Believing Thomas

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Greetings In The Name of the Lord:

John 20:27 (NLT)
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”

Like several others in Scripture, I think that Thomas gets a bad rap. In fact, we usually refer to him as “Doubting Thomas,” which is really unfair because he was really a man of great faith. In 1943, Dorothy Sayers created a series of dramatic readings from the life of Christ for broadcast on the BBC. They are published under the title, The Man Born to Be King. For each of the plays, Sayers offers notes on the characters and the way they should be read. She writes this about Thomas’ profession: “It is unexpected, but extraordinarily convincing, that the one absolutely unequivocal statement, in the whole Gospel, of the Divinity of Jesus should come from Doubting Thomas. It is the only place where the word ‘God’ is used of him without qualification of any kind, and in the most unambiguous form of words (not merely theos but ho theos mou with the definite article). And this must be said, not ecstatically, or with a cry of astonishment, but with flat conviction, as of one acknowledging irrefragable evidence: ‘2 + 2 = 4′, ‘That is the sun in the sky,’ ‘You are my Lord and my God.'” I would think that each of us, at times, has doubts. For that reason, I think it is helpful to remember that the “incredulity of Thomas has done us more good than the faith of Mary” (Gregory, Quoted in J. C. Ryle, John, 3.467-468). Perhaps we need to start referring to him as Believing Thomas!

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

What Makes Christianity Unique

Mark Office

Greetings In The Name Of The Lord:

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT) 

8  God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

At a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity. Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God took human form in Jesus. But someone quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.” Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection, the belief that death is not the final word, and that the tomb was found empty? Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead. Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, arm full of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, “what’s all this rumpus about?” Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We’re debating what’s unique about Christianity.” “Oh, that’s easy,” answered Lewis. “It’s grace.” The room fell silent.

Lewis continued that Christianity uniquely claims God’s love comes free of charge, no strings attached. No other religion makes that claim. After a moment someone commented that Lewis had a point, Buddhists, for example, follow an eight-fold path to enlightenment. It’s not a free ride. Hindus believe in karma, that your actions continually affect the way the world will treat you; that there is nothing that comes to you not set in motion by your actions. Someone else observed the Jewish code of the law implies God has requirements for people to be acceptable to him and in Islam God is a God of Judgment not a God of love. You live to appease him. At the end of the discussion everyone concluded Lewis had a point. Only Christianity dares to proclaim God’s love is unconditional. An unconditional love that we call grace. Christians boldly proclaim that grace really has precious little to do with us, our inner resolve, or our lack of inner resolve. Rather, grace is all about God and God freely giving to us the gifts of forgiveness, mercy, and love.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

Beyond A Shadow Of Doubt

resurrection

Greetings In The Name Of The Lord:

John 20:6-9 (NLT)
6  Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, 7  while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. 8  Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— 9  for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead.

All but four of the major world religions are based on mere philosophical propositions. Of the four that are based on personalities rather than philosophies, only Christianity claims an empty tomb for its founder. In 1900 B.C. Judaism’s Father Abraham died. In 483 B.C. Buddhist writings say Buddha died “with that utter passing away in which nothing whatever remains behind.” June 6, 632 A.D. Mohammed died. In 33 A.D. Jesus died but came back to life appearing to 500 people over a period of 40 days. What if we had each person that witnessed the resurrected Lord come up here this morning and talk for 15 minutes giving a testimony to what they saw. If we listened to the testimony of all the people that Jesus appeared to, we would be here all day, and all night, and Monday and Monday night and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and sometime early Friday morning they would just be wrapping up the testimony. It would take over 128 strait hours just to hear, for 15 minutes each, the testimony of those that saw the Lord after he rose.

“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (I Corinthians, 15:14). However, Jesus has risen from the grave as evidenced by more than 500 eyewitnesses! That is proof that no court or jury could refute.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

Your Colt

Mark Office

Greetings In The Name of the Lord:

John 12:14-15 (NLT)
14  Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said: 15  “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem. Look, your King is coming, riding on a donkey’s colt.”

Bill Wilson pastors an inner city church in New York City. His mission field is a very violent place. He himself has been stabbed twice as he ministered to the people of the community surrounding the church. Once a Puerto Rican woman became involved in the church and was led to Christ. After her conversion she came to Pastor Wilson and said, “I want to do something to help with the church’s ministry.” He asked her what her talents were and she could think of nothing—she couldn’t even speak English—but she did love children. So he put her on one of the church’s buses that went into neighborhoods and transported kids to church. Every week she performed her duties. She would find the worst-looking kid on the bus, put him on her lap and whisper over and over the only words she had learned in English: “I love you. Jesus loves you.”

