The Power of Our Stories

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by  Peter van Gorder

 

My latest obsession is interviewing people; well, actually it has been growing quietly in fertile ground for many years.

It may not be a new idea, but perhaps it is one we should develop more – find out the treasures hiding within the exceptional people we meet.

As often the case when you get a ‘bug in your bonnet’, something comes across your trail to confirm your direction. I discovered some great TED talks on interviewing that might be useful to anyone interested in picking up this torch.

http://www.ted.com/talks/marc_pachter_the_art_of_the_interview.html

Here is a link which shows a great actor who has dramatized some of the people she has interviewed, which could be an idea to try with some of these stories.

http://www.ted.com/talks/anna_deavere_smith_s_american_character.html

One advantage of interviewing people and getting their stories is that you gain a better perspective of knowing how the story turned out after they have gone through the experience, as opposed to someone who is telling their story while they are still going through it. The story doesn’t have to have just happened last week or last month to be of value. A good story is timeless as the Greek classics and others have shown.

Just about everyone has a story to tell. If you are a channel to receive them, you can be enlightened by the many amazing adventures and experiences people have to tell you, especially those with relevance for us today.

Just about anything can trigger a story. Maybe you are watching an angel movie or a TV show, especially around the holiday season or maybe you drive by a store window and some angel art is on display like I saw the other day. In that case, you could ask your fellow passengers, “Has anyone ever had an experience with angels from the spirit world?” You will probably get a few responses like I did from the backseat.

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    Enrico clowning around at dinnertime.

Right – relaxing after a show at the Movenpick hotel.

Enrico, my Italian co-worker, told us of a time he was playing his guitar on the streets of Rome with another singer in hopes of receiving some donations from those who passed by. They had been playing and singing their hearts out for five hours and had not received one single donation. Extremely disappointed, the team stopped to pray for some divine help.

A kind gentlemen in his late 60’s approached them dressed in a brown suit. From his pocket hung a scarf neatly folded. Circling his neck was another silken scarf.

He spoke Italian in a thick American accent. “Hey, what are you guys doing?”

Enrico explained that they were missionaries and were singing some songs and passing out tracts trying to raise some support.

“Let me try your guitar out.”

He was very friendly but a bit eccentric. His forwardness took them by surprise. Why did he want the guitar? Was he going to run away with it?

At first they were hesitant but thinking that they had nothing to lose, they reluctantly gave him the guitar.

He began to play, “When the Saints Come Marchin’ In” in a jazzy style that grabbed everyone’s attention on the walking street. The song immediately had everyone who heard it movin’ and groovin’ to its rhythm.

Soon all three of them were parading and singing up and down the walking street and going in and out of the shops that lined the walkway. They didn’t have a hat to collect donations in, but people just started giving. When someone held out a bill for him to take, our stranger pointed back to Enrico and his friend, so the money was passed on to them. After only 20 minutes of this performance they had about 100 Euros in donations.

Of course they wanted to share some of their gifts with this stranger, but he refused, making it clear that he was just trying to help them out.

They were saying their farewells when the friendly busker pointed to a man overseeing a construction project in front of a major cinema. “You need to go to that man, he needs your encouragement.”

Enrico continued, “We were on our way to go to the man he had pointed to when we remembered that we had forgotten about getting his address. When we came back, the man in the brown suit – the friendly busker – was nowhere to be found.

“We talked to the stranger he had pointed to and found he was truly in need of encouragement. This construction overseer came over to our house several times. He poured out his heart to us and told us of his problems. We shared from the Bible and prayed with him and he became one of our good friends.”

Hey,” someone else said, “that reminds me of a story I heard from Marco. He told me he had an angel guide him through the frontlines of Bosnia to find our house.”

Someone else piped in, “And that reminds me of a story I heard of…” Miracle stories are contagious!

 

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The Caterpillar Who Didn’t Want to Become a Butterfly

by Peter van Gorder

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Winston had just hatched from his egg — A new hairy caterpillar born into a new hairy world. He grew quickly as he had a voracious appetite. In fact, he had only one goal in life — to eat as many leaves in as short a time as possible.

Sometimes Winston would momentarily cease from his incessant munching to look up at the world around him. Above the tree, on which he lived, was the sky, below the dirt. He never saw his parents and he didn’t know where he had come from so he began to think that he had evolved by chance or perhaps he had even created himself. But he didn’t think about these things for too long before he was back to munching.

Sometimes, he saw some shadowy shapes flitting about, but he dismissed them as figments of his imagination, as they were not of his earthbound world.

Then to his surprise, one day a butterfly alighted next to him. Winston looked up from his munching for a minute. “Who are you?”

“Don’t you recognize your own kind? I’m a butterfly. And so will you be. One day you will fly in the wind and visit flowers to eat their pollen.”

“Pollen? I only eat leaves. Eating leaves is all I know and all I want to know.

Me? A butterfly? Nah, I’m a caterpillar – period. Now excuse me, I have to get back to my munching.”

