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Christ in you, the hope of glory ~ 3-22

Who are you? Who, who? Who, who? — The Who

The 1960s were pretty confusing times for everyone. Some have said, “Anyone who says they remember the 60s must not have been there.” It seemed like everyone was asking the hard questions, but no one had the answers. It reminds me of the rock band, “The Who.” Their repeated question of “Who are you?” from a hit song in the 70s still echoes across the airways. But does anyone have an answer to this most important question: Who are you? The apostle Paul did:

To them (believers in Christ) God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)

In this passage, Paul identifies the mystery of the mystery. He answers the question of our identity at its deepest level: What really matters is not who you arebut Who is in you. The answer to that question should never cease to stun us, because it’s our hope of glory. It’s our glorious riches… the great mystery: “Christ in you.”

Pete Briscoe’s Daily Devotional – ‘Experiencing LIFE Today’

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The Christian faith is a mystery ~ 3-21

Mysterion: noun. Greek.
A mystery. Something unexplainable by normal means.
What theologians call something when they don’t have a clue about what is going on.

If you’re like me, you like to have everything figured out. Most Christians in the Western world feel the same way. We have systematic theology, four spiritual laws, diagrams and charts to describe the Trinity, constitutions and bylaws to spell out what church is, etc. That’s all well and good… but it’s not enough. I mean, it’s really not enough.

Authentic Christianity doesnt come from just facts and figuresit comes out of a mystery.

Sure, religion is based on formulas and to-do lists. But a relationship with Jesus Christ takes place in a completely different realm—the realm of the mysterious. The apostle Paul spoke about this in Colossians 1:25-26:

I have become its (the church’s) servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness—the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people.

What is a mystery? According to Scripture, a mystery is something formerly hidden in God from all human eyes, but now revealed through Christ and made understandable to His people by the Holy Spirit.

In other words, “There ain’t no way we can figure this out on our own.” We can read about it, listen to sermons about it, and study it all we want. But unless God brings it to life in us, we aren’t going to get it. This is particularly true when it comes to our self-identity.

Second only to our concept of God, our concept of “self” is the most important thing about us. And in a world that is bombarding us with lies, we desperately need to know the mysterious Truth about who we are.

Pete Briscoe’s Daily Devotional – ‘Experiencing LIFE Today’

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What’s the story of my life? ~ 3-20

Live so that when the final summons comes you will leave something more behind you than an epitaph on a tombstone or an obituary in a newspaper. — Billy Sunday

My dad hadn’t been back to his father’s grave in England for ages. The stone etched with the name “Stanley Briscoe” had fallen; the weeds had grown over the withered stone and my father’s face reflected a pensive disappointment. We huffed and heaved as we righted the slab and pulled weeds out of the sacred ground.

The graves of those who have gone before us conjure up a strange mixture of emotions and thoughts. They wash over us—like tsunamis crashing down on the soul. And the blatant reality eventually hits us: One day, it’ll be us. Our bodies will die. Our lives will end.

I wish I had known my grandfather. The day we stood beside the grave my dad filled in some of the gaps with tales of the man:

  • Keeping the family grocery store open through the War and the Depression.
  • A man of his word… a man of the Word.
  • A lay preacher who spoke what he knew each weekend in a corrugated metal building they called “The Tin Church.”

Nothing fancy. Just a simple faith that knew the value of community, honesty, truth, and the value of investing life in something worth dying for.

Between birth and the casket, there are an unknown number of days God gives us to live for His purposes in our physical body. Some day it will be changed into a perfect body, but for now it’s wearing out. Yet, it continually waits to be used for eternal purposes.

Soon enough the dust of my body, of your body, will mix with the soil beneath a tilting headstone. Will the cemetery be kept up? Will weeds grow there, too? Does it matter?

Perhaps it’s best to let the gravestone lay.

Pete Briscoe’s Daily Devotional – ‘Experiencing LIFE Today’

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Waiting for the ultimate victory ~ 3-19

A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble. — Charles Spurgeon

Here lies an Atheist. All dressed up and no place to go. — Tombstone in the Thurmont, Maryland cemetery

When Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians, he spent a good amount of time talking about the human body. He called it the “natural body” and referred to it as “flesh and blood.” He said that it can’t “inherit the kingdom of God,” and then he talked about the mystery of death and the transformation that will take place when we are resurrected with spiritual bodies. In our struggle against the flesh and death, it will be the final home run, slam-dunk, Hail-Mary touchdown pass into the end zone.

