Easter

...now browsing by category

 

#Lent#Why?

Friday, April 3rd, 2020

Talking about the death and crucifixion of Jesus is not a popular subject, not even among those who claim to follow Jesus. The idea of a crucifixion is seen as absurd. There are those who find the idea of a sacrifice absolutely repugnant. Whether we are talking about an animal sacrifice (I can hear PETA right now) in the OT, or Jesus on the cross, it is a subject we would just as soon avoid. Believe it or not, some see the crucifixion of Jesus as cosmic or divine child abuse. Seriously?

But for those who follow Christ, the cross is essential to the Gospel. Without it, there is no gospel. It is empty. We often ask the question why when it comes to our life’s circumstances being not what we would like them to be. (Current situation included). That question often goes unanswered.  However…think this one through: when speaking about the death of Jesus, while we may ask, “Why?” the question does not go unanswered.  One can hardly find a better Scripture passage than the one from Isaiah 52:13-53:12 in answer to that question.  Charles Spurgeon once wrote:

“This is one of the chapters that lie at the very heart of Scriptures. It is the very Holy of Holies of Divine Writ. Let us, therefore, put off our shoes from our feet, for the place whereon we stand is specially holy ground.”

My sermon Sunday is part of a two-week series I’ve entitled More Than a Man. My focus this week-as you can imagine-is on the crucifixion of Jesus.  Sadly, like many across this country and around the world, we will not be able to meet together as a church body. Least in one building. But we will be meeting all around our town and in other parts of the country.  If you would like to join us at 10:00 EST please request to become part of the church’s FaceBook commuity. It is private so you must ask to join and then be approved.  Keeps the trolls away. And those dorks who post they made so much money by working at home. Can you say, “Scam?” Anyway, I digress. 🙂

These are interesting times we live in. We are hoping to make the most of it. Please join us online or at least in prayer. Thanks.

#Lent#27

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

A distinction has often been made (and rightly so) between happiness and joy. Happiness has been described as something you have because of your circumstances; joy is something you have in spite of your circumstances.  In other words, one is dependent on good things happening that make you feel good; one is not dependent on good things happening.

The striking words in Hebrews 12:2 ring loudly. Speaking of Jesus, the writer says, “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” (Emphasis mine). What kind of joy could be so strong that Jesus would go to a cross and endure it? I am grateful for John Piper’s thoughts on this. He says “the joy set before Jesus had many levels”:

  • The joy of reunion with His Father. Ps.16:11
  • The joy of triumph over sin. Heb.1:3
  • The joy of divine rights restored. Heb.12:2
  • The joy of being surrounded with praise by all the people for whom He died. Lk. 15:7

Think about this for a moment. If the hope of joy enabled Jesus to endure the cross, just think about what that same joy holds for us. To suffer, to endure = to experience the same joy as Him. Sometimes that is all that makes sense in this world gone mad.

Thoughts on joy by John Piper from The Passion of the Christ. 

#Lent#27

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

I have said in the past, “I was saved by grace; I am being saved by grace; and in the end I will be saved by grace.” Paul put it this way: “This grace by which I stand.” (Rom.5:2)

You see, the whole idea of salvation relates to the past, the present, and the future. Using what I said earlier, I could say, “I have been saved; I am being saved; I will be saved.”

Take the death of Jesus. His death saved; His death saves; His death will save. He paid for all sins of the past. He paid for all sins today so I can know I am saved and secure in His grace. He paid for me to know my future home is waiting, kept in heaven for me. 

I’m rejoicing this Easter season that even though there is a quarantine (2020) that will keep us from meeting publicly as a body, nothing can damper the promise of forgiveness of sin-past, present, and future. His shed blood is a stamp guaranteeing eternity for me. And it can be for you as well.

#Lent#26

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

I’m in Ohio the first part of this week helping our daughter, Janna, move into her apartment. So I’m “cheating” by using the same devotion here that I am using at my other blog, Living in the Shadow.