The butterfly patiently tried to explain, “It works like this: First you spin the cocoon, then you wait for some weeks, then you wake up one day hatching out of it. Blood starts to flow through your wings and soon you are airborne.”

“Sounds like a fairy tale to me. Like frog turns to prince by kissing a maiden.”

“Ok, doubter, have it your way. I’m outta here,” the butterfly said as he flew off.

Winston returned to his munching. Even though a voice inside him told him to build that cocoon, he shrugged it off.

I’m too busy making a living munching to build a cocoon. He thought to himself.

The sad ending of the story is that Winston froze to death during the winter. The leaves that he loved to munch so much had withered and fluttered to the ground and Winston soon joined them.

Does this parable sound familiar? Some people are like Winston — so busy trying to make a living that they don’t take time to prepare for their eternal future.

How sad when some refuse Jesus’ gift of eternal life. The realities of the Sprit World are far greater than the amazing metamorphosis of the butterfly.

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Easter Riddles

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by Peter van Gorder

Riddles have an interesting history. Some say they began in early monasteries where it was one of their main forms of entertainment. One monastery would send the riddle to another and they would try to guess the object. Everyone loves discovering a mystery and riddles are like a treasure hunt. Even if you don’t understand every word in a riddle you can understand what it is from the context.  All the riddles are written in the first person. As it is Easter, you could have the theme of the riddles be an object that pertains to Easter like: the crown of thorns, the rolled stone, the grave clothes etc.  Below are a few I tried.

You can make a game of it. Make two teams. Each line is revealed – line by line. Of course, it gets easier the more lines are revealed. Give 5 seconds pause before reading the next line. The first team or person to get it wins.

…. is Goodness

We are patience personified

After 40 years of basking in forest’s Eden

We were plucked to serve you.

Sucking from our earth mother’s breast

We were nurtured for this moment

We are ready for you to use us

We are eager to become a tool – a chair – a table – a frame,

For then we live.

 

We await your pleasure

Do with us, as you will

We are earth transformed

Almost, yet not quite, flesh.

Sap instead of blood transverses our veiny grain

As milk is not blood but more noble than water

So are we –

We ….. are good for you

We ….. wait for you

Master, shape us

Caress us with your plane

Shape and cut us as you will.

Let us feel your firm fingers

Form and fit us carefully to your will

Polish us with your oilcloth

Till we shine

 

Well have you chosen your profession –

A carpenter of Galilee

Someday we will lift you up

And like a magnet draw all men to you

We will hold the nails that will support you

Even as you die for the men who kill you.

 

Answer: wood

 

 

 

…..   Stuff

What are the stuff we are made of?

Sometimes we are but a limpid pool

Reflecting thoughts.

A wafting genie

Awaiting commands.

Shadows

Cast from a million mundane moments

A magic beanstalk

Growing skyward as breathing slows.

An enchanted carpet

To transport you to mysterious lands

You know not of

But shall – if you will

We shall teach you

Of death and roses

Of flying and loving

And so much more

We are the messengers –

Harbingers of doom or good fortune

An ill or good omen

We have changed men

We will change you – if you will

 

We warned the wise men

To avoid the king’s poison

We can warn you – if you will

We persuaded Joseph to love Mary

We can persuade you to love– if you will.

 

Answer: dream (this is not an object of course so it might be harder)

 

 

 

 

Two

We are a great contradiction

We open and close doors

|We satisfy your hunger

Yet, leave you starving

On our faces are the faces

Of the world’s heroes-

The images and superscriptions

Of the greedy great.

Whose greatness is soon forgotten

 

Rubbed and handled and pawned off

From person to person

From generation to generation

Until we are too old to be traded – only to be admired

Or we fall in a crack to await discovery

 

We are age – time frozen in a metal die.

Yet men give their every waking moment for us.

As an empire falls so we are debased

But in our prime

We are value exemplified

But beware –

Love us and you suck a bitter root

Adore us and we will destroy you

Men measure their worth in us

Thinking they are rich

Yet know not their spirits are

Wretched,

Miserable,

Poor,

Blind,

Naked,

And in need of love.

 

 

Answer: coin

 

A few other possible objects you could try:

Bread

Water

Wine

Sheep

Fish

Clothes

Hand

Bed

Saliva

Ear/tongue

Eyes

 

Here is an impossible one to guess from the Bible Believers:

If you attend the first,
you SHOULD attend the second,
you WILL be at the third,
and you WON’T be at the fourth.
If you don’t attend the first,
you COULD be at the second,
you WON’T BE AT THE THIRD,
and you COULD be at the fourth.