After several months, she became attached to one little boy in particular. The boy didn’t speak. He came to Sunday School every week with his sister and sat on the woman’s lap, but he never made a sound. Each week she would tell him all the way to Sunday School and all the way home, “I love you and Jesus loves you.”

One day, to her amazement, the little boy turned around and stammered, “I—I—I love you too!” Then he put his arms around her and gave her a big hug. That was 2:30 on a Sunday afternoon. At 6:30 that night he was found dead. His own mother had beaten him to death and thrown his body in the trash…….”I love you and Jesus loves you.” ….Those were some of the last words this little boy heard in his short life—from the lips of a Puerto Rican woman who could barely speak English. This woman gave her one talent to God and because of that a little boy who never heard the word “love” in his own home, experienced and responded to the love of Christ…..

What can you give? What is your “colt”. You and I each have something in our lives, which, if given back to God, could, like the colt, move Jesus and His message further down the road.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

Power Of The Cross

The Cross Transforms

Greetings In The Name of the Lord:

1 Corinthians 1:18 (NLT)
18  The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.

There is power in the cross. It’s undeniable. Even unbelievers seem to squirm when considering its potential.

David Brooks, of the Weekly Standard, reports, “of the conniption being thrown by the American Atheist, the group founded by the late Madelyn Murray O’Hair (may God have mercy upon her soul). It seems that when the World Trade Center collapsed, the force of the fall, or some supernatural force, fused two steel beams into a 20-foot-high cross, which has been kept on the edge of the site. The atheists wanted the cross removed, of course, but in their passion to do that, they are actually revealing their faith in the power of the cross. If it didn’t have power, why get so upset?” As Christians, the cross is the center of everything. It is because of the cross of Christ that we are saved, sanctified, and filled with the Holy Spirit. Without the cross we are still lost in sin and doomed to eternity in hell. Dietrich Bonheoffer in his classic book The Cost of Discipleship said, “The cross is laid on every Christian. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death–we give over our lives to death. The cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” As we approach the end of the Lenten season and focus on the passion of Christ, let us focus our attention on the cross for it has the power to save us.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

Bringing Them To Jesus

Indians Game

Greetings In The Name of the Lord:

John 4:39-42 (NLT)
39  Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I ever did!” 40  When they came out to see him, they begged him to stay in their village. So he stayed for two days, 41  long enough for many more to hear his message and believe. 42  Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman, famous evangelist, said that the New Testament records tell of forty people, each suffering from the same disease, who were healed by Jesus. Of this number, friends either brought thirty-four to Jesus, or He was taken to them. In only six cases out of forty did the sufferers find the way to Jesus without assistance. Of the vast number of people who find their way to Jesus today, most of them reach Him because the friends of Jesus are concerned about the welfare of their souls. Recently I was having a conversation with another Pastor friend and I expressed to him how much I appreciated the early Assembly of God pioneers because their passion for evangelism was fueled by their belief in imminence of the Second Coming of Christ. They believed that Jesus was coming at any time and so they had to reach as many people with the Gospel as they possibly could before the Lord’s coming. Shouldn’t our passion for reaching the lost be just as passionate? Don’t we believe that Jesus is coming soon, and that he will come like a thief in the night? Let’s recapture that passion for evangelism and the urgency of Christ’s coming.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

Boldly Going Where No One Has Gone Before

Indians Game

Greetings In The Name of the Lord:

John 4:4-7 (NLT)
4  He had to go through Samaria on the way. 5  Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6  Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime.
7  Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.”

Survivor Eva Hart remembers the night, April 15, 1912, on which the Titanic plunged 12,000 feet to the Atlantic floor, some two hours and forty minutes after an iceberg tore a 300-foot gash in the starboard side: “I saw all the horror of its sinking, and I heard, even more dreadful, the cries of drowning people.” Although twenty lifeboats and rafts were launched, too few and only partly filled, most of the passengers ended up struggling in the icy seas while those in the boats waited a safe distance away.

Lifeboat No. 14 did row back to the scene after the unsinkable ship slipped from sight at 2:20 A.m. Alone, it chased cries in the darkness, seeking and saving a precious few. Incredibly, no other boat joined it. Some were already overloaded, but in virtually every other boat, those already saved rowed their half-filled boats aimlessly in the night, listening to the cries of the lost. Each feared a crush of unknown swimmers would cling to their craft, eventually swamping it. “I came to seek and to save the lost,” our Savior said. And he commissioned us to do the same. But we face a large obstacle: fear. While people drown in the treacherous waters around us, we are tempted to stay dry and make certain no one rocks the boat. Let’s agree with the Apostle Paul who said, “My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else.” Let’s get out of our comfort zones and share the love of Christ.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark