This article will be published a day or two after Easter Sunday so for followers of Jesus the events of the first Easter will still be fresh in our minds. Many churches on Easter Sunday will proclaim the festal shout:
“Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again!”
The connection between the first two statements and Easter should be obvious. But what about the last one: Christ will come again!
For a period of 40 days after Christ’s Resurrection on the first Easter morning, he appeared to his disciples many times, giving them convincing proofs that he was alive. At the end of that period Jesus went to a mountain with his disciples. While they were there a cloud came and took Jesus out of their sight and he ascended into heaven.
Understandably his disciples were dumbfounded and stood gazing into the sky watching as their Lord and Master disappeared before their eyes. Immediately two angels appeared and said: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Traditionally the church celebrates this event on Ascension Day, 40 days after Easter. Nevertheless the Easter Festal shout anticipates Christ’s return because that is the climactic day that followers of Christ look forward to. That is the day when all our hopes and expectations in Christ will be fully realised. That is the day when all injustices will be righted, all pains will be healed, all sorrow will finally cease.
It is also the day when all mankind will stand before Christ to give an account for their deeds. His followers need have no fear of this judgement because Christ’s death has made a way for our wrongdoings to be forgiven. Not so for those who have not put their trust in him.
The joyful, festal shout on Easter morning is entirely appropriate because we look back with gratitude to Christ’s death and resurrection and look forward to the hope that this offers us. If you don’t yet have this hope then ask God to give it to you.
This blog post featured in the April 2016 edition of Hook Focus
Do you ever find yourself questioning whether your faith is true? And if so where do you turn to strengthen your faith?
I am most prone to doubt when I am tired or feeling under the weather. At times like that the number one thing that renews my faith is Christ’s resurrection. Taking that away is like removing a key block from a Tower of Jenga, everything else collapses around it. Paul writes: ‘And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.’ 1 Corinthians 15:14 (NIV 2011) As if that wasn’t strong enough Paul continues in the same chapter to say that if Christ has not been raised: 1) our message is a lie, 2) there is no resurrection for anyone else, 3) our faith is futile, 4) we are still in our sins, and 5) we of all people are the most to be pitied! Of course Paul is being rhetorical here, inviting us to have confidence in Christ’s resurrection, because he then goes in to state: ‘But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.’ 1 Corinthians 15:20 (NIV 2011)
Why was Paul so certain that Christ had been raised? Because he had evidence; evidence that we too can rely on to confirm that our faith is based upon facts. Just a few verses earlier Paul cites the eyewitness testimonies of Peter and the 12 apostles, most of whom were still alive when Paul wrote and could have been questioned. He also cites a resurrection appearance to 500 others at the same time, again most of whom were still alive and could have been questioned.
Of course we could also look at the evidence of the empty tomb and the folded grave clothes; the response of the authorities who had every incentive to prove that Jesus had not risen; the eyewitness testimony of the women who arrived first at the tomb; the scepticism of Thomas; the willingness of the disciples to die for the truth of Christ’s resurrection.
A careful investigation of such details leads to the conclusion that the best explanation for that first Easter morning is that Christ is indeed risen! And if Christ is risen then we know that the message of the scriptures is true, that we too will be resurrected, that our faith is not futile, that we have been set free from our sins, and that we are the envy of the world.
This Easter, allow yourself to be captivated by the facts. Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again! Alleluia, Amen!
This blog post featured in the April 2015 edition of Lifelines
The run up to Easter is one of my favourite times of the year. Each new day, as we see the weather improving, draws us closer to the time when we celebrate Christ’s death and Resurrection. Normally in the run up to Easter I would encourage you to focus on Christ’s death as it is through His death that we are able to receive mercy and forgiveness for our sin. But what would the Easter story have been like had Jesus not risen? After all the animals sacrificed under the Old Covenant stayed dead! The resurrection though gives us confidence that the power of death is beaten, and that we like Christ will be raised to life on the last day.
Have you ever wondered what it must have been like for the disciples to encounter the risen Lord Jesus after the tomb was found empty? During a period of 40 days Jesus appeared to over 500 followers on at least 11 occasions as recorded in the gospels and Acts. What would it have been like to be part of that? How would your faith have been strengthened to see Christ standing in front of you with nail scarred hands and a pierced side?
Starting on Easter Sunday will be a 6 week series called ’40 Days with Jesus’. Each week a different preacher will help us join the disciples and retrace their steps in an encounter with the risen Lord Jesus. The series is supported by a devotional book by Dave Smith called (you’ve guessed it!) ’40 days with Jesus’. There are also small group questions and video clips that some Connect groups may choose to use during these 40 days in order to help us draw closer to our Risen Saviour.
Dave Smith is the leader of Kingsgate Church which was planted as a small group meeting in a home in 1988 and now consists of a congregation of around 1,500 people in a massive warehouse conversion in Peterborough. Dave Smith is joining us at Westpoint in August so this will also be an opportunity to get to know him before the summer.
If you would like to join us on the 40 day adventure you can purchase a copy from Amazon
Paperback edition 40 Days with Jesus from Amazon UK
Kindle edition 40 Days with Jesus from Amazon UK
This blog post featured in the March 2015 edition of Lifelines
A few years ago when we were on a family holiday in France we visited an amusement park. One of the more challenging rides was a 500m aerial runway across a lake and onto an island. After watching several people take the ride before me I became convinced the ride was safe, plucked up courage, climbed on to the seat and sped down to the landing area. My initial nervous trepidation change to exhilaration as the warm air rushed past my face.
Many people think that becoming a Christ follower is an act of blind faith, a leap into the dark without any rational basis. Nothing could be further from the truth! At the point of decision there may be many unanswered questions but, like my decision to ride the aerial runway, genuine faith in Christ is based upon a body of evidence. Of all the things recorded about Jesus, the one outstanding claim that needs to be scrutinised is His resurrection. If that can be shown to be false then everything else falls away like a stack of cards. Even St Paul recognised this when he wrote these words: And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
No serious historian would question that a man called Jesus lived and taught in the region of Galilee and Judea. Over the years a number of people have written books that set out to impartially investigate the evidence surrounding Christ’s resurrection, the most famous being ‘Who moved the stone?’ written by the lawyer Frank Morison who intended to prove the resurrection didn’t happen. Trawling through the New Testament accounts, and other contemporary evidence, Morison concluded that the most rational explanation for the events surrounding the first Easter, 2000 years ago, was that: Jesus actually died on the cross, he really was buried in the tomb, he was definitely raised back to life and appeared to over 500 of his disciples. In short, the essential elements of the Easter accounts are true.
You may consider that you know the details well, but have you truly examined the evidence? In between the chocolate eggs and fluffy bunnies why not conduct your own investigation into the resurrection this Easter? Begin by reading Matthew 21- 28; Mark 11-16; Luke 18-24; John 11-21. Then get hold of one of the books listed below and see how all the arguments against the resurrection can systematically be shown to fail. Then you will have evidence that demands a verdict; you will have a rational basis for a decision upon which to base faith in Christ.
This blog post featured in the April 2014 edition of Hook Focus
 1 Corinthians 15:14 (NIV2011).
The cross is one of the most recognizable images worldwide. Worn as jewellery, even by those with no faith at all, and forming the basis of art and decoration in church buildings, the cross is remarkable because an instrument of tortuous execution has become a symbol of religious importance. The cross itself is no more than a couple of blood stained rough timbers but what it represents: the death and resurrection of Jesus is quite literally the crux of history itself. The message of the cross reaches out to us across 2,000 years and is as significant today as it was that first Easter.
In ‘Scandalous’ Don Carson applies his remarkable skill as a theologian and a pastor to help us look through the eyes of five eyewitnesses to these events, and help us understand the cosmic significance of Christ’s death and resurrection. This is a readable book that is accessible yet powerful in unfolding the eternal mystery of God’s love for people like you and me.
Buy Scandalous from Amazon UK
Buy Scandalous from Amazon US
Recently two women (Mrs Eweida and Mrs Chaplin) took their case to the European Court after they faced disciplinary action for wearing crosses to work. The British Government argued that Christians do not have a right to wear a cross or crucifix openly at work and claim that the two women’s application to the Strasbourg court was “manifestly ill-founded”. The fuss that has surrounded this matter has divided opinion in the UK, sometimes along unexpected lines.
Controversy has surrounded the cross ever since Christ was crucified. St Paul wrote: ‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.’ 1 Corinthians 1:18 (NIV) Crucifixion was a brutal form of execution that was designed to torture its victims as, over many hours, it led to a slow painful death, primarily through asphyxiation. Even among the Romans the cross was an object of horror, so for a Jew to declare that ‘it is the power of God’ is astonishing.
How is it then that something as unpleasant as the cross could become the symbol of God’s power and love? Paul’s answer is ‘that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day.’ 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NIV) If Jesus’ death on the cross had been the end of his story then he would have been just another forgotten Jew who died at the hands of the Roman occupation army. However, as millions of Christians will celebrate on Easter Day, Christ did not stay dead but resurrected from the tomb demonstrating his power over death, affirming his power to provide forgiveness. Christ’s resurrection transforms a rough wooden cross from being an ugly object of scorn into the glorious means of our rescue from sin.
The true mark of a follower of Jesus is not a cross worn around their neck but that the message of the cross has penetrated their heart. We invite you to join us this Easter Sunday as we celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ. Our prayer is that you too may know the power of God that is found in the message of the cross.
This blog post featured in the April 2012 edition of Hook Focus
The cross is one of the most recognizable images worldwide. Worn as jewellery, even by those with no faith at all, and forming the basis of art and decoration in church buildings, the cross is remarkable because an instrument of tortuous execution has become a symbol of religious importance. The cross itself is no more than a couple of blood stained rough timbers but what it represents: the death and resurrection of Jesus is quite literally the crux of history itself. The message of the cross reaches out to us across 2,000 years and is as significant today as it was that first Easter. These two books help us recapture the wonder and power of these historical events.
‘Living the Cross Centred Life’ by CJ Mahaney is radical in its impact. CJ’s stock answer to the greeting ‘How are you’ is ‘better than I deserve!’ Yet this response is not a clever platitude but a humble recognition that Christ’s death and resurrection has utterly transformed everything. CJ takes us to the centre of God’s plan to save his own enemies. He leads us through profound truth and helps us to see how that affects us day to day.
Buy Living the Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing from Amazon UK
Buy Living the Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing from Amazon US