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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Rainbow in York County 4/22/14
Rainbow in York County Pennsylvania, 4/22/14
Yesterday we visited with our friend, Steve, who shared this photo his sister, Donna, had taken on Tuesday evening in York County. Click on photo for a larger version with today's Scripture text.

"The Centrality Of Christ's Resurrection"
Our Living Hope!

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"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:3-5).

Peter and Yelena Yesterday Brooksyne was visiting with Yelena, a Russian friend, who is a committed Christian. We have visited her church several times. They were discussing our various customs for Easter services and she shared that in Russian the word for Sunday is Воскресенье (Voskreseniye) meaning "Resurrection". Thus the word for Sunday reminds the Russians of the resurrection each first day of the week, just by the meaning and repetition of the word.

This week we are examining the centrality of the resurrection as expressed in each major section of the New Testament. Today we consider the centrality of the resurrection in the portion known as the general epistles and focus on a powerful introduction in Peter's first epistle. Let us especially consider the phrase, "a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."

A living hope is not static and dead but is active and vigorous in expressing itself in the hearts, minds and lives of Christians, if we keep our minds set on the things above. Paul expresses it this way, "Be joyful in hope..." (Romans 12:12). Somehow hope springs up joy within us, since it conveys the sense of not giving up.

F.F. Bruce gives this description of Christian hope... "We are refugees from the sinking ship of this present world order, so soon to disappear; our hope is fixed in the eternal order, where the promises of God are made good to His people in perpetuity."

Sadly there are scores and scores of people who have no hope. These are the kind of people that Paul wrote of in 1 Thessalonians concerning their outlook at death when he wrote, "that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope" (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Hopelessness and despair can cut off the very air we breathe and debilitate us emotionally and physically
. The great hymn writer Isaac Watts has an insightful description, "Despair tells us that difficulty is insurmountable." In fact it distorts our perspective and rarely takes us beyond the difficulty, but rather erects a brick wall in our minds so that we see no way out of the situation.

Before the cross Jesus' disciples had seen many miracles, fellowshipped with Christ daily, overcame their shadowed past, and yet they were thrust into what seemed to be a hopeless situation. Their leader was betrayed by one of their very own. Priests, scribes, and political heads, and the nameless crowd came against them. Barrabas was hailed as a popular figure and Jesus was cast as a dangerous lunatic.

Judas who allowed Satan to use him, afterward, recognized what a mistake he'd made. When he "saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders" (Matthew 27:3). When they refused his money and proceeded with plans for Jesus' death Judas saw no hope and cut his life short. His major failure consumed him which prevented him from seeing beyond Jesus'
suffering on the cross to rejoicing in the salvation He provided for a lost world.

On the other hand, Peter who also failed in his discipleship role, denied Christ. He was utterly disappointed in himself since he was adamant in his declaration the night before, "Even if I must die with you, I will never deny you" (Matthew 26:35). After the rooster crowed, "The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter" (Luke 22:61). Following his denial he went outside and wept bitterly. In spite of his major failure was it the look of compassion and understanding Peter saw in Jesus' eyes, rather than vengeance or judgment, that eventually restored his hope and trust. He chose to let go of his hopeless failure and took up living hope in the One who would soon be crucified and resurrected to life.

"Living hope" for the follower of Christ is a result of God's great mercy and the new birth He has given us, grounded in the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The apostle Peter wrote these words to encourage believers undergoing various trials and persecution. Some thirty years after Christ's resurrection the church entered a time of horrific persecution during Nero's reign. It was shortly after this that Peter, once filled with fear and shame, was likely martyred for his faith.

All of us who trust in Christ have this living hope. As we live out our lives we have many of the same problems as others. But our perspective differs based on an empty tomb and the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Our hope is alive and our eternal future awaits us, no matter the present circumstances. Billy Graham characteristically states it so simply, "As a Christian I have hope not just for this life but for Heaven and the life to come."

Today we need to hold fast to our living hope. Never lose sight of it. The writer of Hebrews spoke of this hope as "an anchor for the soul, firm and secure." As God's children we have a living hope and an assurance that God will see us through. I encourage you this day to keep the presence of our living hope ever before you! In doing so, I promise that you will be encouraged in your circumstance and strengthened in your faith!

One with the Father, Ancient of Days,
Through the Spirit who clothes faith with certainty,
Honor and blessing, glory and praise
To the King crowned with power and authority.
And we are raised with Him, death is dead,
Love was won, Christ has conquered.
And we shall reign with Him, for He lives,
Christ is risen from the dead!*

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Thankful manDaily prayer: Father, we want to fix our thoughts upon the living hope we have in Jesus Christ our Lord. We anchor our soul in the bedrock of Your Holy Word so that when other viewpoints counter the truths You teach our anchor remains firm. When difficulties appear insurmountable remind us that we serve an extraordinary God who does not rely on natural solutions but works in the supernatural realm to meet our needs. Satan builds brick walls in our mind to block our faith and trust in Your plan to make "all things work together for good to those who love You and are called according to Your purpose." Our faith is grounded in the living hope of our resurrected Savior and it is in His name that we pray. Amen.

Pink heartbreaker tree from Eaton Farms
Pink Heartbreaker and sunset 4/22/14
This weeping specimen was discovered at Eaton Farms in 2002 and was given to us several years ago by Don and Kathy Eaton. See here.

Village Farm flower arrangements
Yesterday we stopped by the Village Farm Garden Center east of Ephrata, PA and were intrigued by these creative uses for old pots and pans.

Village Farm flower arrangements

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

This week we will share songs with the Resurrection theme that have blessed us.

"He Lives!" (song and hymn history)  Video

"Christ The Lord Is Risen Today"  Video  (traditional)  Video  (a bit more contemporary)

"Power Of The Cross"  Video  Steve Green

"Easter Song"  Video  Matthew Ward

* "See What A Morning"
 Video  Getty/Towend team  I (Brooksyne) really appreciate the Biblical resurrection account being recounted in such detail and colorfully presented in this song by the Gettys and Stuart Towend, one of 12 hymns they collaborated on, based on the core beliefs as articulated in the Apostle's Creed.

"I'll Rise Again"
 Video  Dallas Holm

"Christ Arose"  Video  Daniel Thornton

"Because He Lives"  Video  Gaither Vocal Band

"He Arose"  Video  Stone Church choir

"He's Alive"  Video  Don Francisco

"He Gave His Life"  Video  Vocal Union 

"There Never Was A Pulpit Like The Cross"  Video  Vocal Union

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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