Thomas

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Synopsis of   Thomas

Good and joyful day today to all Christian brothers and sisters on this the day the Lord has made. Pull up a chair, pour yourself a cup of coffee, or tea, or milk, or whatever is your favorite, we’re about to slice a piece of the Bread of Life, the Word of God. And today’s slice comes from:

John 20:19-23   · Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.  20  And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.  21  Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.  22  And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:  23  Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.   

If I were to mention the names of certain disciples to you and ask you to write down the first word that comes into your mind, it is unlikely you would come up with the same words. If I were to mention the name of Judas many of you would write down the word betray but not all of you. If I were to mention Simon Peter, some of you would write down the word faith, but not all of you. If I were to mention the names of James and John, some of you would write down the phrase Sons of Thunder, but not all of you. But when I mention the word Thomas, there is little question about the word most everyone would write down. It would be the word doubt. Indeed, so closely have we associated Thomas with this word, that we have coined a phrase to describe him: “Doubting Thomas.”

When Jesus turned his face toward Jerusalem the disciples thought that it would be certain death for all of them. Surprisingly, it was Thomas who said: Then let us go so that we may die with him. It was a courageous statement, yet we don’t remember him for that. We also fail to point out that in this story of Thomas’ doubt we have the one place in the all the Gospels where the Divinity of Christ is bluntly and unequivocally stated. It is interesting, is it not, that the story that gives Thomas his infamous nickname, is the same story that has Thomas making an earth shattering confession of faith? Look at his confession, “My Lord, and my God.” Not teacher. Not Lord. Not Messiah. But God! It is the only place where Jesus is called God without qualification of any kind.

Now I cannot help but notice that Thomas has separated himself from the disciples and therefore, in his solitude, missed the resurrection appearance. I think that John is suggesting to us that Christ appears most often within the community of believers that we call the church, and when we separate ourselves from the church we take a chance on missing His unique presence.

But the story doesn’t end here. The second time Jesus made his appearance Thomas was present with the disciples and this time he too witnessed the event. This time he believed. What can we learn from the life of Thomas?

First, Jesus did not blame Thomas for doubting. So often the church’s handling of doubt is to couple it with disbelief and squash it. I must admit that I am dubious of people who say that they have never had any doubts, people who always seem so sure. I would suggest to you that any person who places himself beyond doubt, places himself above Christ himself. On the cross Jesus cried out, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” At a given time in history, even Jesus had doubts.

Faith is not the absence of doubt; it is the overcoming of doubt. I have had doubts.  But then I am reminded that it was Alfred Lloyd Tennyson who said: “There lives more faith in honest doubt than in half the creeds.” So we find ourselves crying out, as did the disciple off old: Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief.

Secondly, we can learn from the life of Thomas that the most endearing things in life can never be proven. Jesus said: Thomas, you have believed because you have seen.

If the goal of your life is for someone to show you a photograph of God, then you will be forever disappointed. Let me tell you what happens when we live in a purely rationalistic world, one where miracles are removed from our way of thinking. It happened to Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson ranks as one of our nations greatest intellects but not many people know that he rejected the notion of miracles. When he approached the scriptures he could not tolerate those passages, which dealt with the supernatural. So what did he do? He wrote his own bible. In the Thomas Jefferson Bible you will find only the moral teachings and historical events of Jesus’ life. No virgin birth. No healing of Jairus’ daughter. No walking on water. And, no resurrection. Here is how his bible ends: “There laid they Jesus and rolled a great stone at the mouth of the sepulcher and departed.” For Thomas Jefferson the Gospel ends at the foot of a grave.

What we must understand is we had better leave some room for mysticism in our worldview. That does not preclude science. That does not preclude reason. What it does mean is that the most important things in your life will never be conclusively proved. You will, on daily and even momentary basis, need to live by faith.

If someone could in fact come along and scientifically prove the resurrection, then you would be living your life by fact and not by faith.

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Thomas

Good and joyful day today to all Christian brothers and sisters on this the day the Lord has made. Pull up a chair, pour yourself a cup of coffee, or tea, or milk, or whatever is your favorite, we’re about to slice a piece of the Bread of Life, the Word of God. And today’s slice comes from:

John 20:19-23   · Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. 21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.   

If I were to mention the names of certain disciples to you and ask you to write down the first word that comes into your mind, it is unlikely you would come up with the same words. If I were to mention the name of Judas many of you would write down the word betray but not all of you. If I were to mention Simon Peter, some of you would write down the word faith, but not all of you. If I were to mention the names of James and John, some of you would write down the phrase Sons of Thunder, but not all of you. But when I mention the word Thomas, there is little question about the word most everyone would write down. It would be the word doubt. Indeed, so closely have we associated Thomas with this word, that we have coined a phrase to describe him: “Doubting Thomas.”