If there is one emotion which captures the mood of many, if not most, people these days, it is fear. It has no favorites. Young. Old. Rich. Poor. Mansion-dweller. Homeless. Actor. Homemaker. CEO. Grunt worker. Christ-follower. Non-believer. F.E.A.R. It paralyzes. It haunts. It creeps.

I was reading a devotion recently on Psalms. I’m going to reprint it in its totality for you. I hope it blesses you and show why we have nothing to fear.

Etty Hillesum was a young Jewish woman living in Amsterdam in 1942. During that time, the Nazis were arresting Jews and herding them off to concentration camps. As she awaited the inevitable arrest, and with the fear of the unknown (my note: sound familiar?), she began to read the Bible-and met Jesus. She simply put her hand in God’s hand and found rare courage and confidence.

Etty wrote in her diary: ‘From all sides our destruction creeps up on us and soon the ring will be closed and no one at all will be able to come to our aid. but I don’t feel that I am in anybody’s clutches. I feel safe in God’s arms. And whether I am sitting at my beloved old desk in the Jewish district or in a labor camp under SS guards, I shall feel safe in God’s arms. Once you have begun to walk with God, you need only keep on walking with Him, and all of life becomes one long stroll.’

Etty was a living, courageous picture of the psalmist’s declaration: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you…What can mere mortals do to me?” (Ps.56:3-4). What a challenge for anyone plagued by fear!

As we sense the strength of God’s everlasting arms beneath us (Deut.33:27), we can stroll through life with confidence, holding the hand of our unseen Companion.    Devotion by Vernon Grounds

I wish every person on earth, whether a follower of Jesus or not, could grab a hold of that truth. It is especially viable for the follower of Jesus to have faith not fear. Praise not panic.  My prayer is that including this devotion might soothe your troubled soul (if you are anxious or troubled).  And by all means, pass this along!

Devotion (in blue) from Together With God: Psalms @2016 Our Daily Bread Ministries. 

#Lent#25

Monday, March 30th, 2020

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumblingblock to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”  (I Cor.1:18, 22-24)

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”  (Romans 1:16)

“For I deliver to you as of first importance what I also received: that Jesus died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scripture.” (I Cor.15:3-4)

There should be no question what we should be teaching and preaching. Not politics. Not “feel good.” Not spirituality. Not health/wealth. Not NAR garbage (gold dust falling from heaven? Grave sucking? You have go to me kidding me!).  Not hype.  Not Miracle Spring Water (seriously?).  JESUS. THE GOSPEL. THE CROSS.

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Gal.6:14)

#Lent#24

Friday, March 27th, 2020

In yesterday’s devotion, I focused on Jesus conquering death, hell and the grave. Let’s focus a bit more on the latter one today. I absolutely loved John Piper’s statement:

The keys of death were hung on the inside of Christ’s tomb. (p.100)

WOW! I love the picture that gives. As I walk into my house, on the wall to my left is a hook. It is where I put my keys as soon as I walk in the door.  That way I know where they are when/if I need them. When I leave in the morning the last thing I get before I walk out the door is my keys. If I need to run to my truck to get something I know where my keys are. My imagination can do a great picture of this. Just before or as the stone was rolled away, I can picture Jesus reaching over the grabbing the key called “Resurrection” and take it off the hook and walk out.

I simply cannot say it better than Piper did.

The resurrection of Jesus is God’s gift and proof that His death was completely successful in blotting out the sins of His people and removing the wrath of God. (p.100)

It was like God’s stamp on the whole deal. It’s like getting loan papers in the mail with a big stamp of PAID on it. PAID. IN. FULL. The Law was satisfied. The debt was paid.  Eternal life promised.

Oh yeah! He rose!  Signed. Sealed. Delivered. Love that key!!

