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Jesus, the Indescribable Gift

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In this final post on the names of Jesus Christ, I have an impossible task: to describe what God’s Word itself calls Indescribable. But I know better than to try.  Jesus is the Gift that surpasses the descriptive power of words!

Since I’ve already done all I can to describe Jesus in the past twenty-four days, on this Christmas Day I’m reflecting on where the tradition of gift giving at Christmas came from. Scripture describes some Magi from the east who came to worship the one born to be king of the Jews. They came bearing gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh. Frankincense was a perfume used in Jewish worship, brought to One who deserves our worship. Gold a gift associated with kings, was given to One who would be the King of an eternal heavenly kingdom. Myrrh was a perfume put on dead bodies to prepare them for burial, given to the One who would die for our sins and be buried in a borrowed tomb, then raised for the dead.

Unlike most retellings of the Christmas story assume, this event did not occur immediately after the birth of the Holy Child. Mary, Joseph and the young Jesus were now living in a house. Jesus was probably close to two years old, since Matthew 2:16 says, “When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.”

‭‭As you are giving gifts on this Christmas Day, remember the origin of this tradition. And more importantly, recognize and accept God’s indescribable gift, the gift of His Son.

Jesus is the Gift above all gifts!

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV

Jesus, King Over All the Earth

During Advent and the Christmas season, we celebrate Jesus’ birth as Immanuel, God with us. He came as a baby, grew to be a man, and walked among men spreading the good news of the kingdom of God.

During Lent and Easter, we reflect on the price Jesus paid for our sins through His suffering and death for our sins. And we rejoice that He is no longer in the grave. He was resurrected and is alive.

We have no official holiday to celebrate the next event in Jesus’ life – it is still in the future. But as the prophets foretold the events we celebrate at Christmas and Easter, this coming event, the second coming of Jesus to earth to gather His people to be a part of His eternal kingdom, has also been foretold in both the Old and New Testaments.

One prophetic Scripture that speaks of both Jesus’ coming as an infant and of His second coming to reign as King is Isaiah 9:6-7.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” Isaiah‬ ‭9:6-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Jesus Himself spoke of His return to earth.

“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” Luke‬ ‭21:25-27‬ ‭NIV‬

And the apostle Paul spoke of this still future event.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” ‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭4:16-17‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Jesus’ first coming was to make a way for our salvation, and that work was accomplished on the cross. Jesus’ body was laid in a borrowed tomb, but that tomb is now empty because Jesus is alive, ascended back to heaven, and now stands at the right hand of the throne of God. The signs of His second coming now sound like things we see on our daily news reports. His second coming is near.

This time, when Jesus returns to heaven, He will be crowned as King of kings and Lord of Lords. And we will be at His side as His bride, if we are now a living stone in His true Church.

I’m so grateful for this promise of Jesus’ return for His people. I have set my hope on the future coming of the Lord Jesus, and it strengthens me for the trials of life on this earth corrupted by sin.

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.” 1 Peter‬ ‭1:13‬ ‭NIV

Jesus Christ, Our Advocate with the Father

The Greek word paraklētos, translated Advocate in today’s Scripture passage, is used five times in the New Testament, once by the apostle John to refer to Jesus Christ, and four times by Jesus Himself of “another Advocate,” the Holy Spirit.

Advocate is another title for a lawyer, someone who pleads your case before the bar of justice. In modern terms, an advocate is like a defense attorney who pleads the case for a defendant before a judge. The Greek word literally means called to one’s side, especially called to one’s aid.

When John calls Jesus our Advocate,” it means that our Savior is standing before the heavenly throne of God, pleading our case before the Father. He is interceding on our behalf because we belong to Him.

It’s important to point out one important distinction between Jesus Christ our heavenly Advocate and an earthly advocate for someone accused of a crime. Jesus’ case as He represents us before the Father isn’t based on our righteousness or good works. His case for us is grounded in the work He has already done to secure God’s favorable verdict.

Even though we are guilty of sin and unable to meet the righteous standards God has set, Jesus has already paid the price for our sin. Or as 1 John 2:2 says,

“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John‬ ‭2:2‬ ‭NIV‬

But we still have a part in the process. We have to accept this atoning sacrifice as our own through faith in the work Jesus has done. When we do this, the perfect righteousness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is imputed to us. This means Christ’s righteousness is attributed to us by faith and counted as our own. As Matthew Henry wrote:

“The clients are guilty; their innocence and legal righteousness cannot be pleaded. It is the advocate’s own righteousness that he must plead for the criminals.”

I am grateful that, even now, Jesus is pleading with the Father on my behalf, interceding for me to be forgiven. Because I am in Christ, God is no longer the judge who condemns me but rather the Father who has adopted me into His family.

