Spiritual Life Comes From The Holy Spirit

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John 7:37 – 44

37 On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! 38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” 39 (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)

40 When the crowds heard him say this, some of them declared, “Surely this man is the Prophet we’ve been expecting.” 41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others said, “But he can’t be! Will the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 For the Scriptures clearly state that the Messiah will be born of the royal line of David, in Bethlehem, the village where King David was born.” 43 So the crowd was divided about him. 44 Some even wanted him arrested, but no one laid a hand on him.

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In this short passage, four things jump right out and ask us to look into them more closely.  What is this Festival that Jesus was at, and how important is it to what he says?  What is it that Jesus is actually offering to people who come to Him?  Why did the people think that Jesus might be the great Prophet they had been waiting for?  And why are they confused about Jesus’ identity?

Let’s start with this day of celebration in Jerusalem.  This was the annual Festival of Tabernacles, also called the Feast of Booths.  This was the time when the Jews would remember the years of wandering in the desert and had to live in tents until they finally crossed the Jordan River and could live in houses.  At this Festival, thousands of Jews would come to Jerusalem and pitch a tent, or a covered booth, and remember God’s protection and provision to them in the past.

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On the very last day of the Festival, there was to be extra rejoicing as the end of the week commemorated their forefathers entry into the promised land of Canaan, the land which “flowed with milk and honey”.  At this climactic moment, Jesus stood up and boldly proclaimed, “Come to me whoever is thirsty.”  And to whoever would put their trust in Him, He promised them, “rivers of living water”.

Think about the picture of the ancient Israelites who wandered the barren deserts for forty years.  Their greatest need was to find water.  They found out very quickly that they had to trust God to supply their daily needs.  The most dramatic example of this is when God told Moses to “strike the rock, and water shall flow from it.” (Read Exodus 17:1-7)

What Jesus was saying to the people was that just like God Himself through Moses provided natural water to sustain their bodies in the desert, so now Jesus was by analogy saying that He was like God and could provide sustaining water to the people there in Jerusalem.  But not just natural water, but spiritual water that could refresh the hearts and souls of those who would put their trust in Him.

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No wonder the people began to say, “This must be the great Prophet,” which alludes to Deuteronomy 18:18 where God promised Moses that another great Prophet like him would one day come to help the people of Israel.  Some people went even further and declared that Jesus must be the Messiah, the specially anointed One whom God would send to save Israel.

And yet, when the people are so close to the truth about who Jesus was, and is, they became confused.  They had been taught that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem of Judea.  They had heard that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee.  They could not reconcile the rumours with their teachings.  What is sad is that both of these statements were true, for Jesus was in fact born in Bethlehem, but then raised up in Nazareth.

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I believe that the situation today is not much different from that day long ago.  So many people are still wandering around in spiritually dry waste lands.  Many seek to fill this spiritual void in their lives, but they are looking in the wrong places.  Jesus is still standing before us all and saying, “Come to Me, and I will quench your spiritual thirst.”

When Jesus died on the cross, He opened the flood gates of God’s compassion and forgiveness for our sins.  That is, to whomever will accept Jesus as the One who paid the penalty for sin for them.  And when Jesus was raised from the dead and returned to Heaven, He was then able to release the power and the life of the Holy Spirit into all of our lives.

That is what is meant above about the Spirit not having been given yet.  While Jesus was on earth, He ministered directly to those who were immediately there before Him.  Remember that God is really three Persons-in-One, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  And God chose to limit His involvement with mankind as one Person at a time.  We all had to wait for Christ to ascend before the Holy Spirit could descend and empower and fill each one of God’s children.

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Consider what has been said here and ask yourself this: “Is my life spiritually dead and dry?”  Then I invite you to turn to Jesus who can forgive you of your sins and release the power of the Holy Spirit into your life.  And don’t be like some of those Jews who thought they knew who Jesus was and where He came from.  Read the Bible and find out for yourself.  God bless you on your journey for Truth and Life.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

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Jesus Has The Words of Eternal Life

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John 6:60 – 71

60  When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?  63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 

64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”   66  After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 

67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them,“Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, forhe, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.

