Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Looking Toward a New Year

With the increasing violence in our country as exemplified by the Sandy Hook massacre last week, people are afraid.  The fiscal cliff and Obama Care uncertainties add to the apprehensions.  Add in family crises, employment difficulties, natural disasters, and rumors of wars, and it can feel hopeless.

I'm not trying to be a downer.  It is just that I am praying that it is apparent to everyone that time is short.  It is time to act wisely and not allow another year go by where we play with our faith while having faith in our play.  Ephesians 4 says it best:

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

So here are a few suggestions for living wisely in 2013:

1.  Work hard at getting out of debt.
      Proverbs 22:7  The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.
      Romans 13:8  Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.

Average credit card debt in America, only counting those who have debt, is $15,418.  If every home is included it is $7193.  It is tempting when things get tough to use credit.  But that puts us into greater slavery.  Start with your smallest debt, pay it off, and then add the payment for that to the payments made to your next highest until all your debt is gone.  It will set you free.

2.  Use your time wisely.
1 Corinthians 7: 29-31  What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

Most of us are too busy.  The apostle is not wanting us to ignore our spouses or not mourn when appropriate.  He is simply saying "FOCUS."  We must give more time to less things and less time to more things.  Use your time to do the most important things and don't fall into the trap of thinking you must constantly keep busy.  In fact, failing to take a sabbath to rest and refocus violates God's plan for us.

3.  Teach your family.
Colossians 3:16  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

Psalm 78:6,7  He decreed statutes for Jacob
    and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our forefathers
    to teach their children,
so the next generation would know them,
    even the children yet to be born,
    and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God
    and would not forget his deeds
    but would keep his commands.

God established marriage for our holiness, not just our happiness.  He also created the family to be the school of theology where children learn from their parents.  It is time to quit making excuses and do the work of living out faith at home.  Read the Bible and teach it to each other.  Talk about it each day at home.  You teach your children about faith by modeling a God-honoring life for them.  Set an atmosphere at home of encouraging each other in our pursuit of Jesus and of giving thanks and praise to Him.  Whose responsibility is this?  Everyone's responsibility.

4.  Live a life of love.
Ephesians 5:1, 2  Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Too much time is wasted with anger, hate, selfishness, self-pity and bitterness.  People who love imitate God.  They sacrifice for others.  They offer themselves up in service for the Lord, whatever that means.  So let's set our sights on thinking about and carrying out ways we can love more each day.  That will keep us away from the things that would hinder and hurt us.

This is not an exhaustive list but I believe are some key practices that will make 2013 a fruitful year in helping us be more like Jesus.  That is called being holy.  And as the Scriptures say:

1 Thessalonians 4:7  For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.

Have a Blessed and Holy New Year

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Confession Is Not Enough

Sin and holy living are two topics that seem to get little press today.  It feels like we don't want to face up to admitting we are sinners and we certainly don't want to talk about living up to something greater.  It is to our detriment that such discussions don't happen.  If we truly deal with sin and pursue holy living, we find freedom and power in our lives.

I want to discuss one aspect of dealing with sin today.  When I was younger, I would "run to the altar" in tears about my sin.  That is the evangelical equivalent of going to confession in the Catholic tradition.  So we run to a place where we start the process of freedom, and someone may even tell us that we are absolved from those sins.  And we repeat the cycle over and over again, never truly finding freedom.  Why?

I want to be clear.  I do believe 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sin, and purify us from all unrighteousness."  But that truth was written to followers of Christ who were dealing with the occasional sin that came along.  These were momentary lapses in holy living.  They were not lifestyle, habitual, sins.  The recipients had already taken the step that truly frees us.  That step is repentance.

The message of the Gospel is that we must repent.  Not confess.  Confession is a part of the process and is the tool used to keep accounts clean.  Repentance, turning away from sin, doing an about face in the direction of our lives, changing our minds about who is in charge and whom I will listen to in life, that is the key to our salvation.  Fans of Jesus who are looking for relief from guilt confess.  Followers repent and pursue.  Fans cheer the periodic act that could reflect holy living.  Followers live holy lives.  Fans accept the spiraling cycle of sinning, consequences, guilt, confession, relief, as normal.  Followers steer clear of sin and pursue righteousness, holiness, and goodness.  These pursuits cause them to live further away from the border lines with sin. 