Jesus, the Bridegroom

 

The name Bridegroom is used often in the Bible as a metaphor for God, specifically for Jesus Christ. The Church is likened to a Bride with Christ as her Bridegroom, painting a clear picture of the special relationship we are privileged to have with Him. We are bound together by a covenant of grace that cannot be broken.

In our current culture, marriage is not known for permanency. But this was not God’s original plan. God’s guidelines for marriage were explicit. Marriage was meant to be ‘til death do us part’, as the traditional Protestant marriage vow states.

“’Haven’t you read… that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Matthew‬ ‭19:4-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

With this understanding in mind, the bride-groom imagery of the Bible is a wonderful picture of the security of the children of God in their relationship with Him through faith in Jesus Christ. Once we have made a true commitment of our lives to Jesus, we can have assurance that we belong to Him. Yes, we still sin, we’re far from perfect. But we never again need to fear we are lost eternally.

Whether or not you are now happily married, if you have trusted Jesus as your Savior and Lord you will be a part of the Bride of Christ at the Wedding of the Lamb. In his gospel, John said, “The bride belongs to the bridegroom” (John‬ ‭3:29a‬ ‭NIV). If you belong to the Lamb, Jesus Christ, you will be a part of the Bride of Christ.

At the culmination of human history, Christ will come for His Bride, the Church.

For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.” Revelation 19:7

The Bride, made up of all those who have believed in Jesus Christ as their Messiah through the ages, has made herself ready. Dressed in Christ’s own righteousness, she has grown in purity.

But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” 1 John‬ ‭3:2b-3‬ ‭NIV‬

Now, she has seen her Bridegroom face-to-face, and she is pure as He is pure. She is ready for her heavenly wedding. It’s time for the Wedding of the Lamb!

As I reflect on this name of Jesus Christ, I look forward to this day in the future. As part of the true Church, I know I will be included in the Bride. If you know Him as your personal Lord and Savior, you can have the same confidence.

Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus During the Holiday Season



Keeping our eyes on Jesus is a discipline many of us fail in daily. Yet Scripture teaches this is an important, even essential part of running with perseverance the  race God has marked out for us.

If  you live with the daily challenges of chronic illness, loss, physical or emotional pain, financial struggles or a variety of other issues that are a part of daily life on this earth corrupted by sin, keeping a godward focus becomes even more difficult during the holiday season with its added pressures.

Even though I’ve been doing daily posts this month on the meaning of twenty-five of the names of Jesus, I’ve had some days that it was very difficult just to keep going. Earlier this week, I had a day where brain fog made it really difficult for me to write. By the end of the day my post for the next morning was done, but little else. I was exhausted and on the verge of depression. I knew I needed to do something to stop this downward spiral before it got worse.

The first thing I tried was to relax by playing a couple games on my iPad. In my current frame of mind, that just made me feel worse. So I decided to go in my bedroom, get ready for bed, and read for a few minutes before going to sleep (something I do most nights). This also didn’t help.

Then I remembered what usually helps when I’m feeling discouraged or anxious about something, using worship music to turn on focus off the problems I’m dealing with and onto the One who loves me and is working in my circumstances for my good and for His glory. So I turned on my iPad and listened to some Christmas worship music. This helped me relax and prepare mentally for sleep. And when I woke up the next morning, it was with a completely different frame of mind, one that enabled me to have a much more positive day.

The holiday season with all its extra activities and pressures is naturally stressful. For those who are living with the daily limitations of chronic illness and the often associated financial pressure and emotional pain, it can feel overwhelming. Here is a YouTube link to some Christmas worship music that I’ve found helpful this Christmas season in turning my eyes off the problems of life and back on the One who is our refuge in the hard places of life.

Have you found something that helps you cope with the added pressures of the season and keep your focus on the One whose birthday we are celebrating? If so,  please share what has helped you in the comments below.

Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of Faith

Hebrews 12:1-3 is one of my favorite Scripture passages, one I turn to repeatedly when I’m growing weary from walking through the difficult circumstances of life with chronic illness, with having a medically fragile and mentally handicapped son, and just when facing the day-to-day trials that are a regular part of life on this earth marred by sin.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” Hebrews‬ ‭12:1-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

These words remind me to turn my eyes off of what I’m walking through and turn them on the One who is in control. The One who is using even the hard things that life throws my way for my good and His glory. They empower me to continue running the race He has set before me.

But these verses also contain a very important name of Jesus. He is “the author and perfecter of our faith” (wording from NIV 1984 version).

  • As the Author of faith, Jesus is the beginning point of faith. The Greek word used here, archegos, has also been translated Prince, Captain and Founder. According to Vines Expository Dictionary, it primarily signifies “one who takes a lead in, or provides the first occasion of anything.” The same Greek word is used earlier in the book of Hebrews of Jesus as the founder of salvation.

