The Darkness of Death and The Light of Life at Easter [Video]

Easter, CCP Coronavirus, Ressurection of JesusSunday, April 12, 2020, is the annual celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead within most of Christendom. It is safe to say that this Easter season is unlike any other in almost everyone’s lifetime around the world because of the global Chinese Communist Party, or CCP, Coronavirus pandemic.

However, this pandemic is also another example of the reality of death in our world. And Easter, or Resurrection Day,  shouts out the power of God to overcome death with life.

Though a virus rages across the planet and the specter of death seems to lurk around every corner in many places, the Resurrection still remains as the ultimate demonstration of God’s power and providence for us. The darkness may threaten to overwhelm us for a time, but the Life and Light of the Risen Christ will overcome the darkness of death in the end.

The Darkness of Death Surrounds Us

Crucifixion, Resurrection, JesusThe CCP Coronavirus pandemic has drawn renewed attention to the reality of physical death all around the globe. All over the world, there are people worried about exposure to the virus and the possible deaths of themselves and their loved ones.

However, worse than the presence of death among us is the fear of death that is taking hold of so many people and motivating some in authority to act as if human rights do not exist. The Leftmedia has decided to join in the fearful chorus and dampen any glimmer of hope such as the successes of certain treatments, i.e. hydroxychloroquine, the recent reduction in the predictions of deaths from the CCP Coronavirus, and the reduction in hospitalization rates in New York state and elsewhere.

Fear seems to be driving some government officials to act out delusions of power and attempt to squash constitutionally guaranteed individual rights, some of which were mentioned in the previous article. Perhaps the most egregious statement to date was made by the Hamilton County, Ohio prosecutor Joe Deiters a few days ago.

Michael Knowles in his video broadcast of April 8, 2020, quotes several outrageous statements made by this demagogue including the following,

 If I was the Governor, I would tell these churches [that wish to hold services within the CDC guidelines] the first attendees at your church is going to be the National Guard because we are stopping this right away…

It is evident that the enemies of Christ are pressing forward with an all-out assault against faithful believers who wish to gather and corporately worship, honor, and call upon God for hope and courage amidst the viral fear. However, those enemies, whether human or demonic, will find their efforts will fail as they did 2,000 years ago outside of Jerusalem at the empty tomb of Christ.

The Light of Life Overcomes the Darkness of Death

Crucifixion, Resurrection of ChristThe current pandemic has engulfed the world with its ominous shadow and the serious menace of death it carries. Yet it pales in comparison to the literal darkness that visited the planet upon the death of Jesus on the cross.

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness all over the land, until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:45-46 [ESV]

That darkness signified the gathering of all the sin of the human race throughout all of our existence and having all that malice imprinted upon the pure soul of Jesus. Those three hours were the worst part of the tortures our Lord underwent at His crucifixion culminating in the greatest pain of all, the moment the Father turned away from His Son.

Abandonment by His Father was the final price Jesus paid for our sin on our behalf! Jesus’ cries to His Father were followed by a final call to God,

Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this, he breathed his last. Luke 23:46 [ESV]

The death of the Incarnate Son of God was the aftermath of darkness that covered all the world physically and spiritually and was the most powerful blow the demonic forces could strike. Yet it was not nearly enough to prevail against the power of God who raised Jesus from the dead and broke the stranglehold of sin, death and, despair.

Resurrection, Easter, JesusThat same Divine power is much more than a match for the death stalking the land today. There is no better time to come to the LORD seeking His love and grace than now at this very moment and lift the burden of sin from our hearts.

Therefore, let us take heart in the knowledge that Jesus has risen and alive forever and His light and life can and will extinguish the darkness of sin and evil no matter its manifestation or seeming advance in the world even today!

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 [ESV]

D.T. Osborn

Sources: The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Crossway Bibles, 2001

Featured and Top Image courtesy of Wayne S. Grazio’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 1 courtesy of matthias lueger’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 2 courtesy of PhotoNacho. Carpe Diem’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 3 courtesy of Martin LaBar’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License

All other sources linked or cited in the text

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Who Attempted to Stop Easter?