You may be interested to know that in the first three gospels we are told absolutely nothing at all about Thomas. It is in John’s Gospel that he emerges as a distinct personality, but even then there are only 155 words about him. There is not a lot about this disciple in the Bible but there is more than one description.

When Jesus turned his face toward Jerusalem the disciples thought that it would be certain death for all of them. Surprisingly, it was Thomas who said: Then let us go so that we may die with him. It was a courageous statement, yet we don’t remember him for that. We also fail to point out that in this story of Thomas’ doubt we have the one place in the all the Gospels where the Divinity of Christ is bluntly and unequivocally stated. It is interesting, is it not, that the story that gives Thomas his infamous nickname, is the same story that has Thomas making an earth shattering confession of faith? Look at his confession, “My Lord, and my God.” Not teacher. Not Lord. Not Messiah. But God! It is the only place where Jesus is called God without qualification of any kind. It is uttered with conviction as if Thomas was simply recognizing a fact, just as 2 + 2 = 4, and the sun is in the sky. You are my Lord and my God! These are certainly not the words of a doubter.

Unfortunately history has remembered him for this scene where the resurrected Christ made an appearance to the disciples in a home in Jerusalem. Thomas was not present and when he heard about the event he refused to believe it. Maybe he was the forerunner of modern day cynicism. Maybe the news simply sounded too good to be true. Thomas said: Unless I feel the nail prints in his hands I will not believe.

Now I cannot help but notice that Thomas has separated himself from the disciples and therefore, in his solitude, missed the resurrection appearance. I think that John is suggesting to us that Christ appears most often within the community of believers that we call the church, and when we separate ourselves from the church we take a chance on missing His unique presence.

But the story doesn’t end here. The second time Jesus made his appearance Thomas was present with the disciples and this time he too witnessed the event. This time he believed. What can we learn from the life of Thomas?

First, Jesus did not blame Thomas for doubting. So often the church’s handling of doubt is to couple it with disbelief and squash it. But Jesus never condemned Thomas. I think that he understood that once Thomas worked through his doubts, he would be one of the surest men in all Christendom.

I must admit that I am dubious of people who say that they have never had any doubts, people who always seem so sure. I would suggest to you that any person who places himself beyond doubt, places himself above Christ himself. On the cross Jesus cried out, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” At a given time in history, even Jesus had doubts.

Authentic faith always begins with intellectual honesty, and doubt is the bedrock of honesty. Put it another way: Faith is not the absence of doubt; it is the overcoming of doubt. I have had doubts. I have been standing by a graveside on an icy winter day when a bitter cold wind chapped my face. I have heard the cries of families who have lost someone closer than life itself, and I have thought silently to myself: Is it all true? Is resurrection reality? Are the scoffers correct? Is it all simply ancient myth designed to get us through the night?

But then I am reminded that it was Alfred Lloyd Tennyson who said: “There lives more faith in honest doubt than in half the creeds.” So we find ourselves crying out, as did the disciple off old: Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief.

Secondly, we can learn from the life of Thomas that the most endearing things in life can never be proven. Jesus said: Thomas, you have believed because you have seen. Blessed are those who have not seen yet still believe. I don’t know how that makes you feel but it is of great comfort to me. Jesus is talking about me. I will never see Jesus in this life. I will not have the chance to put my finger in the nail scars. I will not get the chance to touch his pierced side. It will never be proven to me that he was raised from the dead. Jesus understands it’s harder for me to believe than for Thomas and he counts me blessed.

But let me ask you: How can you conclusively prove the qualities of love, friendship, or faith? How can you establish beyond a shadow of a doubt your devotion to your children? Tomorrow morning come to my office and bring me verifiable evidence that love exists. The cynic can always dismiss acts of love on your part as attempts at self-love, or the need to control people. How can you prove to someone that you love your church?

If the goal of your life is for someone to show you a photograph of God, then you will be forever disappointed. Let me tell you what happens when we live in a purely rationalistic world, one where miracles are removed from our way of thinking. It happened to Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson ranks as one of our nations greatest intellects but not many people know that he rejected the notion of miracles. When he approached the scriptures he could not tolerate those passages, which dealt with the supernatural. So what did he do? He wrote his own bible. In the Thomas Jefferson Bible you will find only the moral teachings and historical events of Jesus’ life. No virgin birth. No healing of Jairus’ daughter. No walking on water. And, no resurrection. Here is how his bible ends: “There laid they Jesus and rolled a great stone at the mouth of the sepulcher and departed.” For Thomas Jefferson the Gospel ends at the foot of a grave.