Answer:
1st
Supper of Salvation
Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: (Luke 14:16)
2nd
Lord’s Supper
For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. (I Corinthians 11:23-25)
3rd
Marriage Supper
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. (Revelation 19:6-9)
4th
Supper of the Fowls
And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; 18 That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great….. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh. (Revelation 19:17-18, 21)

or here are a few in a different style from belief.net

Name something Jesus did that sounds similar to what a little boy might have done to his eggs this week.
#### HE DIED / HE DYED
Name something Jesus did a few days later that sounds like the name of a currently popular NBC series.
#### HE ROSE / HEROES

 

 

 

 

 

I Saw, I Felt, I Believed

 

by Peter Van Gorder

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    Painting by Caravaggio – Incredulity of Thomas

 

Thomas – or Didymus here. Both names mean twin. Names, names, it’s funny how my name has become synonymous with doubting – as when you call someone who is skeptical a ‘doubting Thomas’. And then on the other side of the spectrum, some venerate me as a saint for my work in India and call me the blessed, ‘Saint Thomas’ and make relics of my bones! I guess every saint has to overcome his doubts – maybe that’s what makes them saints.

I don’t mind being called a saint, after all, each one of you can become a saint – a ‘called out one’. So cheer up you saints of God, if you have doubts, take heart from my story.

What was it that overcame my doubts? It was right after the crucifixion of our Beloved One. I had been away on business, and trying to keep away from the Sanhedrin in case they decided to go after us next. A lot had happened in my absence. When I came into the room where we regularly gathered, everyone was excited and tried to tell me what had happened to them. I tried to piece the story together from each of them the best I could, but I was more confused than ever.

Peter tried to help me understand, “We were huddled together here in this room trying to make sense out of what had just happened. It seemed as if our flame had been put out even before we had even begun to light the world. Then there were the reports from the women: Salome, Mary the mother of James, and a few others. They had told of seeing the tomb empty.

Then Mary Magdalene entered her face aglow with joy. “I have seen the Lord!”

But they were women, and you know how emotional they can be.”

I smiled and nodded my head as Peter continued.

“We thought they were just wild fairy tales and just couldn’t believe them. But after John and I went to the tomb to check out their story, we thought differently.”

“What did you find?” I asked hoping to shed some light on these puzzling events.

“It was empty except for the face cloth and the linen that wrapped his body,” Peter continued, “I began to think that there might be something to their story. Maybe our Lord does live again. Remember He said that just as the prophet Jonas was three days in the whale’s belly so must the Son of Man be three days and nights in the heart of the earth.’ “

John added, “It has been three days now – and look, things are beginning to happen.”

Peter’s voice rose with enthusiasm, “The most amazing thing of all that happened was when He Himself appeared to us and showed us the marks in His hands and the spear wound in His side. Then He breathed on us and said, “Receive the Holy Ghost and…”

My doubts drowned out the rest. As he was telling me all this, I was like some of you skeptics, I thought, How could intelligent men believe such nonsense? The dead come to life again – impossible!

Then Cleopas and his friend came in all excited about meeting this mysterious stranger on the road. They said that he had magically transformed into Jesus and then ‘poof’ just disappeared – hmmm, right. Had everyone gone crazy?

I stepped forward and said what some of you ‘reality freaks’ out there probably would have said, “I don’t believe all these stories. Of course we’ve all been through a lot so it’s understandable that we see what we what we want to comfort us.”

I could see I was surrounded by a bunch of wide-eyed idealists. I pled with them to be more realistic, “I loved Him as much as you did. Don’t you remember I said that I was ready to go to Jerusalem and die with Him? But don’t you see how ridiculous the whole idea is? The dead just don’t come back to life. Oh, I know, Lazarus was in the tomb and came back to life after being dead four days; maybe that was just a good piece of luck. And remember, that was bringing someone else back to life – not himself. There is no way He could come back to life after what He went through at His crucifixion. Maybe you just saw someone who looked like Jesus, or maybe it was an imposter trying to play cruel jokes on all of us.

“As for me –I will believe when I see. I would have to see Jesus myself like you did. Wait, wait…eyes can play tricks on you. I not only want to see him, I want to feel him, too. I would have to see the print of the nails and put my finger in it to believe. If I don’t get that, I just can’t believe no matter how many reports we get of a resurrected Messiah.”

I was a disillusioned man with my nose so close to the realities of life that I was not able to see the power of God working right in front of me.

Nothing happened. A week later all the disciples were all gathered together again and invited me to come. I thought, I have nothing else to do, I might as well join them. Maybe we can have a memorial service for Jesus. So after I got there, I wasn’t expecting much.

Suddenly, a ghost walked right through the walls! And I wasn’t imagining things either.

It was Jesus! He smiled at me and said, “Thomas, put your finger in here. Look at my hands,” pointing to the wounds in His hands.

I hesitated; He remembered what I had said! I was ashamed of my harsh words.

But He didn’t stop there. He wanted to quench all my doubts. He grabbed my hand and told me, “Thrust your finger into my side.”

I did, I saw and felt. Now I had no excuses for my doubts anymore.

I fell to my knees. All I could blubber was, “My Lord and my God.”