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This last section of John chapter 6 is one of the important climaxes of the events in Jesus’ life as we head toward the dénouement of His final week on earth.  We are still many months away from Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion.  But we see the elements of lines being drawn, sides being taken, and foreshadowing of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, one of His twelve inner circle disciples.

What the followers of Jesus (another term for general disciples) heard, as mentioned in verse 60, comes from the passage immediately above this one, where Jesus stated that He was the “bread of life which had come down from heaven” and that “anyone who [figuratively] ate His flesh and drank His blood” would not die (spiritually), but live forever.  No wonder the followers/disciples of Jesus said “this is a hard saying.”

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As people grumbled about the claims Jesus made, he asked them if His statements caused them to be offended.  I don’t think this captures the essence of the Greek verb here.  The verb “skandalidzoo” is the root for our English word “scandalized”.  A better translation of this verb is to say “to cause someone to stumble”.  These people who had been following Jesus possessed some seeds of faith in Jesus.  But after this dialogue, many of them are “scandalized”, and their fragile faith crumbles and they stumble over Jesus’ words.

This is a crucial point in Jesus’ ministry.  He has basically laid out on the table the extreme sacrifice that He will have to make (be betrayed which leads to His death), but also He has laid out the extreme commitment that a person must make to be a true follower of Him.  And that people must put their faith in Him to gain true spiritual life.  This is so opposite to what people through the centuries have believed, that eternal life could be gained through good deeds done by the strength of our human flesh.

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Finally, after speaking in difficult figurative language, Jesus spells it out clearly, that the words He speaks are the true source of where we obtain life for our spirits.  This became a breaking point for some of those who followed, and so they left Jesus.  Then Jesus turns to His special twelve disciples and asked them if they too would stop following Him.  Peter’s words are truly profound, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Consider the sharp contrast being played out here.  Many people cannot make the faith decision that Jesus holds the keys of eternal life, and they shake their heads and walk away.  But Peter sees clearly that Jesus is the One appointed by God (i.e. “the Holy One”) to bring spiritual life and salvation.  And Peter bows his head in belief and submission.

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It is so sad to me to hear about how close some people have been to Jesus (whether during the time He lived on earth, or now and is proclaimed alive through the Living Word of God), and yet people fail to see Him for who He is.  Or more seriously, they ignore Him whom they know to be Lord and the Bridegroom to the Church, and yet they focus on such petty matters of the human flesh.  Let me explain.

When Christ Jesus died on the cross, He not only died to bring about the offer of salvation to everyone who believed in Him, but He also died, rose from the grave and ascended to heaven to release the power of the Holy Spirit to help build the Church, Christ’s bride.  Yet we have so many bad examples today to show how unworthily His Church is acting, that many people are hurt instead of being given hope and healing.

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I know personally of some churches which have allowed pride, stubbornness, personality clashes and even sinful actions to bring about such dissension that ultimately the church is split apart.  We must not let this continue.  Jesus said that “the Spirit brings life; the flesh is no help at all.”  Let us return to hearing the Words of Jesus which bring life, instead of listening to the voices of selfish individualism.  The Church is to be a living organism, not an organization.  Let Christ be the true head, and we remain the obedient body.  That will certainly lead us to the road of Eternal Life.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

The Nourishment of Jesus Brings Eternal Life

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John 6:41 – 59

41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 

45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46  not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

 48 I am the bread of life. 49  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50  This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

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52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 

56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58  This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

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This is perhaps one of the hardest section of the teachings of Jesus.  In fact, the disciples said themselves in verse 60, the very next verse after this passage, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it.”  With that said, I would like us to consider what it is exactly that makes this passage so difficult to understand.  And if we can figure some of that out, then let us try to find an application for our lives.

As I looked over this section of John 6, I saw at least three things that Jesus was stating that would have caused conflict between Him and the religious leaders of that day.  First, He claims to have divine origin, i.e. that He came to earth from heaven sent by God.  Secondly, much more than the physical food which Moses had brought done from heaven, Jesus claims to offer spiritual bread from heaven.  And thirdly, He makes an outrageous claim that those who eat His flesh and drink His blood will live forever.  Wow!!  Well, let’s look at these in more detail.

