Easter Reflection from Ravi – “No More or Not Here?”

Hey TD!

The Apostle Paul said that if Christ has not risen from the dead, we (Christ followers) are to be most pitied.  He’s absolutely right.  Jesus’ bodily resurrection makes all the difference in this world and the next. That’s Easter hope.

World renowned apologist Ravi Zacharias shares some reflections on Easter hope, a hope I hope you’ll have soon.  Enjoy. – Arthur

 

No More or Not Here?

An Easter Reflection from Ravi Zacharias

There is a hotel where I have stayed frequently over the last thirty years. I know many of the staff and every time I return, they give me the best and kindest hospitality. I have found that when you talk to people, you learn so much about life at different economic levels, but all with the same challenges.

One of my favorite people was a bellman called Raj. He took particular care to make sure I never violated my doctor’s orders to not lift heavy suitcases. Whenever I checked in, he would bring my bags and set them up in my room. We often talked politics and spiritual issues. He was a very intelligent gentleman and a great conversationalist. I’ll never forget his statement on politics in his country. “They are not political parties, Sir. They are cartels scheming and manipulating. We pay the price for our foolishness,” he said. Fascinating take.

This time when I stayed there, I didn’t see him the first day so I assumed it was his day off. When I didn’t see him the second day, I asked one of the other bellman if Raj was on vacation.

“Oh no, Sir. He is no more,” came the reply.

Quite surprised at the phrase, I asked if he didn’t work there anymore. The reply came repeating the phrase: “No Sir. He is no more. He died last month.” I was shocked because the man was in his fifties. Evidently he had gone home one night after work, told his wife that he was not feeling well, and went to bed after a very light snack. When she tried to wake him up for breakfast, he had already breathed his last.

“He is no more.”

That phrase is pretty defining, isn’t it? The famed writer Nikos Kazantzakis, who had his run-ins with the church over his very controversial “The Last Temptation of Christ,” asked that the following words be put on his gravestone:

Den elpizo tipota.
Den fovumai tipota.
Elmai eleftheros.

I hope for nothing.
I fear nothing.
I am free.

Very cavalier statements, except that he is not there to defend those propositions. So it is much more meant to impress the reader than tell you anything about the departed one, whether he was justified in what he said or not. And as to his state of mind after death, all of those sentiments are an ultimate category mistake. If he doesn’t exist, attributing those sentiments brings to mind what Aristotle would have said in defining “nothing”: That which rocks dream about. A rock never hopes, fears, or seeks freedom. That is for the living.

The whole message of Easter defines this longing to be. After Jesus rose from the dead, the women went to visit where they had placed the body. The angel they met did not say, “He is no more!” He said, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is not here: He is risen” (Luke 24:5-6).

That statement defines everything about who we are. For the one who has given his or her life to Jesus, we will never ever “Not be!” We are meant to be in his presence eternally. The very phrase “goodbye” is a contraction of “God be with you.” It is the same with “adios”: “Go with God.”

Our hearts long for intimacy. Heaven is the consummate intimacy of the spirit. That is not a category mistake; rather, it defines the ultimate expression of life in its essence. Our spirit in communion with his. The closest thing to a touch felt by the Spirit.

The time will come when we also will have to say goodbye or adios for the last time. When that happens, how wonderful to know that those who speak for us do not have to say, “He is no more.” They can victoriously say, “He is not here; he is risen.”

The gospel message from beginning to end is dependent on this promise of Jesus that he would rise again. That unsealed tomb is the seal of his promise as the giver of eternal life. Over the centuries, skeptics have gone to ludicrous lengths to try and explain why his enemies could not present his body. That would have been all they needed to quash this rumor of his resurrection. But it wasn’t a rumor. It was a fulfilled promise seen by vast numbers, and it changed the course of history.

Luke was a physician. He knew what happened to a body when it died. He writes of the resurrection and the work of the early church. The resurrection was seen and lived out. It was the event that told the world that ultimately history is His Story of what life was meant to be.

The noted writer and atheist turned follower of Jesus A.N. Wilson said that he was at an Easter service when he saw the sham and the hollowness of his life without God. He described his conversion to atheism as “a Damascus road experience” and his return to Jesus as a slow arduous process through doubt and struggle. Part of that struggle made him see the difference of the logic that drove Hitler to his mission and Bonhoeffer to his. The belief and its consequences were worlds apart. He clearly saw the value of life in keeping with the message of Jesus and the hope and the joy of the Christian message. The faith that he once attacked, he now embraced. It all happened in a small church as he heard the message and listened to the hymns. Death was no longer to be feared, not because we are brilliant or daring or write prize-winning books as Kazantzakis did, but because Jesus lives to give us life everlasting. Even the atheist Anthony Flew granted that this was the litmus test of the Christian faith, and if true would define life.