Now that I knew – what else could I do? I had asked for proof and I had gotten it. Now the onus was on me. I had put Him to the test and now He was testing me.

What would I do now? I had to tell everyone of the Risen Christ. He had told us to go to far from our home, what for us was the ends of the earth, so I did. What an adventure traveling for Jesus was! Try it and you will see what I mean.

He takes each of us at our different levels of faith and works with us. After all, we are the clay and He the Potter, so it takes more to work with some lumps of clay than with others.

Each of the disciples had their own quirks and imperfections which should give hope to any of you who feel less than perfect. Philip was a harsh realist, Peter impetuous and wavering, John and his brother James had bad tempers sometimes (there was a reason they were called the “sons of thunder”), and I could tell you about the shortcomings of each of the rest of them… but you know, God can use anyone who wants to be used.

Yes, I believed when He took my hand and I felt His wounds. But actually, faith was first born when He looked in my eyes and I knew I was loved in spite of my skepticism. I was ashamed of my unbelief but His love was greater than my doubts.

It’s natural to want to see a sign – you want to see first and then you’ll believe. Didn’t He even tell us to ask and we would receive, to ask anything in His name, and to seek and we would find? Yes, He said all that, but He also told us, that those that believe without having seen first would have an extra reward. He was talking to all of you who would come after us.

What will that reward be for having believed though having not seen? If we knew exactly what that reward will be it would take some of the surprise out of it, don’t you think? But believe me, when you do see your reward for believing on the other side it will be worth the wait.

Everyone has doubts and wants to see some proof, and maybe God in His infinite mercy will give you a sign like He did to me. But even if you never see a miracle, keep trusting and believing anyways. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. It’s something real – even more substantial than what you can see or feel. Have faith in Him, and you’ll be happy you did. This is the joy of Easter.

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1Jo 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;

1Jo 1:2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen [it], and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)

1Jo 1:3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship [is] with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

1Jo 1:4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

 

-end

 

 

 

 

Symbols of Easter

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by Curtis Peter Van Gorder

 

Colored eggs and rabbits are perhaps the most popular symbols of Easter. But what do they have to do with Easter, anyways?

One folk story that was popular a hundred years ago tells of a princess, who in time of famine, wanted to give food to the children of her village. Hoping to make a fun activity out of the event, as it was Easter, she colored hard-boiled eggs with brilliant dyes and hid them in her garden for the children to find.

After the egg hunt the children sat down happily to eat their eggs. One of the children asked, “But where did such colorful eggs come from? Surely a hen would not lay such bright eggs.”

Just then, a rabbit ran out of the bushes and so the children thought the rabbit had brought the eggs. The princess, being humble and trying to avoid taking the credit for giving the eggs, did not correct the misconception and soon the story of the Easter bunny spread.

A charming legend, but we need look no further than the Easter story itself to find some better symbols. Let’s have them speak for themselves, shall we? — A strange idea? Not really. When the disciples sang a Psalm in praise of Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem on a colt, the Pharisees told Jesus to keep them quiet as they thought Jesus was receiving too much praise from them. Jesus responded with, ‘I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.’

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Listen now — they speak.

I am the Bread of Easter. The Master raised me high and gave thanks. Then I was broken and given to the disciples. The Master said, “Take eat this is My body which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” He was the bread of God that came down from heaven and gave His life for the world.

If you eat of me, you will soon be hungry again, but if you eat the Living Bread you will live forever. Man does not live by me alone, no, he needs something more – that more is Jesus.

I am the Crown of Thorns of Easter. I was a nuisance growing by the side of the road, struggling to survive, like so many people in the world. I was a curse on the ground for man’s sin. Like the Master, I was despised and rejected of men. I was picked up and fashioned into a crown. I was meant to be a cruel joke and a mockery, but I became an emblem of glory when the Father transformed me into a halo of loving-kindness and light.

I am the Reed of Easter held in the King of Kings right hand at His greatest time of trial. I too, was transformed. From a common walking stick I became a scepter of righteousness and a loving rod of iron with which He will rule the world.

I am the Scarlet Robe of Easter – Then I was old and tattered and threadbare — the kind that kings and generals wore. I was draped over His body in mockery of His kingship. But I was transformed into a robe of light — A garment as white as snow to show His purity and the brightness of His majesty!

I am the Wood of Easter. After 40 years of basking in forest’s Eden I was plucked to serve. I was nurtured for this moment – to become a cross. I was eager to be something useful; a chair, a table, a frame. But I was shaped instead into a cross. I lifted up the Master Carpenter and like a magnet; all men were drawn to Him. I held the nails that supported Him as He died for the world, even for men who killed Him. I was fashioned to be an instrument of death but instead I became the frame to hold the Picture of God – His Gift of eternal life.

I am the sponge of the first Easter that was held out to Christ as He cried from the cross, “I thirst”. But I could not slake His thirst, for His thirst was for the love of His bride. I was taken from the sea to swallow up liquids and then release them again when squeezed. I was soaked in vinegar and myrrh and held to His mouth on a stick but I could not comfort Him. Only His Father in Heaven could do that.