It is very easy to rewrite history. To say, “that did not happen.” But the story remains that the disciples were witnesses to these events. Thomas Jefferson is in essence calling the disciples liars and that they continued throughout the first century, for 70 years, to propagate those lies. Furthermore, Jefferson’s Bible has been robbed of its power. I am convinced that the church does not accomplish 2000 years of life inside the walls of a closed dark sepulcher. There is no power in that dark place; rather, the Church is alive because HE IS ALIVE FOREVERMORE !!!

What we must understand is we had better leave some room for mysticism in our worldview. That does not preclude science. That does not preclude reason. What it does mean is that the most important things in your life will never be conclusively proved. You will, on daily and even momentary basis, need to live by faith.

If someone could in fact come along and scientifically prove the resurrection, then you would be living your life by fact and not by faith. But let me suggest something to you that I firmly believe. Even if a loved one who has been dead for years were to come back to life and tell you about the realities of heaven, and God, and resurrection, you would not believe it. You recall the story Jesus tells about the man who is in hell and the other man who is in paradise. The man in hell wanted to come back to earth for a few moments to warn his friends and family about the torments of hell in the hopes of scarring them into right living. He hoped he could keep them from suffering the same fate. Jesus said, that even if he were to return to warn his loved ones they would not change their lives. And it would not change your world in the slightest either. God has called us to be the people of faith. What exists in heaven cannot be proved on earth; it must be believed.

We then learn from the life of Thomas a third lesson: We must move beyond doubt to faith. It is all right to doubt, but in our discipleship we should move beyond doubt. Jesus admonished Thomas, “Stop doubting and believe.” Unbelief is a normal part of life but it is not healthy to remain in unbelief. In the early days of John Wesley’s ministry he was racked with doubts and uncertainties. So he went to his old friend and mentor Peter Bohler and laid his soul bare. When I first read Bohler’s response to Wesley in seminary I thought that it made no sense at all, but over the years I have grown to understand the wisdom in it. Bohler told Wesley: “Preach faith till you have it, and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.” In other words, act as though you have already moved past doubt to faith and because you are acting it out it will eventually come to you.

The name of Charles Spurgeon will be known to some of you here. He was the Baptist pulpit giant of the latter part of the nineteenth century. Spurgeon writes of going to live in Newcastle England, which at that time was a very dirty industrial town. As he was looking around the house that he was thinking about renting, the landlord took him to the uppermost room and took him over to a window. There, he said as he pointed out the window, over there you can see Durham Cathedral on a Sunday. “Sunday?”, Spurgeon questioned. Why on a Sunday? Because said the landlord, the furnaces are not working on Sunday and there is no smoke and you can therefore see farther.

You know, when we come to worship on Sunday morning we come to see further. When we gather in worship we come to see into the heart of God. I want to say something to you this morning, and in doing so I say it to myself as well. There are times in our lives when we face grief, or disappointment, or pain, or depression. There are times when these things happen that our hold on God falters. When these moments of true, deep doubt come let me urge something upon you. It was something that was once told to me and it has gotten me through many dark nights. And if you remember nothing about the sermon this morning accept this thought, NEVER DOUBT IN THE DARK, WHAT GOD HAS TOLD YOU IN THE LIGHT. NEVER DOUBT IN THE DARK, WHAT GOD HAS TOLD YOU IN THE LIGHT.

I say this because it is in moments of spiritual light, that God shows us true reality. These moments of spiritual light are so very important, because they allow us to get through many dark nights of doubt and despair, that come into the lives of every single one of us.

In moments of light, God has told you that he will never desert you. Don’t ever doubt that.

In moments of light, God has told you that resurrection is reality. Don’t ever let the darkness cause you to doubt that.

In moments of light, God has told you that the very hairs on your head are numbered. Don’t ever doubt that in the darkness.

It’s time for an Easter Story: An Easter Story

Edith Burns was a wonderful Christian who lived in San Antonio, Texas. She was the patient of a doctor by the name of Will Phillips. Dr. Phillips was a gentle doctor who saw patients as people. His favorite patient was Edith Burns.

One morning he went to his office with a heavy heart and it was because of Edith Burns. When he walked into that waiting room, there sat Edith with her big black Bible in her lap earnestly talking to a young mother sitting beside her.

