Easter

So, now what?

Now what?

Easter Sunday came and then this morning Monday arrived right on schedule.  All the excitement that went into getting dressed up nice for church yesterday and having a nice meal with family has now left and Monday has showed up.  So we get up and live our lives.  Work needs to be done.  Bills need to be paid.  The kids need to be fed and bathed.  Life continues.  So, now what?

Every Sunday is Easter Sunday

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All dressed in my Sunday best — ready to hunt for eggs. 

The truth is you can experience the same anticipation every Sunday.  Why?  Because every week we celebrate that the tomb was empty.  We celebrate that unlike any other ‘god’ ever conjured up by the minds of men, Jesus Christ is the only one without a grave stone to go visit.  He is alive! We don’t have a memorial day to remember Jesus, we have a Resurrection Day! This makes Him the only one able to forgive us our sins and give us eternal life.

The bigger question then is why?  Why is it that so many people get so excited about this one day every year and the rest of the year forget about Jesus, or at least get indifferent toward Him?  Why is it that the same people who were enthusiastic about singing “He arose!” this past Sunday, won’t be back next week to sing praises to the very same God?  God hasn’t changed.  He is still alive and we are still just as desperate for Him.

Knowing Jesus vs. Knowing About Jesus

It all comes down to knowing Jesus Christ.  In John 17 Jesus said: “Now this is eternal life:  that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent.” (v3)  We need to know Jesus Christ, as in have a personal encounter with Him in our own lives.  Having knowledge allows us to answer questions correctly.  Experiencing Jesus Christ allows Him to touch every area of our life.  Have you experienced Jesus Christ in your life?

I remember what happened when I met Jesus.  I had gone to church and heard the stories.  But I did not ever feel like there was any real connection with God to be had.  It seemed like God was distant and cold and I was just supposed to sort of do some good things and figure it out.  But when I met Jesus Christ, everything changed.  Suddenly there was a hunger in me for more of Him.  I enjoyed singing His praise and wanted to be in Church on Sunday to proclaim that He was alive!  I lived with this new understanding that I had been saved not by my works, but because of Jesus’ death on the cross for me.

So, now what?

So, now what?  Now is the time to grow closer to Jesus.  Now is the time to give Him a chance to show up in your life and change you.  Now is the time to bring all your doubts and fears out and ask Him to answer the questions that you have.  Show up to church worship services.  Get involved in the life of a local church.  See what it is all about and position yourself in a place where God is free to work in you.  Try it out and see what happens.  I know from my own experience that if you let Him, He will change your life.


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A Resurrection to Celebrate All Year

05_08_10---Cross-at-Sunset_webThe many people heading to church this weekend proves that the resurrection is still an important part of our ethos, whether admitted to or not.  Would tradition alone drive so many people to attend church only a couple of times a year?  Would it make any sense to go sing some songs about a risen Lord, if you did not believe in Him?  This is a tension I feel every year because I do not understand how anyone can live under the gracious hand of God and not feel some emotion toward Him more than twice a year.  When did church become something to watch and critique rather than a chance to worship the Lord with others, declaring His worth together?  That is a discussion for another time because today is Easter Sunday- a.k.a. Resurrection Sunday.  Regardless of the reasons for the spike in church attendance, it is an opportunity to point as many people as possible to Jesus Christ!  He is the hope of the world.

So, let’s boldly proclaim Christ this Easter Sunday because He has saved us!  This is not a message made for only one day a year, but rather for every day of our life.  Our life should worship God and shine light on the person of Jesus Christ.

Every Sunday we gather and remember this: “He arose!  He arose!  Hallelujah, Christ arose!”   This resurrection changed everything and we have nothing to complain about.

“It is Finished” & Our Praise Is Just Beginning

crossIn my home there reside three boys, well four if you ask my wife.  Boys bring noise and energy to everything they touch.  If you want proof, invite us over for dinner sometime.  It is always interesting to me to hear my oldest son get out of bed in the morning.  It literally sounds like the house is falling down around us.  Sometimes I jump out of bed ready for war when I hear the battle start.