I am the grave cloth wound about His body in death. Joseph and Nicodemus soaked my clean linen cloth in much sweet smelling perfume to honor the Master. Then they laid Christ’s body in a sepulcher that no man had ever been buried in. A great stone was rolled at the door to prevent any intrusions.

The stone could not hold Him and neither could I for He broke out of our confines. I was cast off as a chrysalis is discarded when the butterfly takes flight. As a prisoner breaks free from his chains so Christ conquered the grave. He had too much life in Him for my shackles of mortality to hold Him. He had to be free.

We were all there at the first Easter, and what we are telling you is true, for we were there.

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Background Notes:

Luk 24:1 Now upon the first [day] of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain [others] with them.

Luk 24:2 And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.

Luk 24:3 And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.

Luk 24:4 And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:

Luk 24:5 And as they were afraid, and bowed down [their] faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?

Luk 24:6 He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,

Luk 24:7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.

Luk 24:8 And they remembered his words,

Luk 24:9 And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.

Luk 24:10 It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary [the mother] of James, and other [women that were] with them, which told these things unto the apostles.

Luk 24:11 And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.

Luk 24:12 Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.

Luk 24:13 And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem [about] threescore furlongs.

Luk 24:14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened.

Luk 24:15 And it came to pass, that, while they communed [together] and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.

Luk 24:16 But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.

Luk 24:17 And he said unto them, What manner of communications [are] these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?

Luk 24:18 And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?

Luk 24:19 And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:

Luk 24:20 And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.

Luk 24:21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.

Luk 24:22 Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre;

Luk 24:23 And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive.

Luk 24:24 And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found [it] even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.

Luk 24:25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:

Luk 24:26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?

Luk 24:27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

Luk 24:28 And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.

Luk 24:29 But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.

Luk 24:30 And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed [it], and brake, and gave to them.

Luk 24:31 And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.

Luk 24:32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?

Luk 24:33 And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,

Luk 24:34 Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.

Luk 24:35 And they told what things [were done] in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.

Luk 24:36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace [be] unto you.

Luk 24:37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.

Luk 24:38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?

Luk 24:39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.

Luk 24:40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them [his] hands and [his] feet.

Luk 24:41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?

Luk 24:42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.

Luk 24:43 And he took [it], and did eat before them.

Luk 24:44 And he said unto them, These [are] the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and [in] the prophets, and [in] the psalms, concerning me.

Luk 24:45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,

Luk 24:46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:

Luk 24:47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

Luk 24:48 And ye are witnesses of these things.

Luk 24:49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.

Luk 24:50 And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.

Luk 24:51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.

Luk 24:52 And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:

Luk 24:53 And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.

 

Redeem – to buy back, to repurchase, to get or win back, to free from captivity by payment of ransom, to extradite from or help to overcome something detrimental, to free from the consequences of sin, to release from blame or debt, repair or restore

 

From Webster’s REDEE’M, v.t. [L. redimo; red, re, and emo, to obtain or purchase.]

1. To purchase back; to ransom; to liberate or rescue from captivity or bondage, or from any obligation or liability to suffer or to be forfeited, by paying an equivalent; as, to redeem prisoners or captured goods; to redeem a pledge.

2. To repurchase what has been sold; to regain possession of a thing alienated, by repaying the value of it to the possessor.

 

If a man [shall] sell a dwelling house in a walled city, then he may redeem it within a whole year after it is sold.

Lev 25.

3. To rescue; to recover; to deliver from.

Th’ Almighty from the grave hath me redeem’d.

Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles. Psa 25. Deu 7.

The mass of earth not yet redeemed from chaos.

 

4. To compensate; to make amends for.

It is a chance which does redeem all sorrows.

By lesser ills the greater to redeem.

5. To free by making atonement.

Thou hast one daughter who redeems nature from the general curse.

6. To pay the penalty of.

Which of you will be mortal to redeem man’s mortal crime?

7. To save.

He could not have redeemed a portion of his time for contemplating the powers of nature.

8. To perform what has been promised; to make good by performance. He has redeemed his pledge or promise.

9. In law, to recall an estate, or to obtain the right to re-enter upon a mortgaged estate by paying to the mortgagee his principal, interest, and expenses or costs.

10. In theology, to rescue and deliver from the bondage of sin and the penalties of God’s violated law, by obedience and suffering in the place of the sinner, or by doing and suffering that which is accepted in lieu of the sinner’s obedience.

Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. Gal 3. Titus 2.

11. In commerce, to purchase or pay the value in specie, of any promissory note, bill or other evidence of debt, given by the state, by a company or corporation, or by an individual. The credit of a state, a banking company or individuals, is good when they can redeem all their stock, notes or bills, at par.

 

To redeem time, is to use more diligence in the improvement of it; to be diligent and active in duty and preparation. Eph 5.