Easter is the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. He was part of God’s prophecy to send a Son to live a sinless life and to suffer, die, and be raised again. How else could God send the message He is sovereign over our land? Because there is no other way to enter the Kingdom of God except through His Son (John 6:44), Jesus’ mission was to save believers from God’s condemnation.

Many biblical names hated and loved Jesus while He walked the earth. Had man believed in God’s ultimate plan for Jesus, these people would have realized the attempts to stop His crucifixion and/or life were futile. Five men failed God’s test.

So, who attempted to stop Easter?

SATAN

Photo by Alessio Zaccaria on Unsplash.com

Satan and Jesus were always brutal enemies. Their most well-known confrontation was Satan’s visit while Jesus fasted in the Judaean Desert for forty nights and days. Satan tempted Him to create bread out of stones to relieve his own hunger, and leap from a pinnacle and rely on angels to break his fall. But when Satan asked Jesus to kneel before him in return for all the kingdoms of the world, Jesus became furious.

“Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” (Matthew 4:10)

Can you imagine Satan’s fury? If he were successful in tempting Jesus, there would be no Easter. Luke 22 claims Satan was most likely at the crucifixion as he was spotted in the area days before this historical event. He probably smirked with happiness, but little did he know…

King Herod

Image by James Tissot Collection (Brooklyn Museum)/FreeBibleImages.org

King Herod held the throne during Jesus’s time of birth. Furious to learn there was a Messiah who would be more loved than himself, he tried to find the pregnant woman. However, his plan backfired when the three Wisemen never returned with Herod’s information. He ordered all boys, in the age range of Jesus, to be executed. An angel warned Joseph and Mary to go to Egypt for safety as it was not part of the Roman territory.

King Herod was unsuccessful in finding our baby Savior. He died, instead, attempting to stop Easter because he was not part of God’s grand plan.

THE SANHEDRIN

Image copyright by LUMO Project (Big Book Media)/FreeBibleImages.org

The chief priests, the Sanhedrin, were the Jewish council who hated Jesus. They wanted to kill him, so they looked for false evidence, such as blasphemy. Though it may appear they were fruitful in finally murdering Jesus, God’s plan overpowered their contempt. The empty tomb and Jesus’ resurrection made news. The Sanhedrin’s attempt to stop Easter failed too.

PONTIUS PILATE

Image by michaelwelply.com/Pinterest

Pontius Pilate was the judge who would not give the eventual decision on Jesus’ death. Consciously, Pilate knew Jesus was innocent, but the uproar of the people shouting, “Crucify him!” intimidated his decision. High-ranking Jewish officials blackmailed him to kill Jesus. Finally, he gave the ultimate choice to the people.

If Pilate ordered Jesus dead, we would always know him as the man who stopped Easter. But our powerful God had a better way to save the world.

SIMON PETER

Image by gerhardy.id.au/Pinterest

Simon Peter was one of Jesus’ closest friends. In the Bible, Jesus often referred to him as Peter. We know his famous story as the fisherman who couldn’t catch his daily supply of fish… that is until Jesus arrived on the scene. He convinced Simon to return to his boat and drop his nets overboard. Soon  the nets overflowed with fish. Simon was a faithful follower of Jesus’ ministry, and later became an apostle.

When Simon was alerted that Jesus was arrested, he headed for Jerusalem. At the unmerciful sight of our Lord’s whipped and beaten body, he drew his sword in anger. He cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant before Jesus stopped him (John 18:10-11).

Jesus said to Simon, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

Simon Peter felt as if he failed to save his friend’s life. How could God allow this to happen if Jesus was really who He pronounced Himself to be – the Son of God? He, too, doubted his friend’s identity until God resurrected Jesus. The Lord’s plan for mankind was greater than Simon’s attempt to stop Easter.

There lies a common theme in this morning’s Easter message: God is the ultimate ruler of our life. He sent His son into the world to give us eternal salvation, but what we do with this gift is our decision.

Today, as we reflect on our lives, we beseech God to intervene with the world’s problems. May He save us from a scenario we didn’t invite into our life. Some are trying to stop us from celebrating Easter. Is this a life experience and are we part of God’s ultimate plans? You bet! The evildoers won’t or can’t stop Easter. We may not enjoy egg hunts after Easter service, but we will exult our Lord Jesus, in the name of our heavenly Father, God.