That is until we get them out in public. They each have their own way of managing their loud nature when out somewhere.  My older two will still be somewhat loud, while my youngest son (3 years) will whisper.  If anyone asks him a question they just get a blank stare.  He suddenly turns into the quiet and reflective child.  It is quite the contrast.   One moment he is loud and the next he is completely quiet.

This contrast comes to mind as I consider the week we are in.  This past Sunday was Palm Sunday, which was a celebration of our victorious King.  And, of course, this Sunday will also be a celebration of our Risen Lord!  However, today is Good Friday.   Even though we call it good now, there was no celebration going on that first one.  The joy was set aside for fear, doubts, and confusion.   Peter even denied knowing Jesus, not once, but three different times leading up to this!  Things had changed.

Jesus spends some time getting interrogated by Pilate.  Pilate was a powerful man known for his anti-Jewish sentiment.  He didn’t have to take any real interest in Jesus at all.  Instead, in contrast to Peter’s three-fold denial, we have Pilate’s three-fold affirmation of: “I find no basis for a charge against him.”  He says it three different times!   He then gets scared and actually attempts to free Jesus.  But, the people want Him dead and they ultimately get their way.

The cross has had its way.  Jesus died alone, abandoned by the people He came to save.  It would seem like the whole world stood still and suddenly had nothing to say.   That is all about to change.  The celebration noises will once again be proclaimed.  This is not the end of the story, but rather the beginning of something new for all of humanity.  Something was happening that we could never accomplish on our own and the praises will not cease from here on.

“We must do something about the cross, and one of two things only can we do– flee it or die upon it.  And if we should be so foolhardy as to flee, we shall by that act put away the faith of our fathers and make of Christianity something other than it is.  Then we shall have left only the empty language of salvation; the power will depart with our departure from the true cross.”  – A.W. Tozer in the book “The Radical Cross”

 

 

A Life Changed By Love

IMG_1623Love changes people.  Love changes situations.  Love changes cultures.  Do you believe that?  I know the word ‘love’ has confusing connotations in our culture.  Movies depict an image of love as this magical force that overtakes people to the point that they cannot control it – it is called “falling in love.”  That seems nice and for those who are hopeless romantics, it is appealing and sells movies.  But what does love really look like and what does it do to us?

Love changes us.  It makes us buy stuffed animals, flowers and chocolates.  Love allows me to sit up with my children when they are not feeling well and help them when they have bad dreams, even though I am tired and I know they won’t be in the morning.  Love changes people.  Love gives us new perspectives, specifically one outside of us.

Love does not originate in us, despite what we think.  Love originates with God.  God is love.   He gives love away willingly, namely through Jesus Christ.  With that being said, there are two specific ways this is highlighted in 1 John 3.

We are adopted into God’s Family

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him”. – 1 John 3:1

There is sense of astonishment to this love!  How could it be that God would love us so much that He would incorporate us into His family.   If you are adopted into a family, you take on an identity in that family and assume the same rights as others in the family.

God does this even better than we ever could. He lavishes us with His love.  That would mean it is abundant, never-ending, unlimited. That being said, we must consider what exactly this does in order to realize how astonishing it really is.  This adoption provides a future for us when we will see Jesus face to face.    Before we were adopted into God’s family, we were considered objects of wrath, enemies of God because of our sin.  There would have been no way we would ever have been sitting as his table eating dinner together.  But oh what a difference it makes when we are forgiven and loved in Christ.  Our position changes.

This love changes our future.  This love also changes our present situation because Jesus took our sin to the grave and arose victorious over it.

The Devil’s Work is Destroyed

The main goal of the devil is to take away from God’s glory.  He sets out to get people to rebel against God and really to destroy people. That was the problem with sin.  Sin needs to be taken seriously.  It is wickedness and a product of ignorance and blindness toward God.  Why?  Because in Him is no sin.  When we sin we chose that which is not of God.  Sin is satanic by nature, even the smallest sin runs in direct opposition to the work of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ appeared to take away our sin so that we could be in a relationship with God through Him.  God did this because He loves us.