 

Ransom – consideration paid or demanded for the release of someone or something in captivity

Ransom

RAN’SOM, n.

1. The money or price paid for the redemption of a prisoner or slave, or for goods captured by an enemy; that which procures the release of a prisoner or captive, or of captured property, and restores the one to liberty and the other to the original owner.

 

By his captivity in Austria, and the heavy ransom he paid for his liberty, Richard was hindered from pursuing the conquest of Ireland.

 

2. Release from captivity, bondage or the possession of an enemy. They were unable to procure the ransom of the prisoners.

 

3. In law, a sum paid for the pardon of some great offense and the discharge of the offender; or a fine paid in lieu of corporal punishment.

 

4. In Scripture, the price paid for a forfeited life, or for delivery or release from capital punishment.

 

Then he shall give for the ransom of his life, whatever is laid upon him. Exo 21.

 

5. The price paid for procuring the pardon of sins and the redemption of the sinner from punishment.

 

Deliver him from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom. Job 33.

 

The Son of man came – to give his life a ransom for many. Mat 20. Mark 10.

 

From Webster’s –

RAN’SOM, v.t.

 

1. To redeem from captivity or punishment by paying an equivalent; applied to persons; as, to ransom prisoners from an enemy.

 

2. To redeem from the possession of an enemy by paying a price deemed equivalent; applied to goods or property.

 

3. In Scripture, to redeem from the bondage of sin, and from the punishment to which sinners are subjected by the divine law.

 

The ransomed of the Lord shall return. Isa 35.

 

4. To rescue; to deliver. Hosea 13.

 

Psa 49:15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah.

 

“David said by the spirit of prophecy, but God will redeem my soul from the judgment of hell;”

 

 

Hos 13:14 I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.

1Co 15:54 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.

1Co 15:55 O death, where [is] thy sting? O grave, where [is] thy victory?

1Co 15:56 The sting of death [is] sin; and the strength of sin [is] the law.

1Co 15:57 But thanks [be] to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Gen 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

 

Eph 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

 

Dan 7:13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, [one] like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.

Dan 7:14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion [is] an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom [that] which shall not be destroyed.

 

Mat 24:30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

Mat 24:31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

 

 

Easter – a Celebration of New Beginnings

                                                      by Peter van Gorder
 

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                                                photo of key shop window in Jerusalem

            Like Christmas, the meaning of Easter is often obscured by our traditions, which are often hand-me-downs from our pagan past.

The published results of a poll conducted by Australia’s Sun-Herald newspaper in which people were asked at random what Easter meant to them were in this order: chocolate Easter eggs (54 percent), a long-weekend holiday (39 percent), the Royal Easter Show (21 percent), a religious occasion (20 percent).

Sydney’s Roman Catholic archbishop lamented: “For many, Easter has no religious significance at all; it is just another secular festival.”

The Easter bunny? Lots of chocolates? Egg hunts? Where did it all start?

Some scholars believe the name ‘Easter’ comes from Eastre, the Anglo-Saxon name of a Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility. Her festival was celebrated on the day of the vernal equinox (March 21); the Easter rabbit was a symbol of fertility (due to its high rate of reproduction). At this festival vividly colored eggs representing the bright sunlight of spring were given as gifts or used in egg-rolling contests. Eggs were rolled at one another, the egg that remained uncracked the longest was the winner.

Yet, despite its pagan past, today Easter also has many meaningful traditions celebrated around the world.

Greek Orthodox children are sometimes seen tapping red-dyed eggs together. One child says, “Christ is risen,” and the other replies, “Yes, He has really risen!”

In Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in America the Moravian’s trombone choir play hymns around the city before dawn on Easter to call their flock to attend a sunrise service at the old Moravian cemetery. At the service, the trombones really rock out with joy as the sun peeks above the horizon.

Easter is intertwined with spring in the northern hemisphere. New plants are shooting up everywhere at this time – the first Sunday after the full moon after March 21 – which means anywhere between March 22 and April 25 and for the Orthodox church it can be celebrated later than this. I remember the awesome beauty of the dogwood and magnolia trees blooming in all their glory filling the air with their sweet scent at Easter.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In Japan, I saw wild lilies sprouting up in many uncultivated fields during this time of year. The lily is a favorite symbol of Easter that is often used for decorations at this time. The huge pure white blossoms remind us how Jesus took us dirty as we were and washed us clean. As the lilies sprout after a long winter, so Christ gives us new life through the hope of His resurrection.

Candles are burned during many Easter celebrations. In Russia, Christians hold a prayer vigil service on Easter eve. A large candle on the altar is lit which represents Jesus being the light of the world. This candle is in turn used to light each worshipper’s candle. This tradition represents the spreading of Jesus’ light throughout the world.

