Monday, April 23, 2018

Trials and Tests Part One

Say you went to get into your car and had a flat tire this morning. Is that a trial?
You found out the thing the doctor removed is cancerous. Is that a trial?
You got a call from your bank and your credit card is being used to buy furniture in Mexico City. Is that a trial?
You bent down to pick up the morning paper and couldn’t straighten up? Is that a trial?
Your daughter called and your son-in-law just lost his job. Is that a trial?
Then she says, the two of them and your six grandkids, four dogs and a parakeet are moving in with you. Is that a trial?

What’s a trial? A trial is simply an event that causes a disruption to our lives. Something that just happens, ordinary to life. But it presents to us a decision for how we’ll handle it. How we handle the trial becomes a test.

A test is an opportunity to see what choices we’ll make under certain stresses: how we’ll respond and what the outcome of our response will be. A trial is neutral and cares nothing about the outcome, but the test, brought on by the trial, is intentional and has a specific purpose.

The test is usually a simple pass/fail, not a percentage of how much we get right. In school 70% was considered average. It was acceptable. But throw your grandson up into the air and catch him only 7 out of 10 times. How acceptable is that?

Satan intends to influence us to fail the test. God wants us to pass. So within each trial are opportunities for our downfall or for our success. Our response determines the outcome.

During a trial, Satan will take advantage of us through temptation. His goal: to weaken our resolve to remain faithful to God—to get us to sin against God.

James 1:13-14 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. His own compulsions.

Key word is enticed: lured.

We know his objective is to kill, steal or destroy, but Jesus told Peter how he might accomplish that in his life: Luke 22:31-32 "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers."

How would Satan sift Peter like wheat? By tempting Peter in an area where he is prone to defeat. Peter is an easy target because of his arrogance, aggressiveness and explosive personality. All Satan has to do is suggest to Peter to act like Peter and he’ll pretty much take Peter down in failure.

During our trial, do we give Satan an easy target for temptation? Satan starts poking us in that sensitive area where we struggle, encouraging an unguarded response. Cussing out the paperboy for throwing the paper in the rosebush. Panicking when the doctor suggests we have a serious problem. Having a meltdown when we crash through the gate at the entrance to Bentwater.

Trials are neutral. They are an intrusion into our lives, sometimes just an inconvenience, other times life-threatening. But regardless of how intense they are, Satan will use them to defeat us, leaving us condemned, guilty and oppressed.

But God will also use trials. For Him they create an opportunity for us to demonstrate faith by trusting Him. He uses them to help us grow. James said: James 1:2-4 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

When God uses a trial, He’s giving us a faith exercise to help create endurance, strengthening our trust muscles, to help us better depend on Him, regardless of the severity of the trial.
  • A flat tire isn’t a big deal, but handled wrong it can bring out our ugly side.
  • A personality clash isn’t a big deal, but unchecked it can destroy friendships.
  • A bad result from a medical test can be a big deal, but it doesn’t have to ruin our lives.

God doesn’t plan everything that happens, but in everything that happens God has a plan.

Jer 29:11-13 'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

It’s a plan to get you through the trial. This doesn’t mean you’ll fold your hands and say “Verily, verily,” as your car careens off the road. I’ve thought of how I’d like to go out. I think I’d like to go out like my grandfather in his my sleep. Not like the passengers in his car screaming as he drove off the edge of the cliff.

I will still react to the suddenness of a trial. Maybe physically, maybe emotionally, but especially spiritually. But how we deal with it is our choice.

Tolstoy: “We cannot prevent birds from flying over our heads, but we can keep them from making nests in our hair. Similarly, bad thoughts sometimes appear in our mind, but we can choose whether we allow them to live there, to create a nest for themselves, and to breed evil deeds.”

Flight preparation info: if the cabin loses pressure, a mask will drop down from the ceiling. Place it on your face and breathe normally. Maybe after I’ve screamed all the oxygen out of my lungs. And breathe normally?

Trusting God’s plan doesn’t take all the emotions out of my trial. It won’t make the pain go away. But it will give me an assurance I’m not going through this alone. God has a plan and I don’t have to lean on my own understanding in order to get through.

There are trials that happen just because things happen. Within the trial comes the test. The test is how I will respond. While Satan uses the trial to break us down by tempting us to sin, God uses the very same trial to build us up by providing an opportunity to trust Him.

How do we respond? We commit our works and ways to the Lord by rolling the burden of that trial over onto the Lord.