“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. Hebrews‬ ‭2:10‬ ‭ESV‬

  • As the Perfecter of faith, Jesus is its Completer, Finisher and Perfecter. The Greek word used here is teleiōtēs, which comes from a root word meaning “to carry through completely, to accomplish, finish, bring to an end.” Though the actual Greek word used for Perfecter in this verse is not used anywhere else in the Bible, the root word is used in many verses. Most applicable to our current study, it is used to describe Jesus, who though already without sin, learned obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:8).

“And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,”‭‭ Hebrews‬ ‭5:9‬ ‭ESV

  • Modern translations specify the faith that is described in this verse as our faith. In the original Greek, the article used in this verse is properly translated “the.” The faith Jesus originates and perfects is a strong conviction that Jesus is the Messiah (in Greek, the Christ) and that He is our source of eternal salvation.

As the Author and Perfecter of faith, Jesus Christ is the perfect example of a life walked in faith. During His days as Immanuel, God with us in human flesh, He unswervingly walked the path of faith, modeling for us the life of faith.

I’m very grateful for this example, laid out so clearly in the gospel accounts of His life, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. When I don’t know the right, God-pleasing way to walk through the trials of life, the gospels provide a clear guidebook to direct my path.

 

Jesus Christ, the Cornerstone of the Church

Jesus Christ is the CORNERSTONE of the Church, His body.

For a building to stand, it needs a firm base, a foundational cornerstone to build upon. Jesus Christ is the CORNERSTONE, the firm foundation of the Church, His body built up of living stones.

  • About 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, the prophet Isaiah spoke of this “precious cornerstone” that would be laid as a foundation in Zion. Those who believe in Christ as this cornerstone will not need to flee to a place of safety in danger or distress because the Messiah is their refuge.

Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’ ” Isaiah‬ ‭28:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  • Psalm 118 gives us more information concerning this cornerstone.

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Psalms‬ ‭118:22‬ ‭ESV‬

This stone that God had chosen to be the cornerstone would be rejected by the builders. Who are the builders? This Old Testament reference is quoted by Jesus as a part of the parable about the owner of a vineyard and his wicked tenants, recorded in Matthew 21:33-46, Mark 12:1-12 and Luke 20:9-19. Studying these passages gives the answer to this question. The corrupt Jewish religious leaders who were repeatedly trying to trap Jesus and find a way to put Him to death are the builders referred to in this verse.

  • Those who come to Christ, the living Stone, become a part of this spiritual house and thereafter will never be put to shame.

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.‘ ”1 Peter‬ ‭2:4-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

  • In Jesus Christ, the Chief Cornerstone, the whole “building” of living stones, both Jews and Gentiles who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ, are joined together as a holy temple in the Lord.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Ephesians‬ ‭2:19-22‬ ‭NIV‬

Today, I’m grateful to be one of the living stones that are being built into a spiritual house, a part of the Church, Jesus’ body. And I’m grateful that Christ Jesus Himself is the chief cornerstone of this spiritual household of faith.

Jesus, Head of the Church

When Hurricane Harvey stalled out over Houston, Texas, and our part of the city was deluged with over forty inches of rain, our church campus received major flooding, leaving several of our buildings unusable. But the Church was not damaged. How is that possible? Simply because the Church is not a building or group of buildings.

While most churches meet in physical structures, the Church itself is made up of people who know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and who meet together in a locality to worship their Lord, study His Word, be trained to do the work God has called His people to do and have fellowship with one another. And this week, we will be examining several names of Jesus that relate to the church, beginning with His headship over the church.

The Church is the Body of Christ and Christ Jesus is its head. The word translated church in the New Testament comes from the Greek word ekklesia, which is defined as “an assembly or called-out ones.”

The universal church consists of all those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭12:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

Local churches are gatherings of members of the universal church in a certain locality.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus told Peter that He Himself would build His church, and the “gates of hell” would not prevail against it. Acts 2:47 explains that Jesus was the One who was building His church, and that it was being made up of “those who were being saved.”

  • As the Head of the church, Jesus is its governing, ruling authority. According to Matthew 28:18, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given by God the Father to Jesus, and one area where His authority is exercised is in the church.

And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Ephesians‬ ‭1:22-23‬ ‭ESV‬

  • As the Head of the church, Jesus nourishes and cherishes His body.

For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” Ephesians‬ ‭5:29-30‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  • As the Head of the church, Jesus desires to see His nature and character expressed through His body. Ephesians 5:25-27, using His love for the church as an example of how husbands are to love their wives, explains His plan for this to happen. Christ gave Himself up for the church, He is the Sanctifier of the church, cleansing her by washing her with the word, and His end goal for the church is that He might present her to Himself without spot, wrinkle or blemish.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians‬ ‭5:25-27‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  • As the Head of the church, Jesus continues His work and ministry on earth through His body. What Jesus did while He was on earth, His church is now called and empowered to do.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke‬ ‭4:18-19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” Matthew‬ ‭28:18-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

While each church will have its own local leaders, the ultimate leader of any church is to be the Lord Jesus. The church belongs to Him. He is the head and the only One equipped to adequately lead the church. He is to be given the preeminence, the highest place in rank and influence. And that’s a good thing, because Who better knows how to lead the church than the One Who laid down His own life for her members.