Billy Graham tells the story of German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer looking at the ruins of war and saying to Mr. Graham, “Outside of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I know of no other hope for mankind.”

The conversion of Saul to Paul and the skeptic Thomas showed how two of the finest thinkers of their time were willing to pay with their lives after seeing the risen Jesus. One went east and the other went west. Today, more bend their knees to Jesus than to any other name.

This same trip that began in one country for me ended in Bangkok, Thailand, two weeks later. Every day as I looked outside my window, I would look scrutinizingly across the Chao Phraya River, because it looked to me like a cemetery on the other side. So I inquired of the bellman if indeed there was a cemetery on the other side of the river. He said he thought so. I hailed a ride and went over there. The main reason was to see perchance if my dear friend Koos Fietje, who was murdered in Thailand in 1981 at the age of 38, could be buried there. Bangkok is a massive city. But I was sure the Christian burial sites would not be many. As I entered, I noticed there were gravestones going back to the 1800s. I walked through the cemetery looking in every direction. Suddenly I came upon the stone you see here in the United States. I was shocked. Koos and I were very close in our undergraduate days. He paid with his life for the gospel. The last time we met was in Bangkok in 1974. He died in 1981. This was 2019. He died at the age of 38. I was standing by his grave 38 years later. Koos served as a missionary with Overseas Missionary Fellowship.

I placed some flowers at his grave and thought back on what a powerful life he had lived. Yes, there were tears.  When I went back, the bellman asked me if I found it. I showed him the picture. He looked at it and said, “What this means?” He was pointing to the verse on the stone, “For me to live is Christ but to die is gain.” I did my best to explain it to him. I saw a tear in his eye.

Two bellmen. Two weeks apart, two countries apart. Both had a tear. One because of a loss. The other because of a gain. The resurrection of Jesus makes the difference.

The hymn writer said it triumphantly:

Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And he lives forever with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!

That is why the Easter greeting is not, “He is no more.” Rather it is, “He is risen!”

And the joyful reply, “He is risen indeed.”

Happy Easter!

Ravi, on behalf of all of us at RZIM

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Passion Week Podcasts: Good Friday – “The Cross: An Excruciating Glory”

Hey TD!

Well, today marks our final Passion Week podcast.  It’s the one Daniel saved for the culmination of this series.  It’s a life-altering piece of teaching that should leave you in a good and healthy place.

We pray that you will really take this weekend to give your ALL to the Lord – all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength – in heart-rending surrender and worship.

Perhaps you can take protracted times of Bible study, prayer, singing, learning, podcast listening :), and serving Him.  Whatever it takes to get your soul set on Him, do it … and enjoy! – Arthur

(link for those who can’t listen directly on the blog)

“The Cross: An Excruciating Glory” link

Passion Week Podcasts: Day 4 – “The Cross: A Father’s Love”

Hey TD!

Today’s podcast is personal as I share some of my testimony of how I came to Christ … through the love of my late father.  It’s the love of a father that we will focus on today, specifically, the love the Heavenly Father has for His Son.  Today’s teaching may shock you a bit, but the truth of it needs to be heard and known, for it puts everyone in their rightful place.

As usual, after listening, I encourage you to spend time in heartfelt prayer to the Lord, surrendering your life to the One who surrendered His Son for you. – Arthur

(here’s the link for those who can’t listen directly on the blog)

The Cross: A Father’s Love link

Passion Week Podcasts: Day 3 – “The Meaning of the Atonement”

(“The Meaning of the Atonement” – mp3)

Hey TD!

I can’t think of a better thing to do during Passion Week than to focus on the cross and learn about what really happened there.  If Jesus went to the cross, endured that for us, and secured for us what we could not secure on our own, the very least we can do is to spend time and effort to learn and appreciate what He’s done for us.  That’s what these 10 minute podcasts are designed to help you do.

In today’s podcast, “The Meaning of the Atonement,” we’ll go “under the hood” and explain the transactions that took place on the cross – propitiation, expiation, and reconciliation.  After listening, please spend time in prayer and thanksgiving for the specific crimes he propitiated, expiated, and reconciled you from. – Arthur

(here’s the link for those who can’t listen directly on the blog)

The Meaning of the Atonement link

Passion Week Podcasts: Day 2 – “Why the Atonement?”

(“Why the Atonement?” – mp3)

Hey TD!

The word “holy” means to be set apart.  That’s what holidays are; they are “holy days,” days set apart from the others.  Passion week is often referred to as Holy Week. We’re excited that you’ve joined us in making this week separate from the other weeks in our lives by focusing on what it is that Jesus really accomplished on the cross through these Passion Week podcasts.

Today’s teaching, “Why the Atonement?” is especially rich and helpful in explaining why an atonement was necessary.  Philippians 2:12 charges us to “work out our salvation with fear and treambling.”  This will help you do just that. Again, spend some time in appreciative prayer after listening.  Until tomorrow! – Arthur

(the audio player is embedded on the blog, but below is a link for those who can’t access it on the blog)

“Why the Atonement?” link

Passion Week Podcasts: Day 1 – “God Himself Will Provide”

(“God Himself Will Provide” – mp3)

Hey TD’ers!