If you are living solely in confession and have never repented, you will never know Christ and the power of His resurrection and freedom.  Confession is not enough.  Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.  Don't miss it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I'm Heading Back to the Woods

When I was growing up, we lived out in the country.  Not that there weren't other homes nearby, there were, and it was only five minutes to town.  But there were fields, a woods and three ponds immediately behind my home.  I spent many hours exploring, walking and playing in those woods. 
   After I received Christ at age 7, and started reading my Bible, my woods adventures changed.  I lived out David slaying Goliath as my make-shift giant came crashing down at my feet with one stone.  Like Moses, I took my staff and parted the Red Sea (actually I jumped the small creek without getting my feet wet but it is amazing how our imagination can fill in the details).  All the tad pole Egyptians drowned.  I was David, hiding from Saul, and with great stealth made my way near him without his knowledge.
   During those childhood years and early on in my ministry I believed God.  Notice I didn't say I believed in God.  I said I believed God.  He could do anything.  And He did.  And like a child who was securely held in his Father's arms, I feared no evil.  I looked at the challenges around me and knew my God would care for them.  I looked at what I lacked and knew my Father would supply it.  I took the wounds life inflicted on me and experienced the healing and comfort of the Holy Spirit.
I had no confidence in myself but an absolute confidence in my God and that gave me boldness.

   This question has been on my mind lately:  "Is my God still that big?"  And then I heard a message by Francis Chan that spoke to this same issue.  He confessed, as I do here and now, that our God has not changed.  But somehow through the "stuff" of life I have allowed my boldness and confidence to wane some because I've listened to voices that have dulled my absolute, child-like trust, in the God who can do anything.

   So while I can't walk in the same woods I once did, I am headed back to the woods.  (Remember I said our imagination can fill in details?)  The reason we encourage people to study the Bible is not to gain factual knowledge about Bible history, events and people.  That is part of it.  But the key is to know and trust the God of the Bible.  So I'm tuning my ear once again to David, Moses, Paul, John, Elijah, Daniel, Joseph and Mary, Gabriel, unnamed prophets, Abraham, and others, and readying myself to take greater steps of trusting God in 2013.  It is reassuring to know that the God who met me in the woods in my childhood is the same God today in my adulthood.

Anyone else need to take a walk in the woods??

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Getting It Backwards

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”   
                                                                                                                              Matthew 4:17

There are issues in the lives of people we care about who do not know Jesus that are clearly against God's design and desires for their lives.  To put it in blunt moral terms, they are wrong.  All sin is wrong in God's sight if we want to use the term wrong.  That is a definition of sin, going against what is right.

There are some who seem to believe that we can't speak to our loved ones about Jesus or witness to them in any way because to do so means we have to tell them how wrong their behavior is.  That is backwards.  They are living out their sinful nature just as we did before we were transformed by Jesus.  We can't expect anything else.  And to them that is normal and "right."  

If anyone had the right to preach at people and tell them they were wrong, it was Jesus when He was here on earth.  But that is not what He taught.  He called people to repent because the Kingdom of Heaven had come near.  Even when He conversed with people who were living in terribly sinful lifestyles, He didn't condemn them about their lifestyle.  He spoke to them about their need of quenching the thirst they had inside them.  Or coming out from under the cloud of shame or guilt.  Or for Peter raising his vision from catching fish to catching men.  Or for Nicodemus moving him from being a son of Abraham and religiously validated to being a son of God and finding true transformation in life.  

We must be careful not to get the cart before the horse.  We don't have to tell people they are wrong.  In reality, most of them already know they are.  What they need is to know that there is a way to get from where they are to where God intended for them to be.  They won't say that.  They may not know it.  They only know the need inside them.  And the only way for that need to be met is for them to come into the Kingdom of God.  That is what we have to share with them.  

Don't become confused or deceived.  It is God who has already declared what is wrong and right.  And all of us apart from a personal relationship with Jesus are in the wrong.  So declare the Kingdom of Heaven and give hope to those who are away from Him.  Tell them how the Lord has worked in your life.  It is His job to convict them of their sin and draw them to Himself.

