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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Congrats Youth Speakers!

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2019 Youth Speakers Team

(Standing) Daniel, Benson, Calvin, Anabell, Megan, Arthur

(Kneeling) Sandra, Jason, Stefan, Angela, Stella

Hey TD!

Let’s give a shout out to  our 2019 Youth Speakers Tournament team: Anabell Xu, Benson Yu, Jason Ke, and Stefan Chu.  It was a very special year, as the team and coaches really experienced intimacy and bonding with Christ as the center of it all.  There was lots of vulnerability, openness, tears, and laughter, as the team learned to trust and share their lives with one another, warts and all.  In doing so, they learned how to keep one another accountable, while still accepting one another and all the quirks we all possess.

God grew each speaker deep down where it counts and helped them develop and deliver some excellent diverse powerful speeches on Sex & Television, Jesus is Greater Than Religion, 5 Things Every High School Graduate Should Know About the Bible, and Dear Younger Me.  Each speaker was able to reach their potential and most importtantly, meet God.

As far as the actual  CA State Youth Speakers Tournament results, we’d like to say a special congratulations to Anabell Xu for winning the tournament! Anabell is the latest in  MBCLA Youth Speakers Tournament winners that will be charged to steward her victory and entrustment well:

One track only:

2006: Kathy Hung (12th)
2007: Christine Winarko (12th)
______  Runner-up: Eunice Im (12th)
2009: Nathaniel Hsieh (10th)
______  Runner-up: Vincent Puu (10th)
2010: Clara Wong (12th)
______  Runner-up: Randall Hsieh (10th)

Two tracks:

2011: Isabel Shen (12th)
2013:     Runner-up: Daniel Hsieh (10th)
_______  Runner-up: Harvey Gan (12th)
2014: Daniel Hsieh (11th)
____  Joseph Chang (12th)
____  Alexandra Tagami (11th)
2015: Megan Lee (12th)
______   Runner-up: Aileen Wei (12th)
______   Runner-up: Judy Wu (12th)
____  Andrew Shi (12th)
______  Runner-up: Joshua Chang (10th)
2016: Angela Hsieh (10th)
2017: Joshua Chang (12th)
____  Michelle Chen (11th)

One track only:

2019: Anabell Xu (11th)

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

“Christmas: Celebrate the Humble King” (Robert)

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Merry Christmas, TD!

On this Christmas Day, Robert shares an article he wrote for a local paper.  It’s an appropriate read for this special day.  Thanks, Robert!

Christmas: Celebrate the Humble King by Robert Chan

Last year in our home we celebrated our first Christmas together as a family of three. Our baby daughter had just turned four months old. She couldn’t do much except let out gas and look adorable, and yet her presence during that special season opened our eyes in a fresh way to the wonder of Christmas.

It wasn’t because the piece of real estate underneath our Christmas tree was much more crowded than usual; and, no, it wasn’t because our daughter received the most gifts out of anyone in our family. (She received toys and clothes that she probably won’t be able to wear or really enjoy until after this year’s Christmas celebration.) The fresh wonder came as we held in our arms a living reminder of the heart of this holy day. Beyond the lights, trees, songs, and scents—even beyond the shepherds, angels, and animals—the heart of Christmas was laid in a feeding trough two thousand years ago as a baby boy in Bethlehem.

Now this wasn’t what many expected when they were waiting for the fulfillment of God’s Word from the prophet Isaiah: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.” (Isaiah 9:6-7, ESV) With those credentials, shouldn’t this king be born in the palace of the greatest existing empire? Instead, he was born in a feeding trough in a very small town of Israel, which in turn was a conquered nation under the rule of the Roman Empire. The all-powerful God did not send His Son to overwhelm the world with might and glory; instead He sent his Son in the weakest form of humanity: a baby. My wife and I could only catch our breath in wonder when we fed our daughter so that she would not starve, changed her so that she would not rot, and carefully bathed her so that she would not drown.  She was totally dependent on us; and it floored us to think of why someone who is used to having everyone dependent on him would willingly place himself in such a position.