The point is very simple.  If you have encountered the love of God, you will not be the same after.  If you stand before the cross, seeing Jesus dying there for the things that you have done, how do you live in response to that?  What love!  Not many people will die for someone else, especially someone who is completely against them.But God loved the world, you, me, everyone you will meet today— so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, perfect and sinless, to come show His perfect way to us and take all of the sin of the world on his shoulders – offering to all who would believe eternal life—salvation—a place with him in heaven forever!

Do you know Him?  We are in the season of Easter,  a time when we especially remember what Jesus did for us.  Let’s not go through the motions without being completely astonished by the love of God.  It is far beyond us, and thankfully it changes us forever.

The Bible says in Romans 10: 9  that if we confess with our mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised us from the dead we will be saved.

Love changes lives.  I am so glad God loved me so much to bring me back into fellowship with Him.  Jesus Christ offers the same love to you as well!

Remembering and Embracing the Cross

We are approaching the week where we intentionally  remember the cross.  The cross is a symbol that no one would ever have worn because it represented death and humiliation.  Actually, it represented the most cruel death there could have been.  So, it does seem funny that we wear crosses on our necks and adorn our church buildings with them.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:18

For followers of Jesus Christ the cross represents the power of God to forgive our sins.   The cross is a message of forgiveness and hope.

Recently Jeremy Camp came out with a new album.  There are some excellent songs on there.  This one I have posted below is particularly poignant when it comes to our sin in the shadow of the cross.  I trust you will be encouraged in this hope as you listen to the song.

The Lego Jar (7/28/12) – Easter in July

Welcome to this week’s Lego Jar where all the loose ends from the week end up.  The contents, like the actual Lego Jar on our window sill, are diverse and colorful.  If this is your first time to the Lego Jar, I welcome you and invite you to read some of the others posts to catch up.

This week we had an Easter celebration.  The last two years we were going to be at someone’s house for Easter and both times things changed.  This year we decided to reschedule it and it finally happened in July.  I like celebrating in July because it was warm enough for us to eat outside, swim in the pool and have smores.

I mentioned in last week’s post that our yard has started to look like a scene from the movie “holes.”  The kids are digging trenches in the yard.  I am not sure what they are doing, other than knocking teeth out with shovels.  This is one of those areas where we just let them dig.  There is nothing there they can hurt, other than each other, and it has turned into a big work project for the boys.  Maybe they will find gold or oil.

We had a day this week where it rained heavily for a short time, leaving puddles on the roadl.  Later on in the day we went for walk and ended up running through all the puddles.  My 2-year-old boy didn’t ride a bike, so he would run through all of the puddles, jumping his way down the road.  He arrived home very wet, but he had fun.  The two older boys and myself rode through the puddles.

One scene of disaster had nothing to do with the weather.  I happened to be home with my two youngest children on Friday morning and couldn’t believe the trail that my daughter left when I gave her a snack.  It was like a storm had hit and there was debris everywhere.

Disaster!

Lastly, there are two things I would like to share that my 5-year-old son said this week.  At one point he told me that his birthday was not “until two power cords.”   You might recall that he has a unique way of measuring things using plums and gallons.

The other things he said will probably turn into a post at some point.  He was once again trying to get his brother in trouble by telling us something that he said.  This time he didn’t actually say this thing.  I knew that and I called him out on it.  His reply, “well he whispered it in his head.”

Housekeeping — If you have not liked the Facebook page, please do so on the right column.  Also, yesterday I mentioned an opportunity for you to do a guest post.  Take a look and let me know if you are interested.

That is the end of the Lego Jar this week.  I trust you will have a wonderful weekend! 

Yes, the resurrection does matter!

"He is not here; he is risen, just as he said."