Edith Burns had a habit of introducing herself in this way: “Hello, my name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?” Then she would explain the meaning of Easter, and many times people would be saved.

Dr. Phillips walked into that office and there he saw the head nurse, Beverly. Beverly had first met Edith when she was taking her blood pressure. Edith began by saying,”My name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?”

Beverly said, “Why yes I do.”

Edith said, “Well, what do you believe about Easter?”

Beverly said, “Well, it’s all about egg hunts, going to church, and dressing up.” Edith kept pressing her about the real meaning of Easter, and finally led her to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Dr. Phillips said, “Beverly, don’t call Edith into the office quite yet. I believe there is another delivery taking place in the waiting room.

After being called back in the doctor’s office, Edith sat down and when she took a look at the doctor she said, “Dr. Will, why are you so sad? Are you reading your Bible? Are you praying?”

Dr. Phillips said gently, “Edith, I’m the doctor and you’re the patient.” With a heavy heart he said, “Your lab report came back and it says you have cancer, and Edith, you’re not going to live very long.”

Edith said, “Why Will Phillips, shame on you. Why are you so sad? Do you think God makes mistakes? You have just told me I’m going to see my precious Lord Jesus, my husband, and my friends. You have just told me that I am going to celebrate Easter forever, and here you are having difficulty giving me my ticket!”

Dr. Phillips thought to himself, “What a magnificent woman this Edith Burns is!”

Edith continued coming to Dr. Phillips. Christmas came and the office was closed through January 3rd. On the day the office opened, Edith did not show up. Later that afternoon, Edith called Dr. Phillips and said she would have to be moving her story to the hospital and said, “Will, I’m very near home, so would you make sure that they put women in here next to me in my room who need to know about Easter.”

Well, they did just that and women began to come in and share that room with Edith. Many women were saved. Everybody on that floor from staff to patients were so excited about Edith, that they started calling her Edith Easter; that is everyone except Phyllis Cross, the head nurse.

Phyllis made it plain that she wanted nothing to do with Edith because she was a “religious nut”. She had been a nurse in an army hospital. She had seen it all and heard it all. She was the original G.I. Jane. She had been married three times, she was hard, cold, and did everything by the book.

One morning, the two nurses who were to attend to Edith were sick. Edith had the flu and Phyllis Cross had to go in and give her a shot. When she walked in, Edith had a big smile on her face and said, “Phyllis, God loves you and I love you, and I have been praying for you.”

Phyllis Cross said, “Well, you can quit praying for me, it won’t work. I’m not interested.”

Edith said, “Well, I will pray and I have asked God not to let me go home until you come into the family.”

Phyllis Cross said, “Then you will never die because that will never happen,” and curtly walked out of the room.

Every day Phyllis Cross would walk into the room and Edith would say, “God loves you Phyllis and I love you, and I’m praying for you.”

One day, Phyllis Cross said she was literally drawn to Edith’s room like a magnet would draw iron. She sat down on the bed and Edith said, “I’m so glad you have come, because God told me that today is your special day.”

Phyllis Cross said, “Edith, you have asked everybody here the question, “Do you believe in Easter but you have never asked me.”

Edith said, “Phyllis, I wanted to many times, but God told me to wait until you asked, and now that you have asked.” Edith Burns took her Bible and shared with Phyllis Cross the Easter Story of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Edith said, “Phyllis, do you believe in Easter? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is alive and that He wants to live in your heart?”

Phyllis Cross said, “Oh I want to believe that with all of my heart, and I do want Jesus in my life. “Right there, Phyllis Cross prayed and invited Jesus Christ into her heart. For the first time Phyllis Cross did not walk out of a hospital room, she was carried out on the wings of angels.

Two days later, Phyllis Cross came in and Edith said, “Do you know what day it is?” Phyllis Cross said, “Why Edith, it’s Good Friday.” Edith said, “Oh, no, for you every day is Easter. Happy Easter Phyllis!”

Two days later, on Easter Sunday, Phyllis Cross came into work, did some of her duties and then went down to the flower shop and got some Easter lilies because she wanted to go up to see Edith and give her some Easter lilies and wish her a Happy Easter.