    

His Origin: when Jesus stated, “I am the bread that came down from heaven”, the Jewish leaders immediately saw in this figurative language that Jesus was in fact claiming to have come down from heaven himself.  That was the same as claiming to be divine in origin, equal to God.  For men are “created” and born into this world; only God can originate from heaven and come down.

His Offer: as all good Jews know, Moses was a great prophet who was able by the power of God to bring down the daily manna, the wafer-like flakes that could be made into bread, while the people of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years after coming out of their slavery in Egypt.  The Jews also knew that this manna-bread only lasted a day and had to be collected each morning, and ultimately all of their forefathers died in the wilderness, or after they settled in Canaan.

But Jesus says that He can offer “bread from heaven” which will allow a person to live forever.  If that is not bold enough, Jesus also stated that He himself is this “bread” that brings spiritual life to people.  He asked His listeners to believe, that is to believe that He has come from the Father in heaven, and can offer spiritual life and will raise that person up into new life after death.  Wow!!  Quite the offer.

    

His Outrageous Claim: to top it all off, Jesus boldly stated to His listeners, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. ”  This must have sounded rather crude and offensive to those who first heard these words of Jesus.  Imagine now for a minute what this must sound like to a person born in Papua New Guinea where they have just come out of the practice of cannabalism.

But we know that Jesus often used hyperbole (exaggerated figurative language) to drive home a point.  What Jesus was saying is that we who would receive eternal life from God must be totally consumed with knowing and having Jesus in our lives.  In other words, Jesus’ teachings and His life given for us on the cross are the only true source for spiritual nourishment for us and result in providing eternal life for us.

    

The Conclusion: what must we do then, my friends?  We must recognize Jesus as God who has come to earth, accept His offer to be our spiritual “bread”, and be so intimately involved with Him that He becomes our true source for spiritual nourishment, leading us to an everlasting life with God in heaven.

Good Questions Lead To Spiritual Answers

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John 6:25 – 40

25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27  Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 

28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31  Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

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35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37  All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 

38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

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The last words of the final verse of our previous Bible study ended with the crowds going “to Capernaum to search for Jesus.”  That sounds great, doesn’t it?  Literally hundreds of people were going to great lengths to cross or walk around the Sea of Galilee because they were eager to find Jesus.  And yet we find out in this passage above that they were not spiritually motivated to find Him.

A dialogue ensues with the people first asking, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”  Actually, I think they were much more interested in knowing “how” He got there (remember that Jesus walked on top of the water to cross over).  And they may have implicitly been asking “why” he had left the other side of the lake to come here.  I mean, wasn’t Jesus at the peak of His ministry when He miraculously fed the multitudes?

    

But Jesus saw through that question and knew that the people were much more interested in the miracle than they were interested in knowing the One who performed the miracle.  Jesus then challenged the crowd with an answer that basically tells us that “working for bread” (i.e. the necessities of earthly things) pales in importance to the “spiritual bread” that is available and is equated with doing the works that God would be pleased with.

The people hear how Jesus tied this idea of “spiritual bread” which grants eternal life to this concept of doing “the works of God”.   And so their next question then (in wanting “bread which leads to eternal life”) is, “What works must we do?”  (This is an age-old question actually.  Many people believe that if we “do the right things” then we will be rewarded by God with eternal life.)

    

Jesus then answered as clearly and as bluntly as He can.  What God wants us to do more than anything else, is to put our faith in Jesus, the One whom God sent to earth to be the Saviour of the world.  The people still get stuck on the miracle of physical bread though, which their greatest prophet Moses gave them from heaven.  Jesus corrects this faulty thought to say that ultimately it is God who provides all things, both physically and spiritually.