On this Easter Sunday, we are challenged – is Satan behind the mass hysteria again? You bet! How else could a virus travel so fast around the world? It’s entered places where people do not visit often. Only Satan can try to stop Easter. I, for one, won’t let him do it!

God bless all our family, friends, and subscribers! Have a blessed, healthy, and peaceful Easter.


Was It a Good Friday?

A quote was written about 539 B.C.,  just before King Solomon’s death and after God brought the Jews back from exile. Life was not always fair… it wasn’t then, and it isn’t now:

“I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” Ecclesiastes 9:11

As far back as time prevails, religious and political persecution were prevalent. But today, we mark the holiest of days in biblical history. Jesus died for us on a Friday, and He forgave our sins so we may live as pure as possible.

In the present day’s turmoil of political unrest, the Book of Ecclesiastes remains a mirror image. Jesus’ message was to proclaim the kingdom of God, a political offense in biblical days. He spoke of what it will be like when God is the ruler of the world, and this created a conflict with Roman authorities. Does this sound familiar? Much of social media has limited or shutdown religious postings. Our missionaries and religious leaders are murdered around the world for proclaiming the kingdom of God.

But Jesus’ issue with the Roman Empire was the sacrilegious offenses occurring within the temple of Jerusalem. It had become the NY Stock Exchange of its day, and worse yet, the high priests were getting a cut of all the money. These priests became wealthy from international trade. Jesus was appalled because the temple was to be a house of prayer – not corruption. To avoid a massive upheaval, the people arrested Him at night. And yes, it was the Jewish citizen’s decision to murder Jesus, not the government. If they killed Him and His true identity truly was the Messiah, the government would reap serious consequences. It was better to let the people decide our Lord’s fate.

Copyright by LUMO Project (Big Book Media)/ FreeBibleImages.org

As the crowds in Jerusalem shuffled to and fro, Jesus quietly displayed his condemnation against the ungodly government power and corrupt system. He rode a donkey into their town. Believers who knew of Him waved palms at His entrance. Others gasped in disbelief at “the king of Jew’s” entrance. He was sadly aware of His fate.

Jesus’ crucifixion was not just hanging on a cross, it was torture – a violent death. They whipped Him beyond sight with an iron ring that had six or seven leather straps. It had bone or metal attached to the ends to rip the flesh away, and then He was made to carry His own heavy cross.

Copyright by LUMO Project (Big Book Media)/ FreeBibleImages.org

Under normal circumstances, hanging upside-down was a quick death, but that was too easy for the punishment of Jesus. The thick nails piercing the palms of His hands and feet were excruciating and led to the dropping of His body pressure. Yet, He stayed alive for six hours on the cross, suffering for you and me. Jesus Christ died for our sins so we could live as pure a life as possible on earth.

Oh, the political Jews and pagans thought they won the war!

On Sunday morning, let us sing His praises and commemorate the reign of this holy man who sacrificed His life for us. With corruption running rampant in biblical days, there was only one way God could prove his identity – allow His Son to mingle with disbelievers three days later. They would surely understand our Father, God, not mankind, rules this world! So, for the next forty days after Jesus’ resurrection, He preached the mighty awesome power of His Father in heaven.

Image attribution Brooklyn Museum/FreeBibleImages.org

I would like you to test your faith by looking in the mirror on this day. Was it a Good Friday? What have you learned? Would you surrender your life, as Jesus did for you, by hanging on a cross? Are you able to discuss with others what Christianity means to you? Can you evangelize, or do you fear for your life? Do you study the Bible regularly? If you responded “yes” to all of these questions, your deep faith will be honored on earth and in heaven. As for those wavering on a “yes” answer, it is time to analyze your faith and love for Jesus Christ. He will wait for you….

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A Good Friday ‘Cross’ Application

Good Friday

Friday, April 19, 2019, is the annual remembrance of the LORD Jesus Christ’s death on a cruel Roman cross that paid the price for our sin. The crucifixion of Christ was the turning point of all history where God the Father reached out to humanity with the priceless gift of His only Son, Jesus.