It’s Passion Week, a week to set apart from all other weeks in the year to focus on and remember Christ in a special way.  Can you offer the Lord 10 minutes a day this week as an act of worship to learn and really appreciate the Him? All week, we’ll be posting 10 minute podcasts highlighting some pertinent and powerful teaching from the series “The Cross: His Glory, Our Hope,” one of the most important series I’ve ever taught (perhaps my favorite).

A few years ago, Daniel wanted to do something for the Lord for Passion Week that would honor Him and build you guys up.  So, he decided to produce these podcasts as his gift to us.  Thanks Daniel!  Today’s podcast is, “God Himself Will Provide”

10 minutes a day.  That’s all it takes.  Will you listen?  After listening, please take some time to chew on it and pray over it.  Will you join us in being extra intentional and proactive about focusing on our Savior this week? – Arthur

God Himself Will Provide – (here’s a direct link in case you have trouble with the embeded link above)

What Did Jesus Do On Saturday?

Image result for safely home ron dicianni

 

Safely Home by Ron Dicianni

Hey TD!

Most of you recognize this painting as the one that hangs in my dining room.  It’s done by renowned artist, Ron Dicianni, and is part of a trilogy that includes a powerful song by Steve Green and a life-impacting novel by Randy Alcorn (if you haven’t read it, ask a TD leader to borrow a copy.  It will impact your life.)

On this “Easter Saturday,” Ron sent his constituents and email giving us his thoughts on what Christ did on Saturday.  I’ve included excerpts below to help you continue to draw on Easter power today.

Below his devotional thoughts are thoughts from Ron the Christian, who ministers through his art.  Enjoy.  – Arthur

———–

I have a question. We know Christ died on Good Friday, and we know he was raised to Life on Easter, but what happened in between?

As we recapture what Easter really means, I want to walk with you through a few truths that sometimes fall through the cracks.

The Bible tells us that, contrary to what some might think, Jesus did not just lay there in the grave and count sheep. In fact, the Bible tells us that He descended into Hades and took the keys of Death and Hell from Satan. That’s what I tried to capture in my painting He Holds the Keys.

Nor did Christ stop there, the Bible says that He led out those who had been held captive. I don’t know what that looks like – but someday I would love to try to paint the picture!

My point is that for us, this Saturday kind of falls through the cracks. Easter is tomorrow, Good Friday was yesterday, so what do we do today?

All I can offer you is my practice…

On Good Friday I remember the sorrow of what took place when Jesus paid our debt, On Sunday I remember (and rejoice!) that the grave could not hold Him, and in between I remember that He took the keys of hell and death away from Satan, to use them to free us…forever!

Scripture tells us that the sting of death was sin and that the power of sin was the law. Elsewhere we are told that the law brings death. That we all, because of the sins we talked about in yesterday’s email, were under a death sentence. But what did Christ do? He went and took the keys of death and hell away from Satan. No longer can we be terrorized by fear of death or hell! Christ didn’t just take the judgement away, He took away any hold, any claim Satan had against us!

People tell me all the time they are haunted by the sins of their past. No more let fear make you tremble! In God’s sight you are white as snow. What does the Bible say, perfect love drives out fear! And where else but on the Cross did we see more clearly God’s perfect love – for us! Our accuser has been cast down and no longer has power over us. No longer let doubt scream that you are the accused. And no need to ever again replay the video in our heads that the only side of Easter is the pain Jesus bore. We can, and must, dwell on the victorious side of Easter when we celebrate what no other person, religion or philosophy could do…conquer the grave, and set us, the prisoners free!

————-

 

People ask me often, where I get my inspiration and my answer is “I open my Bible”. Rather than preach at you… “Pray for your family”! I painted Spiritual Warfare and A Mother’s Love. Rather than tell you… “Jesus Loves you and the Cross is the measure of His love“, I painted Salvation. Rather than just pat you on the head and say and “l’ll pray for you”, I painted Divine Healing to remind you that you can still reach out and touch the hem of His garment. And rather than merely say “There, there, He knows” I painted one of my most personally meaningful works, In the Wilderness. And many, many more.

I am blessed that God has used my paintings – in fact they are more correctly His paintings – so far beyond what I could have ever imagined. From princes and presidents to teachers and fireman to pastors and the unemployed, God truly has sent His Word out in visual form and the results have been a harvest beyond my anything I could have made happen. I truly believe, and have dedicated my career to the truth, that if you surround yourself with the Message of Christ in your Life, that it will bear dividends, in His providence, beyond what you can imagine.

And just by reading this, you are a part of that story. Thank you.

In Him,