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Bible Terms: Easter Do we really understand all that Easter encompasses?

Do we really understand all that Easter encompasses?

Written by Luis Palau
Tags: Bible, Easter
"When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the King of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride."

How often do we consider the cross to that extent today?

At least once a year we take time to reflect on what Jesus Christ has done for us. Every Easter we think of the cross, the tomb, and the resurrection. But do we really understand all that Easter encompasses? All too often we throw around religious, theological words, but we don’t stop and think about what they really mean.

Here are 12 crucial, biblical terms to ponder. As we speak these words this Easter we can appreciate anew the reason we celebrate.

SIN
Sin is choosing our own will over God’s will. This turning to self instead of God has infected every human since the Garden of Eden—separating us from our God and each other. The devastation of sin is why we so need to have an Easter.

If we look at the underlying motive that results in a “sinful” action, we’ll realize that overcoming sin is not about changing behavior; it’s about changing where we place our heart and will; it’s about changing from self-rule to God-rule. But we can’t even do that on our own power. Easter celebrates that the power of sin was broken by Jesus Christ when he died for our sins and rose from the dead. His victory is the basis for our victory (Romans 6:5-11).

REPENTANCE
Repentance is not just saying, “I’m sorry.” It’s turning away from the sin that separated us from God; reaching out, instead, to receive God’s forgiveness and the new life he offers. Repentance is necessary for salvation (Acts 3:19). We must agree with God about our sin and turn toward him. We do not need to be perfect before we come to God, and we will still sin while we’re in this human body. But too often we shrug off our sins by saying, “Well, God’s forgiven me, so I’m okay.” That is not repentance. Repentance puts action to our words. True repentance means letting the forgiveness you’ve experienced change your life.

FORGIVENESS
Throughout history, God has been merciful and forgiving to those who repent of their sin. But that doesn’t mean forgiveness is automatic. Because the penalty for sin is death, God’s law says there can be no forgiveness without the sacrifice of a life. Jesus’ death paid the ultimate price, and now our sins are wiped out, gone forever. It is true that we will still sin in this life, but God continues to forgive us when we come to him (1 John 1:9).

CLEAN
When God forgives us, he cleans us. When he cleans us, we’re clean all the way through to the depths of our being. As part of his forgiveness, God cleanses us from all our sin and declares that we are now as “white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18; Hebrews 10:22).

BLOOD
Jesus Christ gave his blood on a torturous Roman cross to pay the penalty for our sin and to give us new life through a relationship with him. Centuries before Christ’s death, as a picture of what was to come, God told the Israelites to apply splotches of lamb’s blood on the doorframes of their houses. It was a sign that they believed in God and trusted him to spare their families from the angel of death whom God sent to Egypt (Exodus 12:21-23). The blood of animals could never really forgive sins—they only anticipated the blood of Jesus Christ’s ultimate sacrifice— his perfect, sinless, loving life (Hebrews 10:4-7).

SACRIFICE
A true sacrifice involves giving up something that is cherished. Abraham showed that he loved God by his willingness to sacrifice his long-awaited son Isaac as God commanded. The Israelites showed their obedience to God, worshiped God, and received the promise of forgiveness through the giving of animal and grain sacrifices.

It is no accident that the Crucifixion and Resurrection occurred during Passover. As the most important sacrifice in the Old Testament, Passover paints the most vivid picture of the greatest sacrifice ever made: the one made by God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus sacrificed his place in heaven to become human; he then sacrificed his life by dying on the cross to pay the price for our sins (Philippians 2:8). Giving our total lives as a living sacrifice to him is our natural and appropriate response of worship (Romans 12:1).

SALVATION
Some people call for God to save them only when they are desperate and in immediate danger. In the Old Testament, when God’s people called out to him for salvation, they were looking for deliverance from their enemies. We may not have an army on our doorstep, but we’re all in immediate danger from the effects and consequences of sin. We can’t save ourselves from this— we need a rescue operation. Thankfully, God executed the rescue operation for salvation. He sent his Son to save the world by paying the penalty for sin and bringing us back to God (John 3:16). Our salvation is the accomplishment of the Crucifixion and Resurrection—the beautiful fruit of Easter.