The Bible tells us why God humbled himself to such a point: Jesus became human like us in order to stand in our place before God. We all have sinned against our Maker and no amount of sacrifice or penance we can make on our own would overrule the rightful justice we deserve. And so Jesus “emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:7-8) He took no shortcuts in living the life we could never live—from birth to death, Jesus lived in perfect obedience and with perfect love for God the Father. He used his human eyes to see needy; he used his feet to move toward the hurting; he used his hands to lift the lowly; and he used his lips to praise his Lord.

But his body was not formed only to do good in our place; it was also formed to be broken for our evil. “When Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me.” (Hebrews 10:5) Jesus himself would be the perfect sacrifice. The hands that God the Father fashioned in the womb of Mary were made to be pierced. God made that heart knowing that it would stop beating for the salvation of many. He breathed air into those lungs so that they would one day collapse under the weight of Jesus’ body hanging on the cross. He wove that skin knowing it would be wrapped in grave cloths only to burst out from them in the triumphant defeat of death. Truly, “God so loved the world that He gave His Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) This Christmas, take time to marvel at this humble King and the costly peace bought by the sacrifice of the Prince of Peace

Suffering and Jesus (a must see)

Hi TD,

Suffering as a Christian is an integral part of being a Christian.  Period.  Nabeel Quereshi (former Muslim, author of the multi-award winning book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus) is no stranger to this, as he endured emotional and relational suffering after leaving Islam and surrendering to Christ, a cost he knew he would have to pay to come to the Truth. The above testimony/lecture and Q&A, Suffering and Jesus, is valuable teaching, perspective aligning, and very insightful.

The sub-title is “How Suffering Transformed My Life”  and was given earlier this year. imagesLittle did he know at the time  what other suffering God had in His plans for him.This week Nabeel announced a new suffering that God has placed in his life: advanced stomach cancer.  We just saw Nabeel, Michelle, and their new baby girl in June.  The thought of her possibly growing up without her dad is quite sobering:

Dear Friends and Family,

This is an announcement that I never expected to make, but God in His infinite and sovereign wisdom has chosen me for this refining, and I pray He will be glorified through my body and my spirit. My family and I have received the news that I have advanced stomach cancer, and the clinical prognosis is quite grim. Nonetheless, we are going to pursue healing aggressively, both medical and miraculous, relying on God and the fact that He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.

In the past few days my spirits have soared and sank as I pursue the Lord’s will and consider what the future might look like, but never once have I doubted this: that Jesus is Lord, His blood has paid my ransom, and by His wounds I am healed. I have firm faith that my soul is saved by the grace and mercy of the Triune God, and not by any accomplishment or merit of my own. I am so thankful that I am a child of the Father, redeemed by the Son, and sealed in the Spirit. No, in the midst of the storm, I do not have to worry about my salvation, and for that I praise you, God.

Unfortunately this means I am no longer able to engage in traveling ministry for the time being. I am canceling almost all my speaking events, with a few exceptions. From this point on until such a time as the Lord might choose to heal me, I intend to blog or vlog about my journey with cancer, transparently offering my heart, thoughts, and struggles in case they might encourage others and glorify God. I will no longer be with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, though it has been an absolute privilege to be on the team for the past 3 years. My third book, No God But One: Allah or Jesus?, launched today, and I still intend to write my next book, 20 Questions Muslims Ask and the Answers that Convert Them. Beyond that, the Lord knows.

Friends and family, may I ask you to fast and pray fervently for my healing? I do not profess to know the will of the Lord, but many of my close friends and confidants are convinced that this is a trial through which the Lord intends to bring me alive and refined. May His will be done, and may I invite you to seek Him in earnest, on your knees, fasting on my behalf, asking our Yahweh Rapha for healing in Jesus’ name.