As 2017 comes to an end, our church campus still hasn’t fully recovered from the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. But our Church is thriving, under the Headship of Jesus Christ and the skilled leadership of its local leaders. And that is something which fills my heart with gratitude.

Jesus Christ is the Word

Have you even had your plan all mapped out, and suddenly God spoke to your heart and brought a change of direction. That’s what happened to me, as I was finishing a Christian novel I have been reading and a verse of Scripture jumped out at me from the closing pages. The quote that caught my attention said, “The true Light who enlightens every man was coming into the world.”

This probably caught my eye because in addition to writing these daily Advent devotions during December, I have been doing The Light Bible Reading Challenge by Rachel Wojo, reading verses every day about Jesus being The Light. But I didn’t remember ever seeing Jesus referred to as “the true Light that enlightens every man” so I decided to look up the verse. I learned that this unique wording was from the Berean Literal Bible translation of John 1:9, part of a well known passage that speaks of Jesus as the Word. And I realized that I had failed to include one very important name of Jesus in my plan: The Word.

John 1:1-5, the prologue of John’s gospel, establishes some important truths about Jesus.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” ‭‭John‬ ‭1:1-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

These words that begin the Gospel of John give one of the clearest statements in Scripture of who Jesus is. They clearly say that Jesus (the Word) was present in the beginning, before the creation described in detail in Genesis 1. They say He was with God and He also was God, truly God and yet distinct from the Father. In other words, they identify Jesus as a part of the Godhead. They also identify Him as Creator. They tell us life is found in Him. And finally, they remind us that He is the light that overcomes darkness. This true Light who enlightens every man had now come into the world in human flesh.

When John 1:1 speaks of Jesus as The Word, the Greek word used is Logos. Logos specifically means an utterance or a statement, a spoken word.

The Gospel of John was written to prove that Jesus is the Son of God and that all who believe in Him will have eternal life. It’s original readers were new believers in Jesus Christ and non-Christians who were seeking to know God, both Jews and Greeks.

By using the word logos, John was pointing his Jewish readers back to the Old Testament where the “Word of God” is associated with God’s revelation. And for his Greek readers, he was using a familiar word they associated with being a bridge between the infinite and eternal God and the material universe.

I am very grateful that God has given us His written Word, the holy Scriptures that reveal to us God’s existence, nature and character and that are a guidebook on how to live the Christian life. But I am even more grateful that God has given us the Living Word, His Son Jesus Christ, who came into the world to not only be a bridge between fallen mankind and Almighty God, but to also be the true light that enlightens every man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus Christ, Risen Lord

During the Advent season, our focus as Christians is usually on the birth of Jesus Christ. But the Good News of Christmas is about more than His birth. Jesus came for a purpose, and that purpose can’t be separated from His coming. He came to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Because of His sacrificial death on the Cross, we can be forgiven.

But if we stop here when sharing the Gospel, we are missing the equally important second fact that is also a part of the Good News. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus is not still on the Cross. He was buried in a borrowed tomb, but His body is not still in the tomb. He arose from the dead. He is alive forevermore!

So why is it so important that we believe Jesus is the Risen Lord? The resurrection of Jesus Christ is proof that He is who He claimed to be and that He accomplished what He came to accomplish. ‬‬

Some reasons why the resurrection of Jesus Christ is important:

  • The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a declaration that Jesus is the Son of God, as He claimed to be.

“(Jesus Christ) was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,”  Romans‬ ‭1:4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  • The resurrection of Jesus Christ means that we are justified or declared righteous before God.

It will be counted (as righteousness) to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Romans‬ ‭4:24-25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  • The resurrection of Jesus Christ is our assurance that our sins have been forgiven.

For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” ‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭15:16-17‬ ‭NKJV

  • The resurrection of Jesus Christ is proof that He defeated death.

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.” Romans‬ ‭6:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  • The resurrection of Jesus Christ is our promise that those who know Him as Savior and Lord will also be raised from the dead.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:20-22‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  • The resurrection of Jesus Christ is our assurance that we who have placed our faith in Him will one day stand in His presence.

knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I am eternally grateful thank Jesus Christ paid the penalty for my sins through His sacrificial death on Calvary’s Cross. But I am also grateful that He is no longer dead. He is my RISEN LORD, and I hope He is your RISEN LORD also.