Easter

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He’s Alive!

Sunday, April 12th, 2020

Today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. It is not quite the Resurrection Sunday celebration we were anticipating that’s for sure.  The past few years we have had one service at a local venue (Abram Farm) that allowed us to be all together as one church family. This year was already going to be different due to the company that normally did our sound having to beg off this year. So, in spite of the graciousness of Bill & Suzie Abram, the owners of the venue, we were going to have two services at our building.

Then COVID-19 happened. Suddenly, we went from Abram Farm to our church building to a virtual celebration. But there is a great lesson here! The grave could not contain Him. What in the world would make us think a virus could? So we celebrate anyway. Virtually.

More could be said. But I’m not going to belabor the point. So I say, “Celebrate! Jesus is alive in our hearts. He is alive in our worship. He is alive seated at the right hand of His Father. Celebrate!”  I’d like ask you to listen to an old song. In my mind, one of the best Easter songs you don’t even know by my favorite Christian group of all time.

#LentEnding#33

Saturday, April 11th, 2020

Sunday, Resurrection Day, is the official end to Lent.  A sad time ends in a time of rejoicing.

Pastor and author John MacArthur once said:

Neutrality is not an option. Either Jesus rose and rightly demands your attention, repentance, trust and obedience, or he stayed dead.  If He only became a rotting corpse why should you follow Him?”  {Quoted by Andrew Warnock in Risen With Christ}

Although I don’t always agree with his views on some things, Biblical scholar N. T. Wright made this statement:

The only possible reason why early Christianity began and took the shape that it did is that the tomb really was empty and that people really did meet Jesus, alive again.

Hard to argue with either one. Resurrection Sunday is the crowning event of our belief system. Take away the resurrection and WE. HAVE. NOTHING. Peter knew it. Paul most certainly knew it (he devoted a whole chapter to it. See I Corinthians 15).

Rise up followers of Christ! Do not despair! If the grave could not contain Him, how in the world and why in the world do we get this crazy notion some virus will? So the church is not meeting in a building. Good!  Meet in homes. Meet with friends. Meet with loved ones. Invite others to join in the party. Celebrate the RESURRECTION OF JESUS with me!! 

Bet you can’t guess what my sermon will be about tomorrow!! 🙂 See you on the church FB page at 10:00.

#Lent#32

Friday, April 10th, 2020

Today, April 10,2020 is Good Friday. A day of sickness and death for many, but for people all over the globe it is a day with a different meaning,

From Darkness to Light.

From Pitch Black to Blinding Luminescence.

From Dark Rumbling Clouds to Glorious Sunshine.

From Hatred to Love.

From Loss to Gain

From Loser to Winner.

From Death to Life.

It’s Friday…but Sunday’s Coming!

#Lent#31

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

Not growing up in a religious tradition that observed the traditional trappings of a holiday like Easter is a learning experience. No, I did not grow up as part of the Jehovah Witness cult. I grew up in an independent Christian Church that had two pastors from Moody. So you might as well say I grew up Baptist. However, I went away to a college from the independent group after getting a new pastor who favored that tradition (denomination), but claim no allegiance to anymore.  While I had heard of Good Friday and we often went to Good Friday services our church observed with other churches in the community, there were still some phrases and “special days” I was ignorant of.

I had never heard of or observed Lent. To me, lent was something you did for someone else. They wanted to borrow something so you “loaned” it to them.  You lent it to them. So when I got deeper into church work, I heard of Lent but still never made a big deal about it.

Speaking of Lent, how about Ash Wednesday? That was a new one to me as well. I do remember being in high school and one of my teachers, Mr. Bano, had this smudge mark in the middle of his forehead. I can remember sitting there wondering, “Does he know? Should I tell him?” The wiser Bill said to keep my business to myself. I reckon that was a good thing. He was Catholic and that was part of his tradition…but I didn’t know.

Today is a day called Maundy Thursday. What in the world is that? I found out it was the day Jesus washed the disciples’ feet during what is known as the Last Supper the night He was betrayed.  Maundy is from the Latin word which means “command” and finds its meaning in when Jesus told His disciples “A new command I give you; Love one another.”  Okay, sounds plausible although I still am lost as to why that has been made into a holy day.