Once more Jesus cuts straight to the heart of the matter and declares boldly, “I am the bread of life!”  In that statement, Jesus claims many things: 1) He, like the bread from heaven, have been sent by God; 2) all who want spiritual sustenance and eternal life must come to Jesus to get it; and 3) only by “eating” and “drinking” of Him (i.e. be fully dependent upon and immersed into a relationship with Him) can a person hope to gain eternal life.

    

And then Jesus openly declares the reason for Him being sent from heaven to earth, namely to reach out to those who desire to pursue this relationship with God.  And for those that do come by faith to Him, Jesus says he will not lose hold of them but by the power and authority of God Himself will raise these kinds of people back from the dead and grant them the gift of eternal life with God in heaven.

Friend, are you still outside of a relationship with Jesus and God the Father?  Consider what questions you have and turn to Jesus for some answers.  He will give them to you.  Are you ready to hear those answers and to follow after Him?  I hope you are, and I hope you do.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Jesus Can Do Much With Little

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John 6:1 – 13

6 1 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

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This event occurred just after the half way point of Jesus’ ministry.  Previously, we saw Jesus was getting into more and more trouble with the Jewish authorities.  But many of the people were still amazed at the miracles He performed and followed after Him to hear Him teach.  This was the height of Jesus’ popularity with the crowds.

Jesus and His disciples had been actively ministering to people and then went across the Sea of Galilee to get a short reprieve.  But the crowds find out where He is going and hurry around the lake to meet them on the other side.

Considering how tired Jesus and the disciples must have been, it is quite amazing that Jesus immediately began to heal the sick and to teach the crowds again about the Kingdom of God.  Once more, Jesus modelled for us true servanthood by giving of Himself, even when He sought out some peace and quiet.  The needs of people always came first for Jesus.

    

As we see the story unfold, the day is nearly over and the people are still there seeking to be blessed by Jesus.  After giving so much of Himself, He decided that He needed to help feed them an evening meal too and miraculously multiplied a small boy’s meal to feed the thousands.  It’s a wonderful story about Jesus’ compassion for the people, and His divine power to multiply the food, but I believe there is much more we can take away from this story.

One of the things that captures my attention is that this is the only miracle of Jesus that is recorded in all four Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus.  We know that Jesus performed many miracles in His 3 ½ years of ministry.  John only recounts a few of them in his book, and usually for an important theological reason.  So why would John pick this one, and what makes it so important that it is found in all four Gospels?

    

There are three things that I think are worth mentioning that we can learn important truths from.  First of all, as John tells us here, this event took place near the time that was the special celebration of the Passover.  Why would he point that out?  Well, at the very next Passover, Jesus would offer up His life on the cross, and by that means, offer spiritual life to all who would believe in Him.

Jesus then is to be seen as the Source of Life.  In just a few more verses (starting at verse 25) Jesus will teach one of His greatest lessons, that He is the “Bread of Life”.  By multiplying the bread for the people here, Jesus showed that He can grant sustenance for our physical bodies.  But very quickly, we will learn that He is the One who grants us sustenance for our spiritual lives.

    

The second lesson I see is that Jesus begins to show us that He wants to work through His disciples to minister to the world.  First Jesus challenges His disciples to see how they might find the solution to feed the crowds.  Then, as we read all the accounts of this miracle, we see that Jesus broke the bread and gave it to the disciples, and then they gave the pieces to the people.  Beginning then, and up until now, Jesus wants to work through His people, namely you and me, to bless the world.

And finally, what should be obvious, is that Jesus can do much with little.  The boy’s lunch was so small for such a large crowd.  But it was offered in faith, and Jesus turned it around to make it into a feast for all.  By extension, what do you have, even if you consider it to be to small, to offer to Jesus.  Scripture tells us to offer God our time (moments of each day), our talents (the natural gifts He gave to us), and our treasure (our financial resources) to Him.  He will bless and multiply what we give Him and use it to bless others.  Amen?  Amen!!!

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Death Is Just The Beginning – Pt. 1

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 11

Death!  It seems so final.  A Person is born, lives a number of years – perhaps as much as 100 years – and then dies.  That’s it, lights out!  Into the grave or the crematorium goes the body.  All that is left is the ashes or a slowly rotting body in the ground until there is nothing left of that person except a few bones.  The only way to identify who lay there is a name etched on stone, and perhaps teeth that can be matched to a dental record.

