Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Prayer letter - April 5, 2010

Monday, April 5, 2010

Dear friends,

I hope you were blessed this past weekend in the celebration of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday! I spent yesterday morning and evening reading and meditating on 1 Corinthians 15, which is all about the resurrection of the dead. It was very inspiring. I spent some time considering verse 19, in which Paul writes, “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” Now, I absolutely believe that life with Jesus this side of the grave is abundant and good, infused with indestructible joy, hope, and peace to which the unbelieving have no access. But verses such as this are a powerful reminder that as great as our experience of God and his love is in this life, it is so very little – such a faint glimmer or pale reflection – compared to what awaits us beyond the grave.

Therefore what awaits us is a powerful motivating principle in how we live our lives in this world. If the prospect of prosperity or gain in this world motivates us to work hard and invest time, energy, and resources, how much more so should the prospect of gain and reward in the resurrection! Paul writes, “I worked harder than any of them,” (v. 10) and “If the dead are not raised at all … why am I in danger every hour? What do I gain if … the dead are not raised?” (vs. 29-32). And he concludes the chapter by saying, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (v. 58). May Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15 inspire us all as we move forward from our celebrations of our Lord’s resurrection.

In addition to reading 1 Cor. 15 from my regular Bible, I also read “The Message” translation by Eugene Peterson, which puts the Bible into contemporary language and idioms. I enjoyed this version so much that I have typed out a long section of it at the end of this letter. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did!

The Sermon on the Mount

We made it through the first half of the Sermon on the Mount in the weekly Bible study that meets in our home. We are shifting gears for the Spring and looking at the Gospel of Mark, but I hope to be able to finish the second half of the Sermon on the Mount with a group of others this Summer.

Have you ever had the experience of intending to read a book for years, but never getting to it, and then when you finally do, kind of kicking yourself for not having done so sooner, because the book is so AWESOME? That was precisely my experience as I have finally gotten around to reading D.M. Lloyd Jones’ Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. I have known about this book for 20 years, and wanted to read it all along, but never did before this past Winter. It is so fabulous, such a compelling portrait of discipleship and life in God’s kingdom, I only wish that it had enriched my life the way it has 20 years ago, instead of just now! I would be so much the better for it. Anyway, I highly encourage any of you to read it!

Family Update

Later this month Mini and I are celebrating our seventh anniversary! I am so grateful for my wife and daughters.

For the joy set before us,

Dave, Mini, Lily, and Emily

PS: The excerpt from “The Message” is below, if you’d like to read that...

From “The Message” Bible translation by Eugene Peterson, excerpts from 1 Corinthians 15:

…If Christ wasn’t raised, then all you’re doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever… If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we’re a pretty sorry lot. But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries…

If God’s power stops at the cemetery gates, why do we keep doing things that suggest he’s going to clean the place out someday, pulling everyone up on their feet alive? And why do you think I keep risking my neck in this dangerous work? I look death in the face practically every day I live. Do you think I’d do this if I wasn’t convinced of your resurrection and mine as guaranteed by the resurrected Messiah Jesus? Do you think I was just trying to act heroic when I fought the wild beasts at Ephesus, hoping it wouldn’t be the end of me? Not on your life! It’s resurrection, always resurrection, that undergirds what I do and say, the way I live. If there’s no resurrection, “We eat, we drink, the next day we die,” and that’s all there is to it…

Some skeptic is sure to ask, “Show me how resurrection works. Give me a diagram; draw me a picture. What does this ‘resurrection body’ look like?” If you look at this question closely, you realize how absurd it is. There are no diagrams for this kind of thing. But we do have a parallel experience in gardening. You plant a “dead” seed; soon there is a flourishing plant. There is no visual likeness between the seed and the plant. You could never guess what a tomato would look like by looking at a tomato seed. What we plant in the soil and what grows out of it don’t look anything alike. The dead body that we bury in the ground and the resurrection body that comes from it will be dramatically different…

This image of planting a dead seed and raising a live plant is a mere sketch at best, but perhaps it will help in approaching the mystery of the resurrection body – but only if you keep in mind that when we’re raised, we’re raised for good, alive forever! The corpse that’s planted is no beauty, but when it’s raised, it’s glorious. Put in the ground weak, it comes up powerful. The seed sown is natural; the seed grown is supernatural – same seed, same body, but what a difference from when it goes down in physical mortality to when it is raised up in spiritual immortality!...

Let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die – but we are all going to be changed. You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes – it’s over. On signal from that trumpet from heaven, the dead will be up and out of their graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again. At the same moment and in the same way, we’ll all be changed: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true:

“Death swallowed up by triumphant Life!

Who got the last word, oh Death?

Oh Death, who’s afraid of you now?”…

With all this going on for us, my dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.

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