May 23, 2014
Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“The Mount of Transfiguration”
“While (Peter) yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.”
Matthew 17: 5
“In Times of Doubt”
“When the clouds move in, we still have trouble remembering the vision on the mountaintop. It is a hard lesson to learn: that we should trust those rare moments of clear insight and heightened joy that are granted us from time to time, and should let them help us through the long hours of doubt and sadness. These other times will come; if you don’t know it already, you can believe me. But when we can no longer see the hand of the heavenly Father, we may still hear the voice: ‘This is My Son…listen to Him!’”
B. A. Gerrish
The Pilgrim Road
Today’s Study Text:
“But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in His side, I will not believe.’ A week later His disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see My hands. Reach our your hand and put it in My side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to Him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’”
John 20: 24-29
“He is Risen” Part 9
“Resurrection – The Defiance of the Absurd!”
“The background of resurrection is always impossibility. And with impossibility staring us in the face, the prelude to resurrection is invariably doubt, confusion, strife, and the cynical smile which is our defense against them. Resurrection is always the defiance of the absurd.”
How do I think I would have reacted to the reports of Jesus’ resurrection if I had no visual proof that He was alive?
What comes to my mind when I hear the word “doubt”?
“It is not as a child that I believe and confess Christ. My hosanna has passed through the furnace of doubt.”
“Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light.”
V. Raymond Edman
I will freely admit, I’ve never been one to understand much about the word “doubt.” I grew up in a Christian family where thoughts, especially those related to spiritual life, were very black and white, good and bad. The strong distinction between right and wrong only took on bolder and clearer lines when a popular phrase appeared to arise from the “worldly” culture. The phrase was: situational ethics.” And these words were used in a variety of ways. If you happened to find yourself in a situation, your decision to act in a certain way could be based on that particular event, not on what some might state emphatically as an unmovable principle. But as a young person, learning to navigate on my own in a world where shifting “mores” appeared to be the norm, I found that when applied to ”real life” situations, the philosophy proposed by “situational ethics” left me floating around in what I’ll call limited-gravity space, grasping for something certain I could hold onto.
Quite possibly, my personal experience may resonate with you, too, for I think there are times when we have all wavered between two poles, two opinions, two points. And this is why the experience of Jesus and His disciple Thomas has drawn so much attention down through time. In fact, Thomas’ behavior after the resurrection earned him the nickname, “doubting Thomas.” And yet, as Pastor Martin Copenhaver reveals, “Thomas was not the only one to have doubts when merely hearing about the resurrection appearances. Like other characters in the story, he wanted to see for himself…when Jesus a week later appeared to disciples…Jesus did not express impatience with His disciple’s skepticism and his need for something more. Instead, Jesus told Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it in My side. Do not doubt but believe.’ In other words, ‘You need something more than a secondhand encounter with Me? You want to see for yourself? I do not condemn you. Touch. See. Believe’…Jesus was, and is, in the business of meeting people where they are. He is like a good doctor, in that He does not give the same prescription to everyone. Instead, He approaches His followers in different ways because, after all, our experiences are different and our approaches to life are different. He finds a way to bless us.
According to the Apostle John, that is the way Jesus handles doubt. He gives us what we need.” The great Alfred Lloyd Tennyson states, “There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.” It wasn’t Jesus’ purpose to suppress all questions about the reality of His resurrection, quite the opposite. Jesus’ desire was to bear witness, not only to His followers at the time of His resurrection, but down to this very day. He knew that doubts would enter our minds, that questions would be hurled our way, and so He invites all who come to Him to touch Him, to hear Him, to see Him. And praise God, Jesus didn’t just leave us alone to try and figure out how we can learn to have unwavering belief. He promised the gift of the “Comforter” and this “Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby”…will remain with (us) forever – the Spirit of Truth” (John 14: 16, Amplified Bible). Then Jesus gave us (yes, that’s you and me!) a precious promise to hang onto when we find ourselves in a time of immense darkness, doubting if God is with us and knows the individual difficulties we each are facing: “I will not leave you as orphans, desolate and forlorn and helpless, I will come back to you” (John 14: 18, Amplified Bible).
In answering the question we may face today about how we deal with doubt and how do we come to believe the story of Jesus death and resurrection, Pastor Copenhaver points out that, “We did not see or touch. We were not there. We heard. Someone told us the story in a special way and invited us to say yes. We heard someone say something, perhaps a small something that spoke to us, as if calling our name, from depth to depth. There was a sermon, a passage, a prayer. We heard.” As the old-time hymn, written by the dear Fanny J. Crosby states:
“Tell me the story of Jesus,
write on my heart every word,
tell me the story most precious,
sweetest that ever was heard.”
Like the followers on the road to Emmaus, we will also find that the more time we spend talking and walking with our Lord in prayer and Bible study and friendship within a loving community of His followers, we will then also echo the words of the men of Emmaus, “Our hearts are burning within us.” I love the way D. Cameron Murchison sums up our ability to believe in the here and now: “Though we latter-day disciples may be blessed for believing though not having actually seen those tell tale signs ourselves, we are disciples capable of greater faith and courage because we trust that Thomas and the others saw them on our behalf. Thereby we are assured that the risen one is indeed the crucified one.” The comments of Pastor Barbara Essex on the words in John 24: 36-48 really struck a receptive note in my heart. Here’s how she helps us view heaven’s work in the resurrection story: “Jesus taught and commissioned: His whole life, death, and rising were about what God is doing in the world – reconciling the world to God’s self. From the Law of Moses to the prophets to the Psalms, it has always been about God and God’s purposes, aims, and agenda for creation – repentance that leads to forgiveness of sins and the wholeness of creation. The risen Christ appeared to groups and couples to assure them that He lives; to touch them, to put their fear and doubts in the context of God’s grand plan; to open their understanding of the Scriptures; to commission them as witnesses of all that God has done and is doing in the world. Jesus declared that His followers are now ready to be credible, reliable, ready witnesses in Jerusalem and to all nations, because of what they have seen and what they know. The defense is sure – Christ is risen! The work begins and continues because of the resurrection.” AMEN and AMEN!!
Because He Lives
“God sent His Son, they called Him Jesus,
He came to love, heal, and forgive;
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove
My Savior lives.
Because He lives I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living
just because He lives.”
Gloria and William Gaither
“Now while they were talking about this, Jesus Himself took His stand among them and said to them, ‘Peace!’ And He said to them, ‘Why are you disturbed and troubled, and why do such doubts and questions arise in your hearts. See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself! Feel and handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see that I have.’ And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet…
…Then He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you; everything which is written concerning Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled. Then He thoroughly opened up their minds to understand the Scriptures. And said to them, ‘Thus it is written that the Christ (the Messiah) should suffer and on the third day rise from among the dead. And that repentance, forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”
Luke 24: 36-40, 44-48
“The Lord Himself is standing by:
They gaze alike with joy and wonder
Upon death’s fetters rent asunder
The grave exchanged for Victory!
‘Why are ye troubled, thus?’ He said,
‘And why with doubts my presence greet’
He showed to them His hands and feet:
Their quailing hearts were comforted.
No longer have they tears to weep
The word of “PEACE’ so well they know,
Lulls every fear to rest: and so
‘He giveth His beloved sleep.’
‘Go!’ was His farewell word to them,
And preach repentance in My Name
To all, the risen Christ proclaim,
Beginning in Jerusalem!’”
J. R. Macduff
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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