This is the ending that every person who has lived on this earth has to look forward to.  There is no escaping it.  As our author (Max Lucado) quotes on page 96 from Fred Carl Kuechner:

“Death is the most democratic institution on earth….It allows no discrimination, tolerates no exceptions.  The mortality rate of mankind is the same the world over:  one death per person.”

Looking at it this way, it would be easy to become either very depressed about life, or to value it so much as to try to get everything you can before the end comes.  And the worst part is that none of us know the future, so we really don’t know how many more days or years we have left to live.  No wonder there are so many people today who follow the saying, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”

    

As a missionary who lived in a remote village of Papua New Guinea for five years, death took on a whole new reality for me.  The only people who were close to me and died before going to PNG were my grandmother and my sister.  My grandmother was 88 years old and the funeral was a celebration of a believer in Christ and a life well lived.  My sister died while in Jamaica in her 30’s and we held a memorial service for her.  Death hit our family, but I never really saw it up close.

This changed quickly when we went and lived in our little village in the jungle.  In those five years, there were quite a number of deaths: some people died of old age; some children died from cerebral malaria and some from eating rotten food which led to fatal food poisoning; and some women died in child-bearing due to retained placenta.  The worst experience was watching one of my best friends and a co-translator suffer over a six month period and finally die due to a brain tumour.

    

What made these deaths so hard to witness was watching the despair and the fear that everyone else displayed at the time of these deaths.  There is nothing else I know that is so piercing of a sound that cuts deeply into your heart and soul as when the shrieking death wail went up when someone died.  That piercing cry is started by a family member as soon as the person dies, and then it is joined by other family members and friends when they come to the hut to share in the sorrow.

Day and night this wailing can be heard across the village for days.  But even as the death wail continues, rumours and murmuring go on among the people, for everyone is asking the question, “What evil spirits were involved, and who among the village is responsible for these deaths.  These are the natural questions that are asked by people who live in an animistic culture.  They live in fear of all the evil spirits that surround them, and they fear death most of all.

    

 The Bible on the other hand, speaks to us about the victory that we can have over death.  Up until the time that Jesus lived, the world did lie under the curse of disease, destruction, despair and finally death.  Bur Jesus broke that power of death by rising Himself back from the dead.  He was then able to say along with the Psalmist, “O death, where is thy sting; O grave, where is thy victory?”

Jesus told His disciples in advance that He would die, but also that after three days in the grave He would rise again and be alive.  The promise Jesus gave was that just as He would conquer the grave and live again, so also would the people who put their trust in Him.  It is at this very point, this claim of resurrection life, that the whole of Christian faith stands.  If Jesus claims (as He did) to grant life after death, but He Himself never rose physically from the grave, then all His promises are not worthy to be accepted as true.

    

 Now some people still think today that Jesus’ claims were outrageous and couldn’t be true.  The most obvious alternative would be to say that the disciples invented this hoax, or at least created this myth about Jesus and the “risen Christ”.  But I challenge any person to read the last few chapters of all the gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).  The Bible presents terrified disciples, and women who went to the tomb expecting to find a dead body there.

But instead, we see very quickly a faith story burst out after very serious misgivings and denials of the resurrection.  And those men all went on to become martyrs for their faith.  Only a true and real resurrection can account for this change.  And so, if Jesus did rise from the dead, then death is no longer the end of the story for all of us.  Therefore, we do not need to be afraid of death anymore.

Rather then an ending, death can be seen to be a beginning, a new start to an eternal life with God.  In fact, I see death as simply a doorway that all of us must go through one day.  Or perhaps an even better picture is that death becomes a graduation from this limited life to the unlimited life in the next one.  Hallelujah, He is risen.  And one day, so will we.