In eastern European countries the lamb is an important symbol of Easter. Many people serve lamb for the Easter feast or make a lamb shaped cake. Jesus is often symbolized as the Lamb of God. This symbol originates in the Passover lamb that was sacrificed yearly by the Jews in commemoration of their “passing over” the bondage of Egypt into the freedom of the Exodus. It is quite amazing that on the very day that they were crucifying Jesus, the Jews throughout the land, were killing the Passover lamb. The blood from this firstborn male lamb – one without any imperfections – was sprinkled on the people for the forgiveness of their sins.  hands praying

Many people around the world dramatize the Easter story. In the Philippines and many Latin American countries, Easter processions acting out the crucifixion of Christ can be seen parading through the streets of the city. The most famous passion play is performed by the villagers of Oberammergau, in southern Germany. In thanks for being spared from the destruction from a plague, the people of the village have promised to perform this play every 10 years. They have faithfully done this since 1680 except for 3 times.

For us, Easter is really the most important Christian festival of the year. It celebrates the return of Jesus Christ to life on the morning 2 days after his crucifixion. Soon after this event, Jesus’ followers saw, ate, touched, and talked with Him. Because He rose from the dead we also have hope that we will receive new life when we die as well. Easter is a time to celebrate new beginnings. Let Him touch our life. We too can talk with Him now if we will.

 

Mysterious Stranger

by Peter van Gorder

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It was only a couple of hours from Jerusalem, but with our late start Matthias and I would be pressed to make it home before dark. We were trying to put some distance between us and the terrible events of the last few days, but they were too much a part of us.

“I wonder if He really was the Messiah,” I said. “Surely the Messiah wouldn’t have been executed like a common criminal.”

“Cleopas, how could the Messiah have let Himself be killed at all?”

“He was supposed to liberate us from our oppressors. He promised that from the start—or so we thought.”

“I never expected it to end this way,” Matthias said.

“I still don’t know if I believe the women who went to the tomb. There was a glimmer of hope when they burst into the room where we were gathered, excited and out of breath, but…”

“Peter and John saw the empty tomb too, and they believe. At least John does,” I told my friend.

“People are saying that we took His body while the guards slept—that we faked His resurrection. We know that’s a lie because none of us had left each other’s sight, but someone else could have taken His body. …”

Our discussion went in circles. What had happened to Jesus?

We were interrupted by the sound of footsteps coming up behind us. Someone was in an even bigger hurry than we were.

“Why so sad?” the man said in a lighthearted tone that caught us off guard. “You both look like you just lost your best friend.”

He’d only just caught up with us. How did this stranger know our innermost thoughts? “You might say that,” I replied.

“Surely it can’t be that bad,” the stranger said.

“Where have you been?” I asked. “Haven’t you heard?”

“Heard what?”

“You must have heard about Jesus?”

“Tell me what you know.”

“He was a prophet out of Nazareth, and He did some amazing miracles! He fed thousands with one boy’s meal. He healed people who had been blind or deaf or crippled from birth. He even raised the dead! And when He spoke, there was power in His words!”

Then I told the stranger what had happened in the last week—the mock trial, the people turning on Jesus after He’d done so much for them, the verdict, the beating, the humiliation, the crucifixion, and finally the story of the women finding the empty tomb.

“It sounds like you have your doubts about that last part,” the man said.

“Wouldn’t you?” I asked.

Instead of answering, the stranger asked, “Don’t you know the Scriptures—that these things were all part of God’s plan, which He revealed by Moses and the prophets? They knew it was going to happen like it did, and of all people, you, His followers, should have known too.”

How did this stranger know we were Jesus’ followers? We hadn’t said anything about that. “What prophecies are you talking about?” I asked.

The stranger seemed to know all the Scriptures—by heart! “Let’s start at the beginning,” he said.

“In the Garden of Eden, after the serpent tricked Eve into eating the forbidden fruit, God told the serpent—who was really Satan—‘Because you have done this, cursed are you! I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.’1 Don’t you see? The Messiah on the cross—that’s the serpent striking His heel. And the Messiah rising from the dead and ultimately defeating Satan’s plan—that’s the serpent’s head being crushed.

“Why do you think God was pleased when Abel sacrificed a lamb?2 And why did God command Moses to tell His people to sacrifice lambs without spot or blemish to atone for their sins?3 God was trying to show what the Messiah would do. The Messiah was the Lamb without blemish, sacrificed for the sins of the world.4 The ceremonies, the sacrifices—all of these things were merely foreshadowings of events that are now unfolding before your eyes.”

The more this stranger shared with us, the more the smoldering embers of our faith began to glow.