So there are trials that produce tests. There are also tests that produce trials. These are deliberate events brought on by Satan’s devious activity as he prowls about maliciously targeting us for temptation. Or they can be God’s intentional desires designed for our ultimate benefit.

When there is an area of our life that needs some work, God will orchestrate circumstances that allow us to focus on that area.

A guy isn’t listening to his wife. God says, let’s turn up the heat in that marriage to show that husband what he’s doing wrong.

The other day, Jan came into the living room and yelled, “Have you not been listening to anything I’ve been saying?” I thought: that’s an unusual way to start a conversation.

When God sees an area in our life that needs refining, reshaping, tweaking, filing down, He creates a situation that takes us to the very spot that needs attention.

Now, if Job is a friend of yours, don’t be offended. Job was a good man but he had a place within his heart that made him think God owed him for how good he was. He worked hard at maintaining that place.

The story of Job isn’t about how to suffer. It doesn’t teach patience other than the fact that Job didn’t kill his friends for their stupid comments and insensitivity to his pain. It isn’t a textbook on how to deal with difficult times. It is the story of a man seeking answers for why he’s suffering and his four friends who suggested he look where they find their answers. That makes it a highly important book. It asks us: Where do we find our answers for how we deal with difficult things we’re facing?

In whatever you’re going through, go with the upward lift. Seek God’s wisdom. Ask Him to show you what all of this means and how you’re to handle it.

It may just be a trial, ordinary to life, but with opportunities to remain faithful to God. If so, surrender it to Him.

It may be a test, specifically designed by Satan to defeat you or by God to fix an area of weakness in your life. If so, surrender it to God.

Either way, our approach is the same: commit your life issues (your works and ways) to the Lord, rolling the burden of the trial or test over to Him. I must believe God holds the answer for what I’m going through.

  1. Trusting God without reservation is a challenge.
  2. How we are conditioned to deal with our problems often fights against trusting.
  3. A drowning man cannot be saved until he quits fighting to save himself and submits to his rescue.
  4. When we submit to God, He changes us, our circumstances, or both.
  5. But, as long as we trust in our own opinions rather than seek the wisdom of God, we will never find the answers that turn the trial or the test into blessing.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

A rather unexpected life correction came to me recently when I discovered Longhorn bulls and cows both have horns. In my mind, that’s just not right. It’s like seeing a woman with a full beard. Then I researched and found there are other species in which the females also have horns or antlers. Reindeer, antelope, some sheep and goats. But if you’re like me and all your life you’ve told the difference in bulls and cows by who has horns and who doesn’t, you now find yourself rather confused.

Sometimes words do that to me. For example there is a word translated commit in the OT. Easy word to define and understand. But when that same word is also translated roll in other verses, I’m scratching my head and looking at female cows with horns.

In the story when Moses met what would become his new family in Gen 29:7-8 He said, "Behold, it is still high day; it is not time for the livestock to be gathered. Water the sheep, and go, pasture them." But they said, "We cannot, until all the flocks are gathered, and they roll the stone from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep."

The word is roll as in roll the stone from the mouth of the well.

In the story of Joshua and the nation of Israel taking possession of the land, Josh 10:16-18 Now these five kings had fled and hidden themselves in the cave at Makkedah. It was told Joshua, saying, "The five kings have been found hidden in the cave at Makkedah." Joshua said, "Roll large stones against the mouth of the cave, and assign men by it to guard them,

Roll large stones against the mouth of the cave.

But, listen to how they translate it in Prov 16:3 Commit your works to the LORD and your plans will be established.

It’s the same in Ps 37:4-5 Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him and He will do it.

So with two seemingly unrelated uses of the same Hebrew word, I need to find how they work together.

The reason you would roll a stone over the opening of an artesian spring would be to hold in the water. Like placing a weighted lid over its opening. Rolling a stone against the mouth of a cave is to hold in the kings who were hiding inside.

The use of the word emphases the keeping factor of a stone rolled in place.

Our NT picture is: Matt 27:59-60 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away.

After a funeral service we typically have an interment. We call it a grave site service. The old word was a committal service where we committed a body to the grave. In Jesus’ story, the stone was rolled over the opening to secure the tomb, to keep or commit Jesus’ body to His grave.

The image of rolling a stone is to hold or keep something securely in place. So how does the word commit connect?

What is a commitment? Giving allegiance to or surrendering some aspect of your life to someone or something. When we commit to a diet, we give ourselves to it. When we commit to our marriage, we give ourselves to it. When we commit to a project, we surrender ourselves to its success. When we commit to help someone, we give them our time or surrender our calendar.

