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The self-isolation that many of us are going through right now is a golden opportunity to work on our devotional life. Personal devotion often ends up in the shadow of Sunday worship, but the fact is that a daily routine of praying and reading the Bible is far more important for spiritual maturity and lasting discipleship than weekly meetings, although they, of course, also play an important role.
Devotions can look a thousand different ways and for them to be long-term sustainable, it is only good to adapt them to what works best in one’s own household. But models can be good for having something to start from.
Therefore, since we are in Easter week, we would like to present a simple arrangement for devotion for the next five days (Wednesday-Sunday). It can be used both individually and as a family. We will read from Matthew’s account of Jesus’ death and resurrection and use the following simple structure:
- Bible reading
So, light some candles, wrap yourself in blankets and seek God with us this holy Easter time! (more…)
Every Good Friday I usually go outside to pray when the time is approaching 3 PM. That’s when he died. He who transformed my life.
There was a time when I didn’t care at all about Jesus. He was cool, sure, but he didn’t have as many superpowers as Superman and he was far less badass than Samus Aran. The church, in my opinion, was a boring museum. The Bible was hard to read and lacked pictures.
But when I was confronted with my own mortality and understood the message of Easter – that he died for us to live forever – then I could not get enough of him. I opened the gospels and read. I can honestly say that I have never encountered so much wisdom and love from any other person, before or after.
Some want to reduce Jesus to a non-divine moral teacher. As C. S. Lewis has pointed out, it is impossible. A reasonable moral teacher does not claim to be the Son of God, the light of the world, and the door to eternal life – unless it is true.
But I understand why people recognize Jesus as wise and moral. He is! That’s what makes the painful killing of him so incomprehensible and wrong.
God died on that cross. God himself died for our sake so that we would have the eternal life we in no way deserve. This eternal life, in eternal happiness, is greater than anything we can imagine. No other gift is so great and as wonderful as the gift of living in paradise.
All the peace and justice we long for will be realized to its fullest in heaven. That’s no reason to stop promoting such Kingdom-values here. On the contrary, when we truly have the eternal perspective we will become even more zealous to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. As John says:
“Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as Christ is pure.” (1 Jn 3:1-2)
What I realized 13 years ago is that when we celebrate on Sunday that Jesus arose from death, it is not just that we are happy for His sake. His resurrection shows where we are going if we follow him. His path is the path of life. A life that never ends. It is because of his painful death on the cross that we can go that way.
Today at 3 PM, think of Jesus and pray to him. He loves you so much that he was subjected to one of the world’s most evil execution methods. He gave everything for you. You are too precious and loved to be lost in the bottomless darkness of death. God, your Creator and Friend, calls you to eternal happiness.
I have mentioned previously that I really enjoy the apologetic work of William Lane Craig, and regularly listens to his podcasts and lectures. I find Craig very intelligent, theologically sound and mostly quite easy to understand, and he oftens pinpoints thoughts and arguments that I have developed on my own. The other day I was listening to a talk he was holding in Southampton in the UK a couple of years ago on the resurrection of Jesus:
In the talk, which he has held multiple times in different locations, he defends five historical facts about Jesus and early Christianity which he argues that there are sustainable evidences for. These are:
- Jesus died on a Roman cross outside of Jerusalem
- He was buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea
- On Easter Sunday his tomb was found empty by a group of women
- On multiple occassions individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus
- Jesus’ original disciples believed that he had rose from the dead, despite their having predispositions to the contrary
Paul summed up the Gospel like this:
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”(1 Corinthians 15:3-8).
As you can see, Paul thinks that at the core of the Gospel lies Jesus’ death for our sins, His burial and His resurrection. And among these three, the resurrection receives most attention. He lines up everyone he knows of that has seen the resurrected Jesus, including himself. Then he goes on discussing the resurrection in the rest of the chapter.
Likewise, Paul, Peter and others who preach the Gospel in the book of Acts often emphasize the resurrection even more than they emphasize the cross. This used to confuse me, since the atonement happened on the cross. It was on the cross that Jesus died for our sins and defeated the devil – the cross is at the core of all atonement theories. The resurrection is great of course, Jesus is alive hallelujah, but shouldn’t the death of Jesus be the focus of the apostles rather than His resurrection?
Today, millions of Christians around the world are remembering the first last supper and celebrate holy communion themselves. However, all to often communion has become something different than what Jesus intended. I would like to take this opportunity to stress the importance of community when celebrating communion.
The famous text in 1 Cor 11 that most churches quotes when celebrating communion, has an interesting remark that is not quoted very often concerning the extent of the Eucharistic food and the socioeconomic status of the participants:
So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter! (1 Cor 11:20-22)
Now, modern churches surely avoids the embarrassing situation of people getting drunk after receiving communion simply by just offering a little sip. But they aren’t solving the hunger problem by just offering a tiny biscuit. When I became a Christian, 1 Cor 11 confused me since I honestly believed that the communion ritual my Lutheran church celebrated was the actual one that Jesus instituted. But obviously it isn’t – the Biblical communion was a real meal.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Eph 1:18-21)
Christ is truly risen from the dead!! This is an undeniable cornerstone for our faith and should be central in the gospel we preach. If miracles cannot happen and Jesus has not risen, Christianity is worthless according to 1 Cor 15. But if miracles do happen and Jesus has risen, Christianity is the most important thing in the world.
But not only is the resurrection of Christ the basis for our doctrine, it should also be the fuel for how we live our lives. As Paul writes above, the same power that rose Jesus from the dead is in us. Through the Holy Spirit we have the same authority to do miracles like He did, the power of the resurrection is available for everyone who wants it!