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. (1 Corinthians 15:54-56)

Yeah, that’s what the future holds for the bodies of Christians. The perishable gets exchanged for the imperishable, the mortal with the immortal. That’s not just a wish, that’s the truth! We can look forward to that with certainty and boldness. But we’re not there, quite yet.

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:57-58)

Take one last look at your body. No, it’s not going to last; yes, it will be changed. But for now, it’s a tool waiting to be used by God to bring glory to His name.

Pete Briscoe’s Daily Devotional – ‘Experiencing LIFE Today’

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Your body and the eternal Word ~ 3-18

Remember man, as you walk by, As you are now, so once was I, As I am now, so shall you be, Remember this and follow me. — Words engraved in a tombstone in England. To which someone replied by writing these words beneath: “To follow you I’ll not consent, until I know which way you went.”

Our bodies are temporary. Yeah, yeah, we all know that… in our heads at least. But contemplating that absolute fact puts the rest of life in vivid perspective. God told the prophet Isaiah to proclaim this in a big way, but Isaiah wasn’t sure what to say! This is how he recorded his conversation with God:

“For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” A voice says, “Cry out.” And I said, “What shall I cry?” “All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:5-8)

I love the contrast in Isaiah’s message. Our bodies WILL wither like the grass, BUT God’s words last forever. See the perspective change here? It’s a paradigm shift that should cause us to reconsider our earthly priorities. Yes, I believe that our bodies are a temporary gift which need to be cared for, but they are given for a purpose—to live and proclaim the eternal life-giving Truth of God’s words. Notice how Isaiah follows up with a charge:

You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” (v. 9)

Not only do we have the words of God available to us in written form, but we have Jesus, the living Word, in our hearts—and both are ready to be spoken and lived through us today!

Pete Briscoe’s Daily Devotional – ‘Experiencing LIFE Today’

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Living in light of the eternal ~ 3-17

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, Your perfect love is casting out fear. — Matt Redman, “Oh, Lord You Never Let Go”

God’s Word makes it really clear that our bodies are temporary. If you believe the prognosis given to you by the Great Physician, it will not only change your perspective on physical death and the fact that it’s unavoidable, it will change your life now. There’s a very tangible sense of peace that comes with aligning your beliefs with what’s true about the death and resurrection of your body.

Why not live fearlessly? Why not live with focus? Why not live with fervor?

If you only have one earthly life to live, why not take calculated risks? Why not push the envelope of your comfort zone and allow Christ to live through you and lead you into worthwhile and demanding new endeavors? We can be sure that God will be with us and support us:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me… (Psalm 23:4, NASB)

Benjamin Franklin lived without fear and he lived boldly for the things in which he believed. He was a great writer, but few words of his (or anyone else’s, for that matter) are as powerful as the words that he wrote for his tombstone. Knowing these would be his last words left for the world to read long after he was gone, he wrote:

The body of Benjamin Franklin, its innards torn out and stripped of its lettering and gilding like the cover of an old book, lies here. Yet the work itself shall not be lost. But it will, as he believed, appear once more in a new and more beautiful edition corrected and amended by the Author.

Mr. Franklin is a prime example of living in the shadow of death.

What do you want written on your tombstone?

Pete Briscoe’s Daily Devotional – ‘Experiencing LIFE Today’

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How to focus on eternity ~ 3-16

Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see. — Helen Keller

Imagine, again, that you’re back in the office of the Great Physician. God’s diagnosis of death and decay has left you stunned; your soul is reeling with that reality. But now He’s leaning towards you. He’s taking you by the hand and He’s lifting your chin and looking you in the eyes—He has something to say:

“My child, the death, the pain, the decay… it’s all temporary—an immeasurably small moment in light of the eternity that awaits you. What lies beyond is incomparable. The asthma, the cancer, the bruises, scabs, and scars… these will not last. Trust Me. Look to the future and see with the eyes of faith a heavenly, timeless, and painless existence—an existence of an entirely different kind, a body of an entirely different kind. Be patient, My child; have faith. For with a flash of light you will be changed.”