“Speaking of ceremonies, didn’t you just come from celebrating the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread? You know those ceremonies—you’ve done them every year for your whole lives. You also know why Moses commanded them—as thanksgiving to God for delivering our fathers from slavery in Egypt. Through Moses, God instructed His people to kill an unblemished lamb and smear its blood on their doorposts. All those who believed and obeyed were spared, ‘passed over,’ when God went through all of Egypt and killed the firstborn of every household. Again, this was a foreshadowing of the Messiah’s sacrifice, which delivers the believer from death.5

“And what about the sin offering and Day of Atonement? What is God trying to teach us with these? Can the blood of an animal actually pay for our sins? Is justice served? And why do these sacrifices need to be repeated every year? If such sacrifices atone for our sins, then why do they need to be offered again and again? Could it be that they were all intended to point to a greater sacrifice that was yet to come? And could it be that this greater sacrifice has just been made?”6

The stranger was full of questions and we had few answers, but he was a patient teacher.

“Isn’t this what the prophet Isaiah spoke concerning the Messiah’s death? ‘All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord God has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth.’—Doesn’t that sound like your Jesus and the sham of a trial you described a couple of miles back?—‘He was led as a lamb to the slaughter. For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.’—There it is again, the sacrificial lamb. ‘And they made His grave with the wicked, but with the rich at His death.’—Didn’t you say that He was executed with criminals, but buried in a rich man’s tomb?—‘And He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.’”7

We were silent as it started to become clear to us that God had had a hand in all these things.

“If your Jesus was the Messiah, and if the only thing required for the forgiveness of sin was His death, then why do you suppose He also suffered that scourging at the hands of His executioners?”

Again, we had no answers.

“Isaiah tells us in that same passage, ‘By His stripes we are healed.’8 What does that mean—‘By His stripes’—by His wounds—‘we are healed’?—Just as the Messiah’s blood was shed for the salvation of the spirit, His body was broken for the healing of the body. The crown of thorns, the scourging, the nail and spear wounds—they were all to atone for your infirmities. The Messiah saved your souls with His blood, but He also purchased healing for your bodies with His sufferings. To save your bodies, it took His body.”

The stranger continued, “What did Jesus say on the cross?”

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

“That is just as King David prophesied.”9

As he explained more Scriptures, I realized that many of the other things that had happened to Jesus were just as it was written there—the crowds shouting as He entered Jerusalem; the betrayal, the blood money, the cruel mocking; the soldiers casting lots for His garments, then piercing His hands and feet but not breaking any of His bones.10 All of these things had been written hundreds of years earlier, and they were all about the Messiah. Everything suddenly made sense! But the stranger was not finished.

“David also said, ‘God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave.’11 That’s an interesting word—‘redeem.’ Do you know what it means? It means to ransom—to buy another’s freedom. That’s what the Messiah’s death was all about—setting the believer free from death’s due. It’s right there in the book of Hosea—‘I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death.’12

“As our father Abraham offered his only son in sacrifice to God, God offered His only Son in sacrifice for all, but with one very big difference. Abraham didn’t have to go through with his sacrifice, but God did.

“Just as Noah’s faith and obedience saved mankind—the ark providing a way of escape for him and his family and the animals—the Messiah, in dying for sinners, made a way of escape for all who will believe.

“And just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the fish’s belly before being delivered, so your Jesus promised that He would be delivered from death after three days, just as Hosea had also prophesied—‘After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight.’13

“Can you see it? These Scriptures all point to this very time.”

My heart was pounding so hard from excitement and joy that I thought it would burst! Jesus’ death was not an accident or a mistake! It all happened exactly as God had planned!

No sooner had the stranger finished, than we found ourselves in front of my house. He said he needed to keep going, but when I insisted that he at least stay for supper, he agreed.

As is our custom, I asked my guest to bless the food. He offered thanks to God, broke the bread, and gave some to each of us. Suddenly we recognized that the stranger was actually Jesus Himself, our risen Savior!

Then just as suddenly—Poof!—He vanished.

Matthias and I were so excited about what had happened that we ran back to Jerusalem that same night to tell Jesus’ other followers what had happened—how our hearts had burned within us while He talked to us on the road and opened to us the Scriptures.14 I still can’t stop talking about it!

* * *

The Promise of Easter

“Because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19). We need these seven words above to help us to endure The changing world around us that’s dark and insecure; To help us view the present as a passing episode, A troubled, brief encounter on life’s short and troubled road. For the fact that life’s eternal because our Savior died And arose again at Easter after He was crucified Makes this uncertain present, in a world of sin and strife, Nothing but a steppingstone to a new and better life! — Helen Steiner Rice

 

1. Genesis 3:14–15 2. Genesis 4:1–4 3. Leviticus 17:11 4. Matthew 26:28; John 1:29; Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 1:7 5. Exodus 11:4–7; 12:1–13 6. Leviticus 16:15; 23:27; 2 Corinthians 5:21 7. Isaiah 53:6–9,12 8. Isaiah 53:5 9. Psalm 22:1 10. Zechariah 9:9–10; Psalm 41:9; Zechariah 11:12–13; Isaiah 50:6; Psalm 22:16–18; Zechariah 12:10; Psalm 34:20 11. Psalm 49:15 12. Hosea 13:14 13. Matthew 12:40; Hosea 6:2 14. Luke 24:32