Through that sacrifice, we are given the opportunity to come to God and receive His grace and the gift of everlasting life. Yet, the cross is more than the greatest sacrifice; it is a primary example for those who love Christ.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Matthew 16:24-26 [ESV]

There are three facets of this teaching gem which Jesus gave to His disciples that bear some examination. These were spoken not simply as instructions to them, but to everyone who has claimed the mantle of Christ ever since.

The Sacrifice of Self-Denial

There is nothing more antithetical to modern society than self-denial. Yet, in truth, it has been that way from the beginning.

The original sin of Adam and Eve is a testimony to this. They refused to deny themselves the one thing which the Creator prohibited when faced with the pressure of temptation.

Humankind has been prone to that path ever since. It is unimpeachable truth that everyone has refused to deny themselves something great or small on at least one occasion and likely more than that.

Good FridayThe business of advertising for products or services is a fruitful source for examples of saying no to self-denial. One doesn’t even have to examine television commercials to find such examples today [although TV still has the most].

Just scan the titles of your emails or the ads and headlines from prominent websites. There you will find many emotional words begging you to take action NOW! Words such as “hurry,” “urgent,” or a favorite of many ‘journalism’ blogs, “blockbuster news!”

One of the most important techniques a new salesperson is taught is to create a sense of urgency and need for the product right away. The vast majority of sales pitches have this element expressed by phrases like, “for a limited time only,” or “offer expires today.”

Since the days of the Great Depression in America, the principle of delayed gratification has faded from the general teaching and upbringing of successive generations. Nowadays, the latest and greatest are all everyone seems to want, and they want it now.

Many industries espouse immediate satisfaction as their goal for the customer. Perhaps the most common example is seen with ‘smartphone’ usage where user impatience is often vocally expressed upon a delay of more than a few seconds for a text or a download to be sent or received.

In order to follow Jesus as He taught, the natural impulses of impatience must be sacrificed on the altar of the cross of Christ. That means a genuine intent to deny self and to embrace the long and lifetime personal ‘via dolarosa,’ carrying our individual cross for Him each day.

What Do You Have to Lose?

This question is twofold. First, what do you have to lose if you do follow the prescription of the LORD? Second, what do you have to lose if you don’t?

Good FridayJesus tells us here that if we follow Him, we will save ourselves by losing our life. He doesn’t mean most of us will lose our physical life, though there are some even today who put their own lives at risk when called to preach the gospel in hostile environments.

Those are the missionaries who take grave risks of imprisonment, torture, and death to bring the hope of Christ around the globe. They are the people whom organizations such as Voice of the Martyrs and Open Doors advocate for and support.

These are truly the unsung heroes of the earth who practice the ultimate in self-denial for Jesus. When He returns, those heroes will be unsung no more and will embrace joy everlasting in a universe made right.

However, our LORD knows that only a choice few are called to that kind of work. For the rest of us, we are called to follow Jesus and demonstrate His love and grace to a different personal audience of co-workers, friends, and families.

While this may seem a less difficult task than moving to a different nation and living among a foreign culture, it can actually prove more arduous in the end. Jesus gives us insight as to why this is so.

And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.  Matthew 13:57-58 [ESV]

Anyone who has unsaved family members or friends can attest to the fact that you will likely face both unbelief and some hostility when you testify to them about Christ. Amicable relationships are another one of the things which may be ‘sacrificed’ when we carry the burden of our own “crosses” to follow Jesus.

One’s worldly ambition must also be nailed to a personal ‘cross.’ It is not wrong to seek to succeed in the world unless that success means living for the world and not for Christ.

Remember that the Bible doesn’t teach that riches and money are inherently sinful. Rather it teaches that the love of money is sinful and leads to ever more sin, as is loving anything or anyone more than God.

So what is lost if one does not embrace Jesus in faith and follow after Him? It is far more than losing friends or comfort or even mortal life; it is the forfeiture of the self and the soul.

Don’t Forfeit Your Soul for the World

Good FridayOne of the biggest points Jesus is making involves comparing the value of the material things of the material world with the value of the spiritual things of the spiritual realm. Our LORD is very clear about the value of both items and the verdict is that the riches of the entire world pale in value next to the human soul.