Monday, November 26, 2012


Ever have those times when you got caught red handed in a situation and you had nothing to say?  I have had a number of instances in my life where I promised to do something and failed to carry it out yet and was questioned by the person to whom I made the promise.  I had nothing to say.  I was silenced by my failure.  How else could I respond?

Jesus is eating at the home of a Pharisee.  There is a very sick man in attendance.  Here is the encounter:

One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way.
Then he asked them, “If one of you has a child[a] or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” And they had nothing to say.

Pharisees like to impose rules, usually ones they have made up, on others.  They often pounced on Jesus with criticism if He healed someone on the Sabbath because they considered it work.  Notice before He heals, Jesus asked them if it was legal to do so.  They remained  silent.  How could they look the hurting man in the face and say no?  Following the healing, Jesus asked them if they were in a situation the required them to take action to help one of their children or care for one of their animals if they would act on the Sabbath.  And they had nothing to say.  Caught red-handed.

Isn't it interesting that we can be like the Pharisees and ramp up our religious fervor toward others about things that don't matter when we would do something similar if it benefited us?  Jesus was focused on people.  They were focused on rules.  Jesus was acting for the benefit of others.  They were promoting themselves.  It is also interesting that He goes on to teach about humbling yourself as opposed to seeking honor.  

Lord, help us to see where we are red-handed today, to humble ourselves and remain silent.  Amen. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Fan or Follower?

Pam and I have been discussing a common practice among us as human beings.  In sensitivity to what people have experienced in their lives, we dismiss them or ourselves from responsible decisions they can make today because "they were never taught" or "they never did that before."  I get that and I don't want you to read this as being some hard-nosed condemnation of anyone.  Its not. 

What I do want to do is ask a different question.  What do you see in Scripture when someone is truly and completely encountered by Jesus?  What difference did that make?  Were the patterns of their lives different?

I find that those who were self-righteous or only religious admirers of Jesus were no different and even tried to find ways to criticize Him or His followers when the truth He spoke made them feel uncomfortable.  In turn, Jesus spoke of them as snake pits or white washed tombs.  Or for those who were close enough to participate in some miraculous events yet failed to follow when He did things differently than they expected, He said He never knew them.  (Matt. 7)

But for the ones whose encounter with Jesus transformed them, it was different.  Zacchaeus declared he was going to return stolen tax money to people four fold.  That is what the law required but his practice had been the polar opposite.  The woman at the well went from hiding in the shadows of shame to telling everyone about the man who told her everything she ever did but treated her with compassion and gave her hope.  The Ethiopian eunuch knew enough to ask to be baptized after Philip introduced him to the Truth.  A Roman centurion encountered Jesus and related his understanding of authority to what Jesus could do.  And Jesus was amazed at his faith. 

I'm not suggesting that we don't need help in the journey, we do.  And that is why Jesus gave us to each other.  But I do believe that our expectation should be that if someone has truly been transformed by Jesus, moving from being a fan of Jesus to being a true follower, the work of God in them changes the desires of their lives.  And there is change.  No matter what they came out of. 

Jesus said in Luke 9:23:  23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

Die and follow me wherever I may lead you.  Our trouble comes when we want to admire and cheer Jesus on but not die with Him.  That is the difference between a fan and a follower.  Kyle Idelman, pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY, has written a book and done a series on this very topic.  Here is the explanation from his own life.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVXs0vkQNvc

Are you a fan or a follower?   Transformed and growing in commitment or excusing why that isn't happening while giving Jesus limited access to speak into your life?  

Jesus said the way is narrow and only followers will be on it. 


Sunday, November 18, 2012

An Update on Israel from one of its Ambassadors

I had the privilege of being on an informational call Saturday afternoon with David Siegel, Israeli Consul General in Los Angeles.  He is the former chief of staff for Danny Ayalon, Deputy Foreign Minister for Israel.  Here is a summary of what he told us:

Israel has had 1000 rockets fired at them from Gaza or the Sinai this week, 800 of them since the start of the Pillar of Cloud operation on Wednesday.  The Iron Dome units have halted the 250 of the 800.  Those 250 were headed into highly populated urban areas.  With the updated weapons supplied to Hamas from Iran they now have 4-5 million of the 8 million people in Israel in their sights.  Closer to Gaza, people have 15 seconds to get to a bomb shelter when the alarm goes off.  Further away, they have a minute.  Imagine living under such conditions.