When Solomon and David used this word when they wrote of committing our ways and works to the Lord, they must have had in mind – to take our concerns or life issues (what’s going on in our life—our works, or what direction our life is headed—our ways) and roll them over into the custody of the Lord for Him to hold or keep them.

God, here is my issue. I entrust this issue to You. I give You my confidence that You will do what’s best. I surrender the burden of this issue to You and receive Your peace. My life, my concern, is in Your hand.

Interesting that nowhere in the Bible will you find we are to surrender our whole lives to the Lord outside of Salvation. In Salvation we give ownership of our lives to the Lord. If we have done that, He already possesses our lives.

1Co 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

Paul acknowledged God’s ownership, but said the reality of that ownership is to be worked out within us as we yield more of ourselves to the Lord.

Rom 6:16-18 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey…

Commit is an action word, not a decision. It is probably better understood by the word surrender:

Dr. Josef Tson, Romanian pastor, author, and president of the Romanian Missionary Society who survived years of persecution and exile under cruel Communist rule was asked his perception of American Christianity. He said the key word in American Christianity is commitment. This is not good. As a matter of fact, in Romania we do not even have a word to translate the English word commitment. It is a modern word. When a new word comes into usage, it generally pushes an old word out. Commitment replaced the word surrender. What is the difference between commitment and surrender? When you make a commitment, you are still in control, no matter how noble the thing you commit to. One can commit to pray, to study the Bible, to give his money, or to commit to automobile payments, or to lose weight. Whatever he chooses to do, he commits to and he remains in charge of it. But surrender is different. If someone holds a gun and asks you to lift your hands in the air as a token of surrender, you don’t tell that person what you are committed to do. You simply surrender and do as you are told…  

We give our lives to Him once and for all, but we commit our lives to Him regularly as we surrender our works and ways [what’s going on in our lives and where our lives are heading] to Him and trust Him for the outcome. For us to commit, we must surrender the issues of our life to Him.

Years ago the Firestone Tire Company used the slogan – Where the Rubber Meets the Road. It was an effective ad campaign because it had multiple applications. Real tires on a real road was only one of them.

Meaning: the place where the rubber tire meets the road is:
·         Where the tire comes in contact with the road.
·         Where the tire proves its value in keeping the car under control.
·         Where the tire demonstrates what it says it can do, by actually doing it.
o   A soldier can train all day, but the battlefield is where the rubber of that training meets the road of action and he proves how well-trained he is.
o   An athlete can brag all he wants about how good he is, but the game is where the rubber of his boasting meets the road of action and he proves his bragging was true or false.
o   A person can say they are trusting God with a problem but until the weight of that concern is actually rolled off of them and onto Him they haven’t done so. It’s just words. That’s where the rubber of faith meets the road of the action of trusting.

Where the rubber meets the road is where a commitment become real. It’s the point where what I have surrendered is placed in the Lord’s hand.

On July 4th, 1776, John Adams said in an address before the Continental Congress: "Live or die; sink or swim; survive or perish; I am committed to this Declaration of Independence. I am committed, and if God wills it, I am ready to die that this nation may be free." Words of a surrendered man.

An officer stood before the 1987 graduating class of the Nebraska State Patrol Academy and said, "Gentlemen, commitment distinguishes the true Trooper. If you cannot commit to the duties and disciplines that distinguish the State Patrol, then don’t wear the badge." Words of a surrendered man.

Now, when the tire revolves, only a small portion of the tire, a little larger than your hand, is all that touches the road. That’s called the contact point. The goal is to keep the tire touching the road at that contact point.

What happens if we don’t?
·         If we allow something to get between the tire and the road we can lose traction.
o   Water – hydroplaning
o   Gravel or sand
·         If we try to go too fast we might outrun the tires ability to maintain stability.
o   Over or under react and we might lose control
·         If we try to take a corner harder than conditions suggest we may give ourselves to other forces.
o   Losing grip
o   Can’t make the curve

Let’s tie all this together: The place where I surrender my works and ways to the Lord is where I have declared God’s faithfulness in my behalf. Anything I let get between that surrender and God becomes an enemy of my faith. My job is to maintain touch with the Lord, by reminding myself He is keeping what I have surrendered to Him.

Paul told Timothy: 2Ti 1:12 I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to keep what I have entrusted [committed, surrendered] to Him until that day.

What would my surrender look like from Heaven’s viewpoint?