Oh, what a difference a few days make.  When the sun went down on Friday, in the shadow of an empty cross and a tomb where the lifeless body of Jesus lay, all hope seemed lost.  But, today is Sunday and the body of Jesus is gone.  He arose victorious!

This is the foundation for the Christian faith and the reason so many will be in church this morning.  Yet, many modern scholars have erroneously concluded that whether or not Jesus actually rose physically from the dead is not essential to Christianity.  They would say the empty tomb is irrelevant and that it would have be difficult to prove it without video evidence. Even with a video of the event, they would likely find something wrong with it.  Even so, historically speaking, there are reasons to believe this actually happened and that it is the basis for Christianity, and not later addition to it.

It needs to be understood that from the early church on there was significant interest in historical accuracy.  The testimony of eyewitnesses was held with high regard making the life, death and resurrection of Jesus historically verifiable.  The resurrection itself became the central message preached by early missionaries, Paul and Peter.  The authors of the Gospels intended to be historically accurate and the eyewitness label given to them early on has remained, never having been disputed.  Even the Christian movement itself was spoken about in other historical sources.  Josephus, a Jewish historian, spoke about the movement as being alive and well even toward the end of the first century.   Therefore, history clearly speaks to Jesus as one who was alive, who died and was resurrected.

Modern scholars have written off much of the Gospel account of Jesus as a metaphor.   This same logic then gets applied to the resurrection as a metaphor for some internal process and not Jesus literally rising in a physical body.  This is a big flawed again, as some have used 1 Corinthians 15 as their reason for it not being true, when it can be concluded from the text that there was a resurrection, even if Paul doesn’t specifically mention an empty tomb.  The scripture says that he “appeared to Peter and then to the twelve” (1 Corinthians 15:5).  This is a rather clear portrayal of what happened and yet so many people see things that just aren’t there.  Here again, if the historical account was accurately handled, there is nothing that would suggest this is all metaphor.  This was evidenced in the message of Paul and Peter who both affirmed the death and resurrection of Jesus and the need for a response.  Clearly the significance of the resurrection held far more power in the way lives were lived than a metaphor would have.

Even if these things are true, this still doesn’t answer the question as to their significance.  Some scholars won’t even go as far as to say with certainty that Jesus literally resurrected or that he didn’t.  They just say that the answer to that question is irrelevant.  The claim is that if people were to come across the corpse of Jesus it would not change anything.  This is absolutely incorrect.  If Jesus did not literally rise from the dead, the whole foundation for the Christian faith crumbles.  The fact that the Bible has historical accuracy, has stood the test of time and has seen many people willingly die for its message, gives credence to the message.

The resurrection matters as a literal event, not as just a metaphorical event.  It matters because in that act of sacrifice Jesus Christ covered the sin of mankind.  This is the “new covenant” that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 11.  The Old Testament system for covering sin was no longer needed because there was now a perfect sacrifice.

The physical resurrection shows that there was nothing that could conquer the Lord.  As a literal Lord, a choice is made to follow Him, much like when Jesus called the disciples to follow Him.  If Jesus didn’t physically rise, then why follow Him over any other dead guy?

The physical resurrection gives veracity to the ministry of Jesus Christ.  The ministry Jesus had with healing the sick and casting out demons was vastly different than anything the world had seen up to that point in history.  There would be no reason why anyone in the early church would have invented that as a method, when it was far different than what they were used to.  The same could be said about the resurrection because so much was at stake for following a resurrected Jesus.  It would have been foolishness to have the king die on a cross for his people and then to have the people who supposedly invented it die for the lie.

The physical resurrection shows the power of God to forgive sins and raise people up to be with Him forever.  If the resurrection was just a metaphor for some inner renewal, it would not indicate anything for the future.

The literal resurrection of Jesus Christ does matter today.  There was no ability to record it, but eyewitnesses have all said the same thing about the events.  The fact that Jesus appeared to His disciples only proved to increase their faith and resolve to pass the message on, even in the face of certain death.

Without the cross and subsequent resurrection, there is no Easter and there is no eternal life.