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

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Overcoming Extreme Spiritual Poverty

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Training New Missionaries To Reach “The Lost”

For many years, Christians have talked about “Reaching the Lost”.  For some people, that expression has made sense, but I think that many people today would not really know what this means.  What exactly does the word “Lost” refer to?  In religious terms, it means to be “spiritually lost”, to not know Jesus as the One who rescues us from sin and the punishment of eternal death in Hell.  In simple black and white terms, we could talk about those who have accepted Jesus and are “Saved”, and those who have not accepted Jesus and are “Lost”.

The reality of “spiritual lostness” in this world is more complex than this though.  There is in fact a direct relationship between those who have accepted Christ as Saviour and Lord of their lives and the accessibility to the knowledge of Jesus as presented to us in the Bible.  It makes sense that where the Bible has been made available to people in a language that they understand, and where there is a network of churches which use and promote the message of the Bible that there will be people who have had their lives transformed by that message and have a strong faith in Christ.

This leads us to the next obvious conclusion.  Where there are few or no churches within a distinct language and cultural group, and where there are no portions of the Bible in that language, there will also be very few or no Christians at all in that group.  It is this reality that has led our leaders of our mission, Pioneer Bible Translators, to coin the term “Extreme Spiritual Poverty”.  In a sense, there is a degree of “lostness” among the people groups of the world, and it has become the mandate of our mission to try to bring relief and the message of the Gospel to these “least reached” people of the world.

    

To get a better understanding of what is involved in impacting the most spiritually needy areas of the world, it is helpful to break it down into three categories of people groups as identified by their languages.  According to most of the official counts, there are almost 7,000 language groups in the world.  This does not include dialects.  These are all considered distinct languages.  Of this number, we know that there are just over 2,250 languages that definitely have the need to begin a Bible translation project in that language.  This represents over 350 million people who do not have even one verse of the Bible published for them in their language.

That is a lot of people who can’t read about Jesus in their own language.  Thankfully there are some of these language groups that do have churches established within them, but they are relying on Scripture that is not in the mother tongue of the people.  But of these 2,250 language groups, there are at least 900 groups that do not have a church of any portion of the Bible in their language.  This represents over 200 million people.  It is these church-less and Bible-less language groups of people that PBT is very concerned about reaching with the Gospel message of Christ and whom we consider to be the most extreme spiritually poor people in the world.

Now that we know what the need is, what is PBT doing about it?  For a number of years now we have been recruiting and sending new missionaries over to these parts of the world which so desperately need churches that use translated Scriptures to transform the people of their language group.  God has truly been blessing our mission as we have grown from 185 members to 353 members in just 5 1/2 years.  By the end of this year, we expect that we will have doubled in size for the number of career missionaries.  Our prayerful goal is to double the number of our personnel again in the next six years.  There is so much work left to be done in the world in the area of Bible translation that recruiting new people to be missionaries is crucial to getting the work done.

    

And that was exactly what we were doing this last week.  We just held our annual recruitment and training week here in Dallas, which is known as “Pioneer Mission Institute“.   For 36 years now we have been training and introducing the work of PBT to people who have an interest in mission work and specifically Bible translation work.  This year, we had over 70 students, with just about half that number in each of the two levels, the first level being the “Discovery Track” and the second level doing specialized seminars on practices and procedures for cross-cultural missionaries.

I had the privilege to once again teach the introductory linguistics class to the Discovery Track students.  I introduced them to such topics as Phonetics, Phonology, Morphology, Semantics, Sociolinguistics, Language Learning and a few other topics.  It is always exciting to me when I see other people catch the vision for getting God’s Word translated and available to the minority languages of the world.  But more importantly, they caught the vision that there are still a great number of people who are living without the transforming message of the Bible.  For it is not just translation work and linguistics that matter, but the lives of people who live on this edge of extreme spiritual poverty that we need to reach.

I ask you to be in prayer alond with us that we would find the right people to be added to our mission group that could work together to help bring the Gospel to these last pockets of people in the world who don’t know Jesus, and without a church presence and the translated Word of God, will probably never have the chance to know Jesus.  By faith though, we are believing that by 2050 or so, we will have provided a translated New Testament to all these groups and overcome extreme spiritual poverty in the world.

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