One of the most obvious reasons this is so is the factor of time. Time is something we measure but cannot master even with all the wealth in the world.

Time reminds us that we are mortal and our material lives will eventually cease. And no matter how much our physical life is extended or enhanced through science and medicine, death will remain on our horizon.

When one believes that the material world is either the most important world or the only world, it becomes easier to attempt to ‘gain the whole world.’ Our folly in this endeavor is the fact that all the riches in the universe could not buy us even a little more time.

Time is the one factor that everyone acknowledges is real, whether or not they believe in God. Yet, time is beyond our reach because it belongs to the triune LORD who created time in the first place.

Time is also the prison of the physical universe, including the physical body. For just as the universe had a beginning, so did our bodies, and just as our bodies will have an ending, so will the universe.

What is known as the Second Law of Thermodynamics or the Law of Entropy, confirms that time is running out for the universe. This scientific ‘law’ teaches the obvious fact that everything decays and runs down.

God’s Word taught that same principle long before science and it is called corruption. There are two types of corruption mentioned in the Bible, moral and physical.

Physical corruption leads to the destruction of the body, while moral corruption leads to the destruction of the soul. In a thrilling passage of the New Testament, Paul describes it this way.

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:50-57 [KJV]

If you or I make gaining the material riches of the world our goal in life, we will lose both life and riches. Worse, we will willingly have forfeited our souls for that which is only temporary.

When Christ was horribly crucified He was not seeking to gain the world but to give sinners the chance to gain eternal life. Jesus confirmed that eternal life was real when He rose again, as will be discussed next time.

D.T. Osborn

Sources: The Holy Bible, King James Version, Public domain

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Crossway Bibles, 2001

Featured and Top Image courtesy of Jason St Peter’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 1 courtesy of The People Speak!’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 2 courtesy of Sharon Tate Soberon’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 3 courtesy of id-iom’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License

All other sources linked or cited in the text

Originally published in TIL Journal

The Halo of Life

The thought of newly transplanted foliage thriving in the winter’s cold air enticed me to pray for God’s help. I raised the living room shades, and our tree was gleaming in His morning rays. It began in February as lifeless vegetation, a root ball almost too heavy for my wife and I to plant in the ground. We gently slid it into a wheelbarrow and positioned this poor sapling in front of the window. With high hopes and lots of prayers, we asked God to bless our achievement and to nourish this impressive little ten-foot red Dogwood tree.

I’m sure most of my readers heard or read all the versions of “Legend of the Dogwood Tree.” Our Dogwood, though, became special when a supernatural event occurred within a week of planting it in the yard. Amongst the dead winter sod, and obvious to the naked eye, an indisputable halo of green grass sprouted around its base. I showed my wife and a neighbor, in disbelief, and we sat to praise God. In all my years of landscaping, I never witnessed something so mystical! Halos mean the Kingdom of light, and that which dons them has spiritual power and life. Was this tree put in my hands for a reason?

A halo of green grass…image by Bicks Books LLC.

Last night, a short month after its birth to our home, the cold rains blew; this morning we opened the blinds only to discover God’s magnificent gift. Our most prized possession, the red Dogwood tree, blossomed with brilliant crimson blooms and just in time for Easter. Our hard-earned efforts yielded God’s acknowledgment of thanks for giving life to this little dogwood tree, now a sanctuary standing ever tall.

Maybe this halo occurrence is quirky to some but we’ve planted many trees and bushes in our yard, and nothing appears abnormal about them. But the little red Dogwood brightens our day, blooming blood-stained petals in the shape of a cross, along with its own halo. The Lord, no doubt, is very much in control of His creations, and perhaps He anoints them with His messages… just like this tree.

Jesus donned a crown of thorns and was crucified on a wooden cross for our sins. Whether it was a dogwood He hung from (as legend claims), or another type of wood is of scant importance. Living in the consciousness of Christ is the most essential part of being a Christian. Be aware of God’s signs – they are all around you, even in nature. Let’s understand everything good originates from Him, and He wants us to protect the halo of life.

God bless you as we prepare for the Easter season.

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