Furthermore, we know talk is cheap.  How many times have leaders made promises and not followed through?  Talk is cheap.  Seeing is believing.

One state in our union even made the philosophy “seeing is believing” their state motto.  In 1899, Representative Willard D. Vandiver said, "Frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I'm from Missouri. You've got to show me." This led to Missouri being called the “Show Me State”.

Maybe we could all do with a little more of the Missourian’s common sense.  It seems like some people will believe anything.  A little skepticism may help guard you from being so gullible.  But what did Jesus say?  Did Jesus subscribe to “seeing is believing”?

Last Sunday was Easter.  We celebrated the incredible ressurection of Jesus Christ.  He was crucified, dead, and buried in tomb.  On the third day, he rose and appeared to His disciples.  Today, we read John 20:24-29.

John 20:24-29
24 
One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”

26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”

28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.

29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

Jesus is Alive!
(and patient with our skepticism)
I sort of feel bad for Thomas.  First of all, he missed it the first time the resurrected Jesus appeared to the disciples.  Thomas must have been out doing errands and when he gets back the other Disciples are all like, “Jesus is alive!  And he appeared to us!” Thomas must have been like, "Great and I missed it!"  In all seriousness, Thomas understandably doesn’t believe their fantastic story.  He says, “Unless I see it for myself, I won’t believe it.” 

I probably would have said the same thing.  After 20 years of church ministry, I seen enough supposed miracles turn out false to make me plenty skeptical.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve also seen countless answered prayers and legitimate miracles of God.  But I've also seen enough illegitimate ones to give me a healthy dose of skepticism. Furthermore, I've seen enough duplicity in people to make me wise enough not to accept everything or everyone at face value.

And—let’s just be honestif all the other disciples started claiming something as fantastic as Jesus coming back from the dead, a lot of us would be like Thomas.  We might even use the expression: “seeing is believing”.

That’s why I love that Jesus showed himself to Thomas.  He didn’t leave Thomas out.  He came back to visit His Disciples when Thomas was with them.  And to Thomas, he’s like, “Here I am.  You need to see it to believe it.  Go ahead.  Look at me.  Touch me.  Feel the scars.  It really is me.” 

Jesus is patient with Thomas’ skepticism.  He helps him. And I think Jesus is patient with our skepticism too.  He understands.  We live in an age where much leads us to be skeptical.  Jesus understands.

However, Jesus also knows the value of faith—deep faith.  Faith is critical, and because Jesus loves us, he doesn’t want us to miss out on the full power of faith.  He even told Thomas and the Disciples something in verse 29 that we need to take to heart.  He told them, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.

Seeing is Believing vs. Believing is Seeing
Have you ever thought of all the things in life you believe without seeing?

When you heat up your leftovers for lunch in the microwave, do you really know how it all works?  Probably not, but you trust that it will.  You press start and the magic light comes on inside the box and heats up your food.  

How about when you use your computer to connect to the internet.  If you are really smart, you may understand how it works in theory, but really you just have faith that it will do it's computer thing when you need it too.

You probably don't give it a second thought that your brakes will work when you drive in a car.  One minute you are hurdling down a road at 60 miles per hour and the next you press the pedal to slow to a safe stop.  You have faith your brakes will work.

We believe these things work the way they are supposed to because someone who knows better than us told us.  We believed them and we trusted the these machines.

Have you ever thought about the kid of faith it takes to go to the grocery store?  I grilled hamburgers for dinner the other night.  My wife went to the grocery store and walked up to the meat counter.  She picked up a styrofoam container wrapped in cellophane.  Inside was some mushy red ground flesh called ground beef.  Why are you able to take that bloody meat home and cook it and put it in your mouth and chew it and swallow it?  Perhaps it's because you trust the food from the grocery store is safe.  We believe because we trust the grocer has kept that meat safe and sanitary.  Or maybe it's because we trust the Food and Drug Administration (FDA )has monitored our grocer and ensured they did the right thing.  Now think about that for a minute.  You trust a government agency to ensure what you put in your mouth is safe.  Government and their agencies have not always had a stellar record of being trustworthy.  Let that sink in for a minute.

We live a lot more of our lives by faith than we realize.  We put our faith in people, products, companies, and even the government.  Hopefully these are worthy of our faith.

When it comes to religion, in whom do we put our faith?  Christians are known in the Bible as “Believers”.  In whom do we believe?  

Sometimes, people put their faith in a pastor.  (Listen, I'm a pastor and I know my own heart.  It’s a scary prospect to think of people putting their faith in fallible pastors.)  People will often put their faith in a church or a denomination.  All of these have proven to be unworthy.  Through the centuries, we have seen corruption and the abuse of power in these organizations.