Ps 121 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains. From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever.
This is where the rubber of my commitment meets the road of my life. It is the place where I stand, confident God is in charge and will do what’s best. He will not treat as unimportant whatever we have rolled onto Him.

  1.  Commit means to roll onto the Lord my works and ways, my concerns and life issues.
  2. This is not a one-time moment but an on-going promise I am making to continually trust God.
  3. If the burden returns, it is because I have allowed something to get between my promise and God’s faithfulness.
  4. To take my burden back from Him, I must admit I can no longer trust God to handle the issues of my life.
  5.  My alternative: I can carry the burden or roll it back onto the Lord.

Cast your cares upon Him for He cares for you.

Monday, April 9, 2018

His Pain Our Gain

We’ve heard the slogan: No pain, no gain. I have one that says: No nappy, no happy. We know it means without effort you won’t get the results you’re hoping for. If the exercise doesn’t strain you, you won’t benefit. If the experience doesn’t challenge you, you won’t grow.

When Jesus faced the cross, even though He knew what He would gain for us, He became distressed about the pain. The night of His betrayal, He took His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives to pray.

Matt 26:39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will." What cup?

Later that night when the mob came to arrest Him, He said to Peter: John 18:11 "Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?" What cup?

Earlier, Jesus had been approached by James’ and John’s mother. Matt 20:21-22 And He said to her, "What do you wish?" She said to Him, "Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left." But Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?" What cup?

It’s obvious we’re not talking about a literal cup. It was a metaphor. Dr. King used the word when he said: “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” What’s in the cup affects the life. By drinking from it, we are surrendering to what’s in the cup.

That’s what Jesus was praying for—surrender. Stanley Jones said: “Prayer is surrender to the will of God and then cooperation with that will. If I throw out an anchor from a boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to God.”

In Jesus’ case the cup was a symbol of identity with the Father’s will. The cup represents the moment we are presented with the challenge to accept what God wants to do or carry us through and by drinking we give ourselves to it. For Jesus His cup held the cross.

Paul used the word when telling the Corinthians not to compromise themselves: 1Cor 10:20-21 The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons…

They were compromising their commitment to God by adding an allegiance to idols. They wanted to belong to both God and the world of paganism. Just add God into the mix. Paul drew a line between the two. You cannot be in two places at one time. You cannot ride two horses with one saddle. You can’t accept God’s will and keep the will of some idol in your back pocket in case you don’t like what God has in store. They were going to have to choose.

Elijah told the people on Mt. Carmel, "How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him." 1Kings 18:21

They were straddling the fence. One leg dangling on each side with no real commitment to either side. He asked them: On which side of the fence do you belong? Then get off the fence and go there. “But I’d like to keep my options open.”

That’s called hedging their bet.

Hedging your bet is trying to protect yourself against loss by supporting more than one possible result or both sides in a competition: not burning your bridges by choosing only one way. Cheering for both teams so whatever happens you’ll go home a winner.

Drinking the cup of the Lord means we decide what God has for us is best and then we abandon ourselves to it. No contingency plan. No hedging. No keep my options open just in case I want a way out.

In 1519, Captain Hernando Cortes of Spain conquered Mexico and the Aztec Empire. He was going against a nation of 5 million people with less than 1000 soldiers. Cortes was so committed to winning, that he ordered his soldiers to destroy their own ships so they could not retreat, fall back or escape. It was a case of succeed or die. This strategy created total commitment, high motivation and it worked.

Drinking the cup means we must let go of the life we prefer to enjoy the life we have been given.
·         It’s going all in, no reserve.
·         It’s playing the hand dealt you.
·         It’s dancing with the one who brung you.
·         It’s a boxer answering the bell regardless of what stands against him.
·         It’s a shepherd boy going into the valley to take on a Goliath.
·         Or as our Israeli guide told us: A dog’s gotta do what a dog’s gotta do.

It’s saying, regardless of how I feel or how things look, regardless of what I’d rather do, regardless of the fear I have for what’s ahead…nevertheless, not my will but thine be done. I will drink the cup of the Lord and trust Him for whatever comes.

But drinking the cup doesn’t bring instant results. There is a meantime. Just like Jesus, the clock starts running but it may take a while before the answer comes. That’s the time between agreeing, submitting, asking, crying out and receiving God’s gain. The meantime is often where the agony starts. Not always physical but often more emotional and spiritual. I have entrusted myself to God and nothing’s happened yet. Why?