When she walked into Edith’s room, Edith was in bed. That big black Bible was on her lap. Her hands were in that Bible. There was a sweet smile on her face. When Phyllis Cross went to pick up Edith’s hand, she realized Edith was dead. Her left hand was on John 14: “In my Father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” Her right hand was on Revelation 21:4, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, there shall be no more death nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Phyllis Cross took one look at that dead body, and then lifted her face toward heaven, and with tears streaming down here cheeks, said, “Happy Easter, Edith – Happy Easter!” Phyllis Cross left Edith’s body, walked out of the room, and over to a table where two student nurses were sitting. She said, “My name is Phyllis Cross. Do you believe in Easter?”

When Jesus gets a hold of our life and we know the power of his resurrection, we act like he did: giving and serving, not being served. In fact, the Holy Spirit in response to an open heart can enable us to give not only money to the church, bread and canned goods to the local pantry, and our muscle to build Habitat for Humanity homes, but also our very lives so that others may know the Crucified and Risen Christ. Some people will never come to know Jesus until they see us getting down and dirty for them, giving up some of our comforts (as the Lord calls us). Then they will finally see Jesus-with-skin-on. Not even our homes and property are to be more important than the opportunities to show the resurrected Jesus to a dying world. “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24).

Ruth Peterson reached out her door to get her mail. A very plain looking envelope caught her attention first. It had no return address. Inside it was a one page letter with these few words written on it: “Dear Ruth, I’m going to be in your neighborhood Saturday afternoon and I’d like to stop by for a visit.” And it was signed, “Love always, Jesus.”

Her hands were shaking as she placed the letter on her kitchen table. “Why would the Lord want to visit me? I’m nobody special. I don’t have anything to offer.” With that thought, Ruth remembered her empty kitchen cabinets. “Oh my goodness, I really don’t have anything to offer. I’ll have to run down to the store and buy something for dinner.” She reached for her purse and counted out its contents: $5.40. “Well, I can get some bread and cold cuts, at least.”

She threw on her coat and hurried out the door. A loaf of French bread, a half-pound of sliced turkey, and a carton of milk. That left Ruth with a grand total of twelve cents to last her until Monday. Nonetheless she felt happy as she headed home, her meager offering tucked under her arm.

“Hey, lady, can you help us, lady?” Ruth had been so absorbed in her dinner plan, she hadn’t even noticed two figures huddled in the alleyway, a man and a woman, both of them dressed in little more than rags. “Look, lady, I ain’t got a job, ya know, and my wife and I have been living out here on the street, and, well, now it’s getting cold and we’re getting kinda hungry and, well, if you could help us, lady, we’d really appreciate it.”

Ruth looked at them both. They were dirty, they smelled bad and, frankly, she was certain that they could get some kind of work if they really wanted to. “Sir, I’d like to help you, but I’m a poor woman myself. All I have is a few cold cuts and some bread, and I’m having an important guest for dinner tonight and I was planning on serving that to him.”

“Yeah, well, okay, lady, I understand. Thanks anyway.” The man put his arm around the woman’s shoulders, turned and headed back into the alley. As she watched them leave, Ruth felt a familiar twinge in her heart.

“Sir, wait!” The couple stopped and turned as she ran down the alley after them. “Look, why don’t you take this food? I’ll figure out something else to serve my guest.” She handed the man her grocery bag. “Thank you, lady. Thank you very much!” “Yes, thank you!” It was the man’s wife, and Ruth could see now that she was shivering. “You know, I’ve got another coat at home. Here, why don’t you take this one?” Ruth unbuttoned her jacket and slipped it over the woman’s shoulders. Then smiling, she turned and walked back down the street … without her coat and nothing to serve her guest.

Ruth was chilled by the time she reached her front door, and worried too. The Lord was coming to visit and she didn’t have anything to offer him. She fumbled through her purse for the door key. But as she did, she noticed another envelope in her mailbox. “That’s odd. The mailman doesn’t usually come twice in one day.” She took the envelope out of the box and opened it.

Dear Ruth, it was good to see you again. Thank you for the lovely meal. And thank you, too, for the beautiful coat. Love always, Jesus.” The air was still cold, but even without her coat, Ruth no longer noticed.

Jesus is alive! Christ is risen! The grave is open; so also are our hearts and hands!

So until next Sunday          same time                   same station:

From the book titled Three Little Words; today’s three little words are BE HIS WITNESS.

And the three verses are:

Acts 1:8      You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the world

Isaiah 43:10     You are my witnesses say the Lord….

 Acts 22:15   You will be witness to the people of what you have seen and heard.

There is a benediction that says it, and I’ll let this be the final word.

“He came singing love. He lived singing love. He died singing love. He rose in silence. If the song is to continue, we must do the singing.”

America Bless God               and           God will Bless America

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