REDEMPTION
Jesus Christ’s death replaced our spiritual death. He redeemed, or paid the price for, our sins to bring us back to God. Sometimes the devil tries to make us doubt that we really belong to the Lord, but our redemption is solid. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead proves that (Colossians 1:14). We know that there is nothing we can do to nullify the redemption Christ bought for us (Ephesians 1:7).

CROSS
The cross points to God’s rescue plan of the world. When we think of the cross, we should think of Jesus Christ, who was painfully stretched out and nailed to it, whose blood was shed, whose side was pierced and whose death paid the price of all sin (Isaiah 53:5). Without Jesus’ death on a cross, Christians cannot inherit God’s gift of salvation. We also associate the cross with Christ’s call on our life. He asks us to take up our own cross, in denial of ourselves and in commitment to him (Mark 8:34).

GRAVE
Jesus’ grave is empty because he came back to life after being dead three days. God had this planned from long ago. Prophets of old, given visions by the Holy Spirit, talked about Christ’s coming death and his triumph over the grave (Acts 3:21).

Christians have eternal life, but it doesn’t mean we’ll never die a physical death. We all have to leave this life sometime. But Jesus’ empty grave means we don’t have to fear death anymore. In fact, we’re told that he defeated death and Hades. His resurrection means that we can have life even after our bodies die and that one day our bodies will be raised anew (Romans 6:4). We can live in peace with the Lord forever.

RESURRECTION
The belief in Jesus Christ’s bodily resurrection defines Christianity. His victorious return from death fulfilled prophecy and proved his claims of deity. The resurrection is evidence of God’s satisfaction with the Son’s sacrifice on humanity’s behalf (1 Peter 1:3-5). The Holy Spirit brought Christ to life again. That same Holy Spirit dwells within believers; therefore, Christians can trust that we, too, will rise to eternal life after we experience physical death (Romans 6:22). All of these truths are celebrated in words of joy that ring out each Easter in many different languages: “The Lord is Risen! He is risen indeed!”

JESUS
Jesus paid the penalty for the sins of all humankind on the cross. Buried in a borrowed tomb, he rose again three days later as proof that his mission to conquer sin and death had been accomplished. Jesus appeared to his disciples and then returned to heaven 40 days later with the promise that he would return again someday. Jesus’ words and life show us how to live life, but his message was that humanity should respond to God’s love. Jesus claimed to be much more than a wise man or great teacher. He claimed to be God—a God willing to die for his creation so that their love relationship could be restored (Romans 5:10). Through his birth, life, death, and resurrection, Jesus fulfilled the hundreds of prophecies in the Old Testament that foretold of a coming Messiah, a Savior not only for the nation of Israel, but for the whole world (1 Timothy 4:10). How will you respond to Jesus’ life and love?

The point and the pinnacle of Easter celebration is the worship of Jesus Christ, the one who declared, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:17-18).

Were you surprised by any of the 12 definitions of biblical terms?

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One Man’s Death Every Man’s Guarantee

Hope for a "new world" must rest in God, not man

Written by Luis Palau
Tags: Death, Easter, Hope, Life, Power, Resurrection
We all keep hoping for peace. World War I was "the war to end all wars." Then we found ourselves in the midst of World War II-again sending out sons, husbands, and fathers who may not return.

The wars kept coming. Korea. Vietnam. Iraq. Each one pouring out death and destruction to an extent the world hadn’t witnessed previously. If only military victory carried a lifetime guarantee of no more death, no more failure, no more fear. Or better yet, an eternal guarantee.

But only one man’s death carries that guarantee.

No human effort to build a better world can guarantee lasting peace in the Persian Gulf, or Somalia, or anywhere else for that matter. The freedom that costs the blood of our precious young men and women isn’t permanent. It lasts only until another aggressive power comes along, unjustly claiming supremacy over others. Then the bloodshed starts all over again.