#Lent#23

Thursday, March 26th, 2020

We often talk about the victory Jesus won at the cross. I myself have -at least a 1000 times 🙂 – said that Jesus conquered death, hell and the grave. And I firmly believe that with all that is within me.  So, I thought it would be good to take a look at that statement real briefly:

  1. He conquered death. Death is considered the ultimate enemy. People are afraid to die. Because of Jesus the Christ-follower has nothing to fear.
  2. He conquered hell. The enemy of our soul- Jesus’ mortal enemy- thought he had won. His goal for us is not in killing us; it is in damning us. He lost the Big One so he goes after the smaller fish (me and you). But we have nothing to fear. Hell is reserved for Satan and his minions.
  3. He conquered the grave. That tomb is empty!!! What once was seen as permanent lost its grip when Jesus rose victorious from that grave. Death could not hold Him. The grave could not contain Him. His physical resurrection was proof He is alive. And although mine might not be seen as dramatic, it really is no less so. One day my body, which is decaying in the ground, will rise to meet my spirit and death will be done forever. The grave will cough up all it holds. All the saints will be given new bodies in a place where we will live forever.

All because Jesus conquered death, hell and the grave. That makes the score Jesus 1 (one and won) / Satan a big fat 0. (zero and loser).

For a little fun this morning give this a listen. Underneath the video hit SHOW MORE for the lyrics.

#Lent#22

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is credited with saying,

When Jesus calls a man, He bids him come and die.

Jesus then set the example. His obedience to His Father meant death. Philippians 2 tells us that: “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (2:6-8)

Could we have any better example of Someone who fleshed out Bonhoeffer’s statement and became the ultimate example for us? History tells us that crucifixion was a horrible and horrific way to die. And yet He went. Hebrews 12:2 says, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…”

To follow Jesus means to come and die.  Maybe not on a cross or a pyre or a guillotine. But we still must die. To self. To selfishness. To pride. To ego. To “me first.” He set an example that we should follow in His steps. (I Peter 2:21)

#Lent#21

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

John Piper writes:

At the heart of Christianity is the truth that we are forgiven and accepted by God, not because we have done good works, but to make us able and zealous to do them.  (p.90)

I remember hearing once that Martin Luther, who believed very strongly in justification by faith, tore the book of James out of his Bible (true or not I don’t know) because James wrote, “Faith without works is dead.” (Js.2:26)  He further complicated Luther’s thinking with more words: “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (v.18) He also wrote, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (v.24)

What Luther missed is what Piper is saying. We are not saved by our works, but we do good works because we are saved. It is not “I do for” but “I do because.” As my conversion takes hold of my heart, life, and thinking, it comes out in my doing.

Sorry Martin. Good works are involved. Not in the salvation process, but as an outgrowth of our salvation. My good deeds do not save me, but they do show I have been saved by God’s grace.

Quote from The Passion of the Christ by John Piper.

#Lent#20

Sunday, March 22nd, 2020

With all the talk about “the virus” I thought we needed a reminder that we are still alive and live on a planet made by God, the Creator of all things good.  I came to the office early this morning (Sunday) and about 7:40 I peeked outside. I saw this sunrise and took these pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d say that is a pretty impressive display of God’s creative work wouldn’t you? 

Our service was live streamed on the church’s Facebook page.  I do not have the ability to post it here but if you would like you can go to the church’s website and click on OVCF Facebook Page. You can ask to join and either Diana or Tami will approve it. You can then watch it. I understand (and may be wrong since I am technologically-challenged illiterate) that you can watch it once you are a member of our page.

And remember there is always a sunrise with Jesus. In fact, it was real popular a number of years ago to say, “Friday’s here, but Sunday’s coming!” Good Friday looked bleak, but Resurrection Day changed it all.

***********************************

Shortly before they left on their spring break vacation one of the ladies in the church (my State Farm Agent) said she saw a shirt and it had my name written all over it. She gave it to me to wear and I told her I would wear it the first Sunday they were back. Today was that day and you obviously know the result of that.  It tells a great story for us and our times.  It is a lesson we must never forget.

Those are my words to all: DON’T. GIVE. UP!!