True Christian faith must be in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  The most reliable witness we have to Jesus is the Bible, which we call the Word of God.  John 3:16 says, “…everyone who believes in him [Jesus] will not perish but have eternal life.”  And in John 16:9, Jesus said, “The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me.”

I appreciate that the NLT says "refuses to believe in me."  People are capable of believing.  We live by faith and believe in things all the time.  However, when faced with the choice to believe Jesus or not, very often people refuse to believe.

Would you be skeptical of Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the Word of God who was with God in the Beginning, who gave life to everything that was created and whose life gave light to everyone? (See John 1:1-4)  Would you doubt Jesus’ own word in the Holy Bible while at the same time you trust the FDA, your grocer, and even the mechanic who fixes your car’s brakes?

The resurrected Christ showed himself to Thomas, the other Disciples.  In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul writes Jesus had appeared to more than 500 people.  That’s a lot of people, but the vast majority of Christians over the centuries have accepted Christ’s ressurection by faith and not by actually seeing.  We are able to see Jesus is alive because we believe what the Bible says about him and this opens our hearts to know He is walking with us in all of life's circumstances.

Faith Makes All Things Possible
In Mark 9:23, Jesus said, “Anything is possible if a person believes.”  Have you ever thought of all the incredible things accomplished over the centuries because someone believed it could happen when no one else believed? 

500 years ago, no one really believed people could fly.  Then in the early 20th century, the Wright brothers switched from making bicycles to flying machines.  That made one that could fly only a few hundred yards.  Today, we have airplanes that can fly anywhere in the world and people travel all over through the air.

On hundred years ago, no one really believed a man would walk on the moon.  Then in 1969, we had "One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind."  For the first time ever, a human foot touched down onto the dusty surface of the moon.

In 1966, the TV series "Star Trek" debuted.  People were amazed at all the fantastic, futuristic gadgets they portrayed--things they believed people might only way off in the distant future.  They had things like personal handheld communicators (cell phones), hand held computers (tablets and smart phones), and voice activated computer ("Hey Siri...")  I wonder what crazy, outlandish, impossible inventions will become a reality next al because someone imagines it and has a vision and faith that it is possible even if everyone else says it's impossible.

How can a high school senior face graduation and an unknown future unless they believe that somehow, they can do it and a bright future lies ahead of them?

How can a wife and husband reconcile a broken marriage if they don’t believe it is possible (if only through the help of God)?

How can an addict become sober if they don’t believe it is possible through the help of a Higher Power than their own?

How can NICU nurse care for a 2 pound baby born 3 months early unless they believe that somehow, that child full of tubes and IVs can make it and live to have an incredible life if only her caretakers believe it is possible?

How can a cancer patient find healing through a incredibly difficult chemo treatment without faith that it might just work?  Or how can they hope to face death if the treatment doesn’t work unless they have faith that their is something more to life than just death?

How can a person work through the grief of losing someone they really care about without faith that somehow the future hold more than just sorrow and tears and darkness and loneliness?

There are countless real-life examples of times when faith is essential to help people imagine a better future despite their current situation. 

Seeing is believing is not enough.  Sometimes, we just can’t see it until we believe.

If you are from the Dalton area, you may remember how on April 5th, 2013, Coahulla Creek High School student Hannah Locke was in a terrible car accident that left her paralyzed.  Her tragedy and also her faith and determination have inspired countless people.  Her journey has not been easy.  For some, it would have been impossible, but Hannah’s faith helped her do the impossible.  Though Hannah is still in a wheel chair, she is a living example of how faith can motivate and inspire a person to live their best life despite tragedy.  Hannah is now married (Hannah Mackenzie Reed) and expecting a child. 

Hannah's faith has inspired so many.  In a recent public Facebook post, Hannah shared this: “As I reflect over the past 8 years, I can’t help but to think about how immensely blessed I have been. While these 8 years have brought trials & tribulation, frustration & heartache, it has also brought growth, perseverance, and immeasurable joy. If it took these 8 years to bring me to where I am today, filled with the peace that only comes from God, full of love for life and the people in it, and full of thanksgiving for the many blessings, I would do it all over.”[i]

Faith makes Hannah's positivity and progress possible.  Faith is absolutely essential for us all.

Conclusion
Today, I invite you to trust Jesus.  His Word is trustworthy.  You may be wise to be skeptical of some things or people in this world.  However, you can always trust Jesus.  Put your faith in Him today and let Him save you.  

And one more thing.  Don't let your skepticism about people or other things in this life cripple your potential.  There will always be disappointments and let downs. But don't give up.  Keep having faith.  It's worth it.