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If Jesus Never Rose From the Dead…

Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead, but many don’t know why it matters. Jesus died for our sins on the cross so we could go to heaven. Isn’t that enough? Does the resurrection really add anything to our faith? If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, our sins would still be forgiven, right?

I want you to imagine with me a world where Jesus did not rise from the dead. Jesus is arrested and the disciples scatter. Peter denies Jesus. All the disciples hide because they are afraid they will be arrested and killed next. On Sunday, three women with spices to anoint Jesus’ body approach the tomb and find it closed. The guards turn them away. They go back to the disciples and tell them they couldn’t get in. The disciples stay hidden. There is no Pentecost. Peter did not preach. He went fishing. Three thousand people don’t hear that Jesus conquered sin and death. Eventually, people forget about Jesus and the disciples return quietly to their former lives. Some of them move to distant cities to get away from the Jewish authorities who killed Jesus. The End.

Or maybe the disciples eventually tell people quietly that Jesus died for our sins. They can’t prove it but they feel like it is true. Some people believe and the church grows slowly. Two thousand years later Christians believe that Jesus died for their sins so they could go to heaven. They say that Jesus was a prophet and a good man. Some say he was God. But other say, “That is ridiculous. You worship a dead man. How can a dead man be God?” What happens to Christians after death? Jesus’ body is still in the ground. It decayed and turned into dust just like everyone else. Where is Jesus’ spirit now? Somewhere else? Nowhere? Christians think their sins are forgiven but many are not sure. Did Jesus really have victory on the cross? If he did, why did he still die? Will those who believe in Jesus die like Jesus? Jesus said, “I am going to prepare a place for you, and where I am, you will be too.” (John 14:3?) But where is that place? Heaven? Hell? In the ground? Where?

If there was no resurrection, could the Christian faith survive? Without the resurrection, could Christians have joy and confidence in God? Without the resurrection, the Christian faith is dead. Because of the resurrection, we have hope. Death is not the end. It is only the beginning. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we can be confident that he was victorious at cross. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we know that everything He said is true. He confirmed his words and promises with his resurrection. We do not need to fear death. We do not need to fear the future. Our future is secure because of the power of an indestructible life. Because we know the end, we can face the present and press on in the way of the cross. We know that our sins are forgiven and heaven awaits because Jesus confirmed his promise of salvation through his resurrection. We have new life because of His new life.

The resurrection is not an optional extra to the Christian faith, but absolutely essential to our joy and confidence in the finished work of Christ. His resurrection gives us the hope and certainty that we need to persevere in following Jesus when the world says we are fools. Without the resurrection, there would be no Christianity, and there would be no Christians. There would only be fear and uncertainty.

But praise be to God that Christ has risen from the grave for us and for our joy. Because of the resurrection of Christ, we can say with the apostle Paul, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). Christ is Risen Today. Let us rejoice for He is Risen indeed.

 

gone and returns, sleeps and wakes, there is resurrection, there is escape... through Christ

"We go and return, sleep then awake, there must be resurrection, there is surely escape... through Christ"

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Me and My Awesome, Ground-Breaking Ministry

When I sit down to write a prayer letter, I often feel like I need to come up with something new and exciting to tell my supporters.  After all, they are giving lots of money and praying for us, so I should have something significant to report, thereby justifying my existence.  But I often have trouble figuring out what to write.  Most of the work we are involved is in the category of “slow-and-steady-wins-the-race” and not in the category of “awesome-ground-breaking-pioneer-ministry-look-what-we’ve-done-now!”  Thankfully, the vast majority of our supporters seem to understand that fruitfulness in ministry is a long-term, Holy Spirit wrought endeavor, not just a list of man-driven activities.  Nonetheless, I would feel bad just writing, “Same as last month.  Keep praying.  Thanks” and then sign off.  So I need to write something.  It needs to be accurate, informative, interesting, and not overstate the what we are really doing.  On slow months, when not much new is happening, that last one is difficult.

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Is Facebook Good Pastoral Care?

In 2008 I was on a short home assignment in the U.S. when my brother introduced me to something called Facebook.  I had never seen it before but was hooked instantly.  However, as time has wore on, Facebook (and Twitter) have changed from an exciting way to connect with people to something a bit more tedious, and a bit less personal.  Judging by the number of people deactivating their Facebook accounts these days, it seems that others are having a similar experience.  

As Christians got on the social media bandwagon, numerous blog posts and magazine articles appeared, warning that if Christians failed to get with the times, they would miss out on fantastic possibilities for evangelism and discipleship.  If your church or ministry did not have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, you would become irrelevant.  And irrelevance is the thing that evangelicals seem to fear most, even more than sin itself.  However, as that wave passed, a small deluge of books (both Christian and secular) have begun to appear, calling into question the utopian claims of digital media. People have started to notice the effect that social media and perpetual connectedness are having on them.  And not everyone likes what they see.

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Friends: A Key to Survival on the Mission Field

friends globe canstockphoto3792009There are lots of reasons why missionaries go home.  Team conflict. Marital conflict. Conflict with leadership.  Wrong expectations.  Lack of success in ministry. Lack of financial support.  Children’s education.  Career change.  Continuing education. Health problems. Infidelity. Apostasy. War. Visa revoked.  The list could go on.  

But one of the reasons that I rarely hear is a lack of friends.  Of course, it would be difficult for anyone to really admit that a lack of genuine, deep, friendships on the mission field is the reason they are going home.  It just sounds wimpy to say, “I am going home because I am lonely and don’t have any friends.”  That’s the kind of thing that you would expect a seven year old to say when leaving the playground, but not a mature adult who has committed their life to serving the Lord overseas.  That notwithstanding, I am convinced that a lack of friends, or at least the lack of one or two close friends, is a significant reason why many missionaries don’t make it on the mission field long-term.  It is never the only reason, but when all those other reasons to give up are crashing over our heads like so many waves, close friends can help us swim against the current instead of sinking in rocky waters.

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[Video] Tracing 175 Years of Thai Protestantism

The short 20 minute video that you'll find below is a good overview of the birth and history of Christianity in Thailand.  It was prepared for the 2003 celebration of 175 years of Protestant Christianity in Thailand, counting from 1828 when Karl Gutzlaff and Jacob Tomlin arrived as the first two Protestant missionaries.

There is also a Thai-language book that goes along with the video, called "๑๗๕ ปี พันธกิจคริสต์ศาสนาโปรเตสแตนต์ในประเทศไทย, ค.ศ. ๑๘๒๘-๒๐๐๓" (175 Years of Protestant Christian Ministry in Thailand, 1828-2003).  The book is currently out of print but should be able to be found in libraries of seminaries and bible colleges in Thailand.

If you don't see a video above, click here to watch it on Youtube.

 

 

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Marvel Superheroes Join Bangkok Protests

Anyone who has lived in Thailand for some period of time knows that Thai people like to have fun.  If it is not fun, why do it?  Even work has to be fun.  And apparently some people think that protesting government corruption has to be fun too. 

One of the odd trends that is emerging in the Bangkok protests is for people to dress up like Marvel superheroes (okay, it's only 2 so far but I am hopefully waiting for Ironman to make an appearence).   I'm not sure what to make of this, but at the very least it says something about the importance of fun in Thai culture.

Spiderman

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