Israel has shown tremendous restraint.  Over the past three years alone, over 3000 rockets have rained down on Israel from Gaza.  In the past 12 years, over 12,000 rockets were fired.  Israel withdrew from occupying Gaza in 2005.  After repeated attempts to stop the rockets in 2009, they did a ground invasion and then withdrew. 

   Israel is committed to the defense of its citizens and their citizens are unanimous in their support.  Up to 75,000 reserve soldiers have been called up if necessary for a ground invasion.  Israel will avoid that if the firing of missiles stops.

President Obama and the Congress have shown tremendous support and because of US funding or sharing of technology, a fifth Iron Dome anti-missile system is in place in Tel Aviv.  It shot down incoming missiles hours after installation. 

Despite the incessant firing of rockets from Gaza, Israel has kept the crossings open and humanitarian aid flowing to Gazans.  Also, wounded Palestinians have been treated in Israeli hospitals by Israeli doctors.  In addition, Israeli has dropped leaflets, made phone calls and sent text messages to Palestinians in Gaza to stay away from Hamas members and rocket launching sites for their own safety. 

An illustration of their strong desire to also protect the lives of Palestinian civilians is the decision of one of their F16 pilots.  He was tasked with taking out a long range missile firing platform.  Before he fired on it he saw women and children around it.  He did not fire.  Hours later that rocket was fired on Tel Aviv.

While Israel takes such precautions, the jihadists do not.  Hamas intentionally places their rocket launching sites and ammunition storage facilities in civilian areas and they use civilians for human shields.  When Hamas took over the Gaza Strip from the Fatah party, they threw leaders of Fatah off the rooftops of buildings to kill them.  So they do not care even about their own people.  Their only goal is to destroy Israel.

Iran backs Hamas in Gaza and also Hezbollah in Lebanon, on the northern border with Israel.  The Syrian government is also backed by Iran.  Reports indicate that the tons of biological weapons that Syria possesses potentially could get into the hands of Al Qaeda elements.  That is not good news for either Israel or the US.  This is one other reason, besides the Biblical mandate to pray for the peace of Israel, for us to show our full support.  It is not only about their future, but ours. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Our Response to Events in Israel

This is a map as of Friday evening showing where rockets have landed in Israel since the barrage started.  Civilians have been killed.  All the rockets are randomly shot at the entire population, not military installations.  Overnight, more rockets have been shot toward Israel, including 14 in one hour.

Israel has done strikes on Hamas military personnel and rocket launch sites and overnight destroyed Hamas government headquarters without their leadership inside.  They have sent text messages to Gazans to stay away from Hamas members for safety's sake.

Yet Israel is being criticized for defending herself.  I know of no nation on earth, including those being critical of Israel, who would allow such an attack on their population to go unanswered. Such criticisms make no sense.

How should we as Christians respond in this crisis?

First, I ask that all believers pray for the people.  Pray for all the innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians who are in the crossfire. While God has a special covenant relationship with Israel, He also loves the Arab people as well.  And we have Arab Christian brothers and sisters in the Gaza Strip too.  Pray protection for them all.

Second, pray for wisdom for the Israeli leaders.  In any incursion, lives will be at stake.  Hamas tends to hide their rocket launch sites and military installations in hospitals, schools and among civilian populations, using innocent civilians as shields.

Finally, please pray for Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his advisors that they may be able to exercise some influence to stop the violence.  He seems to have little control over Hamas currently and they are being supported by Egypt and Iran.  But he may be able to do something.  

This is personal for us.  We have friends in Eilat (where missles have fallen from the Sinai); our friend Nir, who lives in Gedera, just 23 miles from Gaza City; and people we know in the suburbs of Jerusalem where at least two rockets have fallen.  This is the first time since the 1991 Gulf War that air raid sirens have gone off in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Nir has told us they are good and strong at this point.  He appreciates our prayers.  Thank you for joining us in praying. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My Prayer

The recent Pew study on faith indicated that 20%, that is 1 in 5 people surveyed, indicated no affiliation with an organized religion.  Twelve years ago that figure was at 8%.  If that kind of trajectory continues, we will look like Europe from a faith perspective in our next generation.