Old Vance Havner called it the Great Not Yet. The great not yet can be filled with pain, darkness, sorrow, misery, questions, disappointment, doubt. But even within the great not yet there is the anticipation that what God intends is on its way. Even in exercise, pain is often a sign that gain is coming.

God had Paul write Phil 1:6 so we’d know what was going on during this Not Yet time: For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to the right conclusion.

What is God doing while I’m in the Great Not Yet? Bringing about the right conclusion.

When Jesus took the cup, He knew what it meant for Him: pain, humiliation and the spectacle of His torture. But He also knew what He would accomplish for us when He drank of the cup. His day of pain would produce our lifetime of gain. He knew the Father was working through His pain to bring about the right conclusion.

We probably won’t know what our suffering is all about until it’s over. A former professor at Dallas Seminary was in a private airplane crash. He was badly injured and bruised beyond recognition. When his wife saw him, she didn’t even know who he was. After he recovered he said, “I learned things I didn’t know I needed to learn from that crash.”

The Great Not Yet is our waiting room. It’s like the hospital where we sit, expecting them to come in at any moment and tell us we have a new grandbaby.

We use the word wait when we refer to letting time pass because we are expecting something is going to happen. It is the gap between promise and fulfillment, question and answer. But it’s not empty time.

Ps 39:7 And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You. God, I’m waiting for you to deliver, save, heal, restore, complete, mediate, answer.

Our incredible definition of faith: Heb 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Faith is belief that expects, trust that anticipates. It is our response to the truth that God is coming through for us.

Rom 8:24-25 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

That’s the Great Not Yet. The meantime where we build expectation for what’s coming. We’re not enduring or outlasting the delay. We are living in anticipation. We aren’t killing time. We are longing to see what’s next. It is where hope becomes the motivation to look forward to tomorrow—because tomorrow may hold the answer.

What do we hold onto?

1Ch 28:20 Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you…

Isa 26:3 The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.

Phil 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Sometimes stuff goes on in the Great Not Yet that feels like the lawn guy has mowed down our hedge of protection, but it’s still there!

So I can assure you today:
·         God keeps what we entrust to Him. Our lives, our kids, our grandkids
·         He will not drop the ball.
·         He will not forget about us.
·         He will finish what He started.
·         He will do what He has promised to do.

What are you facing? What’s in the cup God has handed you? Whatever it is, consider it good, because in it you will learn: the will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not sustain you.

Ps 30:5 His anger is but for a moment but His favor is for a lifetime; weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.

Lam 3:18-23 So I say, "My strength has perished, And so has my hope from the LORD." Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. But this I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope: The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

Like Jesus, don’t live in the defeat of Friday. Nor in the darkness of Saturday. Live in the anticipation of Sunday.

1.       If God is good then everything that comes from God is good.
2.      Accepting God’s good often places us in a season of waiting for that good to show up.
3.      Waiting is a great time to strengthen our faith by reminding ourselves to keep looking to the Lord.
4.      Within a speck of faith you’ll find more hope to trust God than a whole mountain of challenges.

5.      God never pours more into our cup than He can handle.

Monday, April 2, 2018


I don’t usually begin on a sad note like this, but sometimes we need to pause and remember what it’s is all about. Larry LaPrise, the Detroit native who wrote the song "The Hokey Pokey", died at age 93. I’m told he died peacefully and that he led a full and happy life. Still it was a difficult time for the family. It was especially difficult for the funeral home to get him in the casket. They put his left leg in he put his left leg out...

Two thousand years ago they had a similar problem in Jerusalem. They thought they could put truth in a grave, but it wouldn’t stay there. They thought they could nail it to a cross, wrap it up in winding sheets and shut it up in a tomb, but it was coming out. The grave couldn’t keep Him. Death couldn’t hold Him. The stone couldn’t stay put. Jesus was coming back alive!

The problem was, He had told them He would rise again and that made the Chief Priests and Pharisees nervous. Here’s there story: [p. 993] Matt 27:62-64 Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, and said, "Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I am to rise again.' Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, 'He has risen from the dead,' and the last deception will be worse than the first."

To justify their opposition they called Jesus a deceiver. In their minds He was a sorcerer who had tricked the people by what He claimed and what He did. The last deception would be the resurrection. They had to oppose it because they knew the resurrection would prove that everything about Jesus was true.

Matt 27:65-66 Pilate said to them, "You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how." And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.
Seal – melted wax that was placed on the outer wall and the stone with rope between them so that if the stone was moved the rope would pull out of the wax leaving evidence somebody got in.
Let’s see what happened: Matt 28:1-10 Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him 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 has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you." And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me."