I’m not making this up. God has written it down for us in His Word:

The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body… 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 15:41-44, 52)

Yes, our physical bodies will decay, die, and decompose, but we will be resurrected, and our spiritual bodies will have an imperishable glory and power. Your body will be different—not just healed and not just better… but radically different.

The Great Physician is finished talking for the moment. God pushes back and gives you a moment to let this soak in. Are you thinking about it, I mean really thinking about it? Do you see the big picture now?

Pete Briscoe’s Daily Devotional – ‘Experiencing LIFE Today’

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The hope you have in the resurrection ~ 3-15

A lawyer’s dream of heaven: every man reclaimed his property at the resurrection, and each tried to recover it from all his forefathers. — Samuel Butler

Have you ever seen a chrysanthemum seed? They look like little, brownish, shriveled up things. But, if you take that seed and you bury it in the dirt, what happens? You get an amazing flower—totally unlike the seed that was planted!

But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. (1 Corinthians 15:36-38)

Do you see what Paul is getting at here? If our body (usually little, brownish, shriveled up things) dies, how will God raise us and what will we look like when that happens? We are foolish to even ask the question, because the difference between what dies and what is resurrected is as different as the chrysanthemum seed is from its flower.

I think it’s fair to let our imaginations run with this for a little while, because I believe that our new bodies will be beyond anything that we can imagine.

Pete Briscoe’s Daily Devotional – ‘Experiencing LIFE Today’

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What happens when you die? ~ 3-14

Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime. — Martin Luther

Okay, here’s one truth that no one likes to think about too much—particularly after watching the latest zombie flick. Your body will decompose.

Yuck. No need to talk about this one much. Whether your body is cremated, put in a casket, or donated to medical science… the result will be the same:

All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. (Ecclesiastes 3:20)

What happens after that? There are several very popular theories out there (but none of them can be backed up with the Bible):

  • Soul sleep. This is the “eternal nap” theory. The soul still exists, but in death it goes into an unconscious snooze forever.
  • Nihilism. I call this the “poof” theory. After death, the soul and spirit just kind of evaporate and cease to exist altogether.
  • Reincarnation. This is the “repeat” theory. When any living thing dies, its soul goes into other living things—actually becoming something else over and over again in a never-ending cycle of life and death.

None of that sounds like a great option, in my opinion. However, there is definitely a flip side of the coin of death—if you know Jesus Christ personally:

Your spirit will dwell.

For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:7-8)

When the body dies, our spirit is freed from tangible flesh and we can be with the Lord at home—home, where we will be alive and aware; home, with the Father experiencing His love without distraction; home, where we belong.

Pete Briscoe’s Daily Devotional – ‘Experiencing LIFE Today’

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Finding comfort in the face of death ~ 3-13

Of all great wonders, none is greater than man. Only for death can he find no cure. — Sophocles

A pastor was on a plane filled with people who had just gotten off cruise ships in Miami. Everybody was still in the party mood, but then, reality caught up with them. One of the women in the front of the plane began having a hard time. All at once, she slumped forward… dead—right there in the middle of the airborne party. They landed in Dallas, removed the body, and resumed their journey to Los Angeles.

The pastor told the flight attendant, “Ma’am, I’m a pastor. If anyone would like to talk to me about what’s happened, I’m in seat 12A.” The flight attendant responded, “No problem, sir. We are going to give everyone free drinks for the rest of the flight.” And she was right. Within an hour, everyone was back in the festive party mood.

Isn’t that the way most of us try to deal with death? It’s like were floating along on this big cruise ship called “life.” Every once in a while, somebody around us falls off the boat. It catches our attention for a moment; but rather than dealing with it, we grab on to anything we can to numb our feelings so the party can continue. But if we’re honest, we must face the fact that all of us will die physically.

Your body will die.

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:14)

Aristotle said that death is the “most terrible” of all things. Epicurus said that death is “the most terrifying” of all things. But Jesus said the truth sets us free. Is it possible that believing the truth about death could bring life into clearer, more purposeful focus?

Pete Briscoe’s Daily Devotional – ‘Experiencing LIFE Today’

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