And as you pray and fast, “I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Philippians 1:18-20)

For His Glory,
-Nabeel

Would you please join us in praying for Nabeel and his family?  Thank you. – Arthur

Loving Jesus More Than Life This Thanksgiving

Hey TD,

During this Thanksgiving week, I would like to ask … no … I would like to urge and plea with you to take your normal Thanksgiving routine and up it, deepen it, transform it,  … whatever you want to call it; but in some way, shape, or form, I would like to challenge you to make a concerted effort to give your thanks to our Lord with more than words.  Let Him receive your effusive words of thanks, for sure, but let Him receive thanks that are so thankful, that it results in some action that you joyfully and whole-heartedly do that honors Him and helps Him feel closer to YOU.

“… have we ever given thought as to how close God feels to us?”

 

I know that we always gauge the level of our relationship with God by how close we feel to the Lord, but have we ever given thought as to how close He feels to us?  Let’s spend some extra effort this Thanksgiving drawing nearer to the Lord and giving Him the gift of time.

Some suggestions for this include:

  • Planning a time for a more special time with the Lord during your personal devotions/Bible study, preparing for and treating your time with Him like you do when you meet with someone special.  Perhaps dress up for the occasion or meet with Him at a special place.  Special things often happen at special places and events!
  • Write Him a letter of gratitude and appreciation (not the same as journaling)
  • Serve someone in a way you normally wouldn’t/don’t in Jesus’ Name – on His behalf, with His flavor, essence, generosity, and warmth.
  • Share of His goodness and beauty to friends/people who haven’t yet seen or beheld Him as good and beautiful yet.
  • Create something for Him that highlights and honors Him – poetry, music, art, crafts, etc.
  • Commit to extra diligent study and understanding of Him and His things – i.e. review TD material (messages, studies, blog essays/videos/podcasts), review SS material, read a book, listen to a message or teaching series, etc.

In this spirit, I offer you the 12-minute video above from one of my favorite Bible teachers, John Piper,  on “Loving Jesus More Than Life.”  Enjoy.

Arthur

TD’er, Have You Repented From Your Life of Sin?

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Hi TD’ers,

The fact is, you are not a follower of Christ if you have not repented from your sin.  That is not only proper theology, but it is rooted in just plain fact.  You cannot be going north and south at the same time.  In order to go north, you must turn around from going south and head in the opposite direction.

And yet that’s exactly the attempt many church people, many TD’ers, and many self-proclaimed “Christians” make in trying to “follow Christ” while following the world and fulfill their self-centered desires.  They are factually in direct opposition to one another!  You cannot head north and south at the same time.  Jesus made it clear, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” Matt. 16:24

Could Jesus be any clearer?  If you want to follow Jesus (north), you must cease walking in the direction you are heading (south), turn around, and head the opposite direction towards Him.  And if you do not, you are not following Jesus.  This isn’t being narrow-minded, judgmental, legalistic, elitist, etc.  It’s just plain un-religious common sense.  You can’t go up and down and the same time.

The word “repent” means to change one’s mind  and turn and head the opposite direction. Have you repented from your sin?  Or have you “accepted Christ” and tried to just add Him on to your life?  To the direction you are already heading?  Hoping that adding Him on will result in Him blessing you as you walk in the direction you’ve decided to walk?

If that’s you, you need to truly repent from your life of sin (walking away from the Lord) and follow Him.  It’s the objectively right thing to do.  It’s the smart thing to do.  It’s the loving thing to do.  It’s the moral thing to do.  It’s the best thing to do.  And … it’s the hardest thing to do. You cannot do it in your own power.

But, if you sincerely plead to the Lord for forgiveness of your life of sin, surrender your life to the Lord Jesus and His will, and plead with Him to help sinful, broken you to turn around and follow Him … He will grant that to you and will help you to do so through THE gift of the Holy Spirit.  Acts 2:38 says, “… Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Let your small group leaders know if you want to discuss this and begin walking North. – Arthur