So what is the deepest prayer on my heart and mind right now?  What is it that I desire most to see in every person within my sphere of influence or area of accountability?  Long ago, I did an extensive study of the book of Ephesians and it continues to be a well of hope and guidance for me.  There are three key focuses of prayer I have for every person I know, including myself.

First, that we may know Him better.
17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[f] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

Not just know about Him but know HIM.  Do I care to know Him better?  Do I make any effort to know Him better?  There were some guys I had met before but really did not know them.  I was able to spend some time with them this week.  I now feel I know them better.  How? We sat and talked, I heard their story, asked them questions and prayed with them.  I don't know them fully but I know them better because I took the time to be with them and listen to them.  Same with God.

Second, that we may know the hope to which He called us.
18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you

We have hope in Jesus.  I grew up in a home with an insecure mother who found fault with most everything I did.  She was acting out of hurts she suffered long ago.  I was constantly looking for ways to have people accept me because I felt unacceptable.  And then I found the truth of this hope.  I found in Ephesians 1:5-6 that God, who knew and knows everything about me, chose to adopt me according to His pleasure and will, through the grace He poured out through the One He loved, Jesus Christ.  In other words, I am fully accepted through the One He loves.  No striving.  No questions.  Fully accepted.  That is the hope He called us to.  And it is available to everyone like me who felt hopeless.

Third, that we experience power in the church. 
the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.  

Our inheritance in the church is the same power God poured out when He raised Jesus from the dead. He did it all for the church.  And now He does the same today by taking dead people and making them alive.  That is us.  That power is what makes us holy and blameless in His sight. (v. 4)  And it is that kind of holy living that demonstrates the power of God in our midst today.

We can't change the whole world, but we can seek to bring change in our world.  Think about this.  If we each experienced the three things above, how would our lives change? How would our homes change if everyone in them experienced knowing God better, having hope and being touched with the power of God?  How would your work or school environment change if you carried "Christ in you, the hope of glory" with you wherever you went?  

Would you join me in prayer today for this to take place? 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Do We Have This Straight?

It is the only place Paul said it this way.  In a world of achievement, where we feel compelled to do something to earn things, a proper theological perspective is the only way to fully appreciate it. 

We all have lived at some point gratifying the cravings of our sinful natures, the desires and thoughts within.  We were dead in our sin, and as such, objects of the wrath of God.  And then God. . . .

Here is the clear truth:  We didn't do anything.  We couldn't.  But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which he loved us, made us alive in Christ.  How great a love is that?  Why do we think in any way He isn't willing to show His love to us?  He already did.  And He did it while we were in the most unlovable condition.  There is nothing worse we could do.  Compared to who He is, we are nothing.  Deserving of nothing.  Yet because of His great love, He gave us life.

Just spend some time dwelling on this.  Do we really have this straight or are we thinking we had something to do with it all?  If so, we really don't understand either the depth of God's mercy and love nor the depth of our own sin.  Yeah God!!!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

From Now To Election Day and Beyond

1 Timothy 2:  I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.
Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.

 Much has been blogged and spoken in recent days about what we should do as believers in regards to our upcoming presidential election.  The above scripture passage summarizes the key element:  PRAY.  Petitions are pleas for something.  Intercessions are standing in the gap for something or someone.  Thanksgiving is the characteristic that should govern all our prayers.  Believing as I do that this election is historic (as each of them is, but with the condition we are in, this one feels especially so), we should be on our face before our Sovereign and intercede for those in authority and for our nation as a whole.

As you pray, and as you vote, I do want to say one thing that is not a political statement but a holiness statement.  Biblical truth must apply to every action we take in life.   While in a pluralistic society we can't force unbelievers to live by biblical standards, we as believers should take our personal stand for biblical values.  The sanctity of life, all life, as seen in Psalm 139 and other places is a biblical issue that has been politicized.  The sanctity of marriage, being between a man and a woman for life, is a biblical issue that has been politicized.  Standing with Israel is not a political issue.  Romans 9-11 shows that as we are grafted into the foundation of faith through Abraham, so we are to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and see that God has plans for His people, the Jews.  So this is a faith issue and not a political one.  Caring for the poor is a biblical value.  Working and carrying our own load while assisting those who can't is a biblical issue.  We could go on and on.  It is also biblically true we are never to fear, never to be anxious, but let our requests to be made before God and His peace will guard our hearts and minds through Christ. (Phil. 4:6-7)  So we don't have to fear the outcomes of the future.  At the same time that does not mean that we sit idle and not stand for Christ in our culture.