Hope for a "new world" must rest in God, not man. Death is man’s legacy; life is God’s. The Lord Jesus Christ said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die" (John 11:25-26).

Good Friday, when we remember the cruel death of Jesus Christ on the cross, is a day that man made because of sin. But Resurrection Sunday is God’s Day. He made it. Only the power of God could have raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Man’s deepest yearnings for life, power, and hope find fulfillment in the meaning of Easter.

Life
Resurrection speaks of life. Jesus Christ is alive today! Here in the northern hemisphere, Resurrection Sunday comes in the spring. After a long, cold winter, nature comes alive. In the spring, one is prompted to think of resurrection. It’s a new beginning.

Death is our enemy. But life is ours in Jesus Christ. Death brings fear. The Resurrection gives peace. Thoughts about death often lead to depression. The reality of the Resurrection leads to hope. Death speaks of separation, but the Resurrection speaks of a life that is indestructible, in union forever with the risen Jesus Christ.

The Bible says, "When you were dead in your sins…God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins" (Colossians 2:13). We are alive to God because the risen life of Christ is our life. All of us who have Jesus Christ in our hearts know that He’s alive. That’s why we love to sing, "You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart." The Lord affirmed, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). That speaks of His life in us!

When Jesus came out of the grave, having finished the work on the cross, having shed His blood, having taken the punishment for our sins on His own body, He was able to give us life, because He was alive, risen from the dead.

Do you have this life? Have you experienced what it is to come alive in Jesus Christ? Have you experienced what the Bible calls a "new birth"?

To be born again means that Jesus Christ actually comes into your life. Instead of being dead to God, dead to the things of God, not understanding what God is like, you come alive. You become a new person who can understand the things of God.

The Resurrection speaks of life; not only the life of Christ, alive from the tomb, but also an abundant inner life for us, here and now, daily.

Jesus Christ also opened a way into heaven. We no longer have to fear death, because we are united with Christ. A Christian has been resurrected with Jesus Christ. Christ’s victory is our victory both now and in the future. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus Christ destroyed him "who holds the power of death-that is, the devil" (Hebrews 2:14).

Power
Resurrection also speaks of power. Before the Lord was raised from the dead, the apostles were quite a miserable lot. What was wrong? What was it that they lacked? They lacked power!

Until the Lord Jesus was resurrected, was raised up into heaven and the Holy Spirit came down on the Day of Pentecost, the apostles were still afraid and in hiding.

But on the Day of Pentecost, Peter, who had earlier been afraid of the accusations of a servant girl, stood up in front of several thousand people and said, very boldly, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). What brought on this boldness?

Peter now was filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit! He had the risen life of Jesus Christ in him. The power that brought Christ out of the grave is for us now. God’s power is not something that we work up ourselves. It comes only from the indwelling Holy Spirit.

If you lack power in your life, power to overcome temptation, power to witness for Jesus Christ, then you need to allow God’s Spirit to fill you. You need to acknowledge His life in you and let Him live through you.

The life of Christ dwells in every one who by faith receives Him. Your life can be filled with the power of the living Lord Jesus Christ. "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, and love and of self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7).

Hope
Hope? Yes, resurrection also speaks of a secure hope. My father’s body is buried in a little cemetery in Argentina. But my father has been with Jesus Christ all these 48 years since his physical death. One day his body is going to be resurrected, just as the body of Jesus was resurrected.

For those who know the Lord Jesus, that fact is very real. The Lord is coming back! The Bible says that one of these days, we shall be changed "in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed" (1 Corinthians 15:52). What a marvelous reality!

When my father died, we sang a hymn at his funeral:

Face to face, O blissful moment.

Face to face, to see and know.

Face to face with my Redeemer,

Jesus Christ who loved me so.

Face to face I shall behold Him,

Far beyond the starry sky.

Face to face in all His glory,

I shall see Him by and by.

This is the hope that the Resurrection gives you. We know we shall see the Lord Jesus face to face in all His glory. Do you have that hope? Do you have that assurance? Do you know for sure that you’ll see Him?