Usually our focus is on the women. What about the guards? Matt 28:11-15 Now, while they [the women] were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, "You are to say, 'His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.' And if this should come to the governor's ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble [death]." And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.

And thus started the debate—did the resurrection really happen?

Lee Strobel was a journalist/lawyer who wrote for the Chicago Tribune. He was also a devout atheist. When his wife became a Christian, he spent two years researching to prove the resurrection never happened. He couldn’t and instead became a believer.

Josh McDowell, a man who went through Lee Strobel’s discovery about a decade before puts it this way: “After more than 700 hours of studying this subject, and thoroughly investigating its foundation, I have come to the conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the ‘most wicked, vicious, heartless hoaxes ever pressed upon the minds of men, or it is the most fantastic fact of history.’” 

Josephus, first century Jewish historian wrote: Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, [if it be lawful to call him a man;] for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher [of such men as receive the truth with pleasure,] He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. [He was the Christ.And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; [for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him.] And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.

So what was the big deal if Jesus came back or not?

Act 5:34-39 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. And he said to them, "Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God."

The matter of the resurrection to those of the first century was: if the resurrection happened, then everything Jesus said was true. And if all of that was true, God demanded an answer from them as to what they chose to do about it.

They could ignore a dead teacher but not a living Lord. Which turns into our question: do we, like them, see Jesus still hanging on a cross or is He fully alive?

Michelangelo turned to his fellow artists and said in frustration, "Why do you keep filling gallery after gallery with endless pictures on the one theme of Christ in weakness, Christ on the cross, and most of all, Christ hanging dead?" he asked. "Why do you concentrate on the passing episode as if it were the last work, as if the curtain dropped down there on disaster and defeat? That dreadful scene lasted only a few hours. But to the unending eternity Christ is alive; Christ rules and reigns and triumphs!"

That’s what the men in Jerusalem were forced to acknowledge.

They could call Him a deceiver, delusional, demon-possessed. But as Josh McDowell wrote: Jesus is either a lunatic, a liar or Lord! No middle ground. No patronizing statements like: He was a good teacher. He was a good man. There are countless good men and good teachers. But only one Lord!
Because of the resurrection, the Jewish Leaders knew He had been validated, but couldn’t embrace the truth about who He was. You might call it the first inconvenient truth.

Jesus had tried to help them find a way to believe in Him: John 10:37-38 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father."

Joh 14:10-11 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.

Now, add to all Jesus had said and done, the resurrection. And yet they still refused to believe. Why? Something meant more to them than the truth.

Joh 5:39-40 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.

Their search wasn’t to find answers for life or to help them know more about God’s intentions but to affirm their religion – to maintain their status.

What’s behind most of the decisions in politics? Not what’s best or right but will this help get me re-elected?

We’re pretty much like that: What’s the least I can do to get into Heaven? Amazing how many people want the advantage of Jesus but don’t want the relationship with Him! They want to be a new person but don’t want to be changed.

Nothing would convince the Chief Priests and Pharisees. Jesus had told a story about a rich man and Lazarus who both died: Luke 16:29-31 But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' But he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!' But he said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'"

Well, One did rise from the dead, and they still weren’t persuaded. Look at what they missed: 2Pet 1:3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
·         If death couldn’t stop Him, there is always hope.
·         If He is seated at the right hand of the Father, there is always help.
·         If His glory has been restored, there is always a purpose and a plan.
·         If He is free from any restraints, there is always a way.
·         If He lives in our hearts, there is always a life worth living.

Receiving makes us Children of God. One man said: Do not abandon yourselves to despair: We are the Resurrection people, and Hallelujah is our song.

What’s it take to become a resurrection person? Believing it happened and then receiving what it provides.

At the Garden Tomb with our guide. He had been a life-long believer. But failed to understand belief wasn’t enough by itself. It required acting on that belief—faith to receive Jesus…to call out to Him for the gift of life.

John 1:11-12 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,

1.       The Resurrection proves the Bible is true.
2.      The Resurrection proves what the Bible Says about Jesus is true.
3.      The Resurrection proves what the Bible says about us is true.
4.      The Resurrection proves that who we are isn’t who we can be.
5.      Who we can be is fully empowered Children of God having received the gift of eternal life made available through Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.

To them, Friday was a good day and Sunday a bad day. For us both days are good days. Oh, Happy Days.