Let me be clear:  POLITICS AND POLITICAL SYSTEMS WILL NOT BRING ABOUT THE RIGHTEOUS LIFE THAT GOD DESIRES.  That can only come through doing our work as a church and people change.  But the Scriptures are clear that when a nation, any nation, humbles itself before the Lord it will be blessed.  

So be informed.  Know what you believe from Scripture.  Humbly pray, even for those with whom you disagree or even see as evil.  Pray for God's will to be done.  And then participate by going to vote and let your voice be heard.  

As believers who are to shed light in our culture, how we interact with and speak about those with whom we disagree or even those who are our enemies and are mistreating us, reflect the reality of our faith in Christ.  So be careful about your speech; fervent in your praying; holy in your living; and faithful in your participation.  And God will use you to make a difference.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Terror, Trust and Temptation

Today is 9/11.  Twelve years ago there was nothing special or memorable about today except for those whose birthdays and anniversaries are on this day (Happy birthday and anniversary).  But eleven years ago that changed.  Over 3000 people lost their lives and America was shaken to the core and terror became real.  I remember where we were on that day well.  So do you.  I also remember how people responded.  Church services were swelled over the following weeks as people sought understanding, meaning and hope in the midst of everything.  The seeking lasted a month for most.

Now we face potentially one of the most devastating economic and social crises ever.  And it is not just here at home.  This is a global issue.  And fear enters the picture once again.  When unemployment runs high and people become desperate, we see the effects in various parts of Europe.  Riots, destruction, acts of violence.  There is blame and anger a plenty.  And people again wonder where they can turn.  Who can save us out of this mess?  Who can we trust?

Therein lies the temptation.  Many react to the mess but few ask how we ultimately got here.  In America, we have long served at the altar of rights rather than the altar of freedom.  The founding of our nation was based on the fact that rights, freedom and opportunity come from God.  We were and are not a theocracy like Israel, and we never were.  But we were a people in the beginning who understood the truth that blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.  And in the framework of our culture, including our government at the time, God was recognized and honored.  Over the past two hundred and thirty plus years, that has changed.  Our trust and hope have shifted to men, to ourselves, to our political leaders.  Yet the psalmist warned,  

Do not put your trust in princes,
    in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
    on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.  Psalm 146:3-5

Since moving away from our trust in Him as our foundation, millions of unborn babies have been killed; jails have become overpopulated, all sorts of excesses have become "normal," the foundations of the family have been eroded, and right has become wrong and wrong has become right. 

So what do we do?  God speaks from His word in Isaiah 57:

10 You wearied yourself by such going about,
    but you would not say, ‘It is hopeless.’
You found renewal of your strength,
    and so you did not faint. 11 “Whom have you so dreaded and feared
    that you have not been true to me,
and have neither remembered me
    nor taken this to heart?
Is it not because I have long been silent
    that you do not fear me?
12 I will expose your righteousness and your works,
    and they will not benefit you.
13 When you cry out for help,
    let your collection of idols save you!
The wind will carry all of them off,
    a mere breath will blow them away.
But whoever takes refuge in me
    will inherit the land
    and possess my holy mountain.”

I have been asked if I am going to address our political situation from the pulpit.  I want to move to the fundamental core of why we have the chaos we do.  In the name of rights and freedom even many organized churches in America have moved away from honoring the Lord and are preaching a Gospel that is no Gospel at all.  There is no light in the darkness and no salt in the culture.  If we were as passionate about standing up as believers in our culture, caring for the oppressed, speaking up for the rights of the helpless, visiting those in prison, teaching our children about the Lord, and putting our trust in Him, our land would be reclaimed and we would possess it.

I strongly encourage every person to seek the Lord and exercise your right to vote.  