If the resurrected Christ does not live in your heart and you die today, what hope would you have? There is no "reincarnation," no "second chance." But if Christ lives in you, then there is the secure hope of eternal life with the Lord Jesus, forever. "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish," He has said (John 10:28).

A minister’s son, 28 years old, married with two children, had cancer. Each of the several specialists who examined him said the cancer would take his life. I was the guest speaker at the minister’s church on the Sunday that his son died, early that morning. This pastor, who had suffered so much for two years seeing his son slowly dying, was at perfect peace. He described the last few hours he spent with him. His son had said, "Dad, tonight I’m going to be with Jesus."

"Aren’t you lucky to get there before me, David," his father said. "To think that tonight you will actually see Moses in person, and Peter, Paul, and John the Baptist!"

Then his father said, "But son, best of all, you’re going to see the Lord Jesus. And when you see Him, David, will you tell him that your father loves Him very much?"

The reason this man had such tremendous peace when I spoke with him a few hours after his son’s death was because his son was with the Lord Jesus. That’s what knowing Jesus Christ will do for you.

If the Lord Jesus returned today, would He welcome you into His presence? Have you opened your life to Jesus Christ?

You can receive the Lord Jesus by a simple prayer of faith. Believe in Him, invite Him into your heart, and become a child of God. Make sure that you will be part of that resurrection day when the Lord Jesus comes back for His own.

Make this prayer your own, quietly now, as you finish this article:

Dear Lord Jesus, thank You that because of Easter, You’ve made it possible for me to have a new beginning. Thank You for Your death on the cross, paying the penalty for my sins. Thank You for Your resurrection three days later. You’re alive and now You offer me new life, power and hope here and now and for all eternity. Please forgive my sins and make me part of Your family. I gladly receive You and put my trust in You. Amen.

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Deadly affair when snake meets kite

What happens when a raptor and python cross paths – high up in a tree? One Wild Card member was astonished to witness this three-hour, deadly interaction.

Late last year Luis Da Cruz and his wife spent a few days at Ngwenya Lodge, situated on the southern boundary of the Kruger National Park. A leisurely stroll soon turned into an afternoon to remember when a two-metre-long python – high up in a tree – caught Luis’s attention.

The Kruger regular was even more astonished when he noticed the python was wrapped around a bird. “I could not believe our luck. While trying to work out exactly what type of bird the snake had caught, I was also desperately trying to get decent pictures. The snake was very high up, 25m plus, and the light was poor,” Luis recalls.

With many spectators, all speculating about what was happening, questions were plentiful. Did the python kill the black-shouldered kite in the tree or on the ground? If the python caught the bird on the ground, how did it get the bird up into the tree? Did the bird land close to the snake, already at home in the tree, and meet its match? And probably the most dreaded question of all: What would happen if the snake fell out of the tree?

To add to the drama, a pied crow showed up. “For at least 30 minutes, the crow desperately tried to disrupt the snake by pecking at its tail, trying to dislodge it from the tree, and making one almighty racket. It’s known that crows and snakes are natural enemies – this crow’s actions seemed to indicate that it was trying to get the snake to release the black-shouldered kite. I have never witnessed anything like this.”

Was the crow trying to rescue the kite or did it want to steal the snake’s meal? Let us know what you think.

After three hours, the snake still hadn’t swallowed the motionless bird. “By now our necks were stiff from looking upwards all this time and we decided to move on. The next day, none of the other spectators could confirm what had happened in the end, everyone wishing that they had watched the entire interaction. Quite a few of the visitors suggested that this particular python is a regular in the area.”

An unsolved mystery

Snake expert Johan Marais identified the snake as a Southern African python (Python natalensis). This snake kills its prey by constriction and then swallows it whole.

“It’s quite unusual to see a python eating an adult bird in broad daylight. It is an ambush hunter and usually hides in bushes or grass to surprise its prey. How it got the bird up the tree is a bit of a mystery. Although they feed on mammals and birds, they are also known to take fish and leguaans. The maximum length for the Southern African python is just short of 6m.”

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