Then there is Good Friday. As if the crucifixion can be seen as “good.” But you and I know it can and will continue to be for all those who know Jesus. While some skeptics call it cosmic child abuse, I call it “essential.” Without that cross, I have nothing. No forgiveness of sins. No answer to my shame. And then there is…

Resurrection Sunday!! Now THAT I know! Without it I have no hope, no purpose, no reason to live. So no matter what tradition you belong to-one that observes all the holy days of the last week of Jesus or one that doesn’t (like me then and now), the resurrection is the game-changer.  We are drawing closer to that celebration. Keep your eyes looking ahead. In fact, maybe you might want to keep one eye on the sky as well.

#Lent#30

Wednesday, April 8th, 2020

I’ve been listening to some podcasts lately. The bulk of them have been on Crisis Leadership; leading through this pandemic; what a true leader does during times like this, etc. But I took a break the past couple of days to listen to one podcast featuring two ex-JW’s, and one podcast featuring an ex-Mormon for close to 40 years. All three have embraced orthodox Christianity, biblical Christianity. One of the teachings of JW is they don’t believe in hell. Generally speaking, the grave is the end. Worm food. No torment. No suffering.

Jesus has promised eternal life. His death, burial, and resurrection secured that for all who follow Him. His resurrection “blew apart” the grip of the enemy, death and hell. By His resurrection, eternal life became a reality. Not just an empty promise talked about. A reality to be realized.  I believe in hell. I just don’t have to fear it.

One of the reasons I relish this “Easter event season” is it shows me in vivid color that the best is yet to come. For those, and those only, who trust in Christ.  Jesus once said, “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) The best is yet to come. Have you embraced Him?

#Lent#29

Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

I have a grandson who is now 13. He hates losing. He has been that way ever since I can remember. He gets emotional, i.e. angry and (used to) cry when he didn’t do well or the team lost. He was probably around 8 maybe when we went to see the Pirates (my team) play the Reds (his team) at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The game had see-sawed. It looked good for the Pirates until the Reds rallied to tie it late in the game.  It was the bottom of the 9th with one or two outs (I can’t remember) when my favorite player came up and hit a game-winning Home Run. He was sitting on my lap so he could see better and immediately dropped his head into my lap. About a minute or so later-after I celebrated by yelling and clapping and the fireworks went off-I noticed his head was still there. So I lifted his head and he was crying! When I asked him why he was crying he said, “Because they lost and you should never lose or accept losing.” When I tucked him into bed that night at the hotel, I asked him why he said what he did. Who told him that? He told me and I was both sad and angry. I lovingly told him that it was good to win and to want to win, but sometimes losing is part of the game and life.  You accept it. Learn from it. And move on. Yeah, I know, maybe a lot for an 8 year old. But he got it!

It astounds me that people would give us so easily and want to follow a loser. A defeated foe. A supposed victory of death by crucifixion was changed three short days later by a victory. He thought he had won. He looked like he won, but that late inning resurrection snatched victory out of his hand and rendered him a big one in the “L” column.

Satan is defeated and will never recover. Follow Jesus. Don’t follow a defeated enemy. Jesus won!

#Lent#28

Monday, April 6th, 2020

There has been and always will be a difference in the work and motives of God and the work and motives of Satan. God works for good; Satan (the enemy) works for evil.

Take Jesus’ death for example. Satan saw it as an opportunity for evil, to get rid of his sworn enemy. But God saw it as an opportunity for good, to have a sacrifice in the place of sinners to bring about the salvation of those sinners. I like the way John Piper put it much better than I just did:

The heart of the Bible is not an explanation of where evil comes from, but a demonstration of how God enters into it and turns it for the very opposite-everlasting righteousness and joy. (p.118)

Ironically, Jesus had to endure evil and suffering in order to overcome evil and suffering. It still amazes me that He was willing to go through all that evil and suffering in order to declaw them. It’s like what Paul asked at the end of I Corinthians 15: “O death, where is your sting? O death, where is your victory?”  (verses 54-55)  Declawed for good. No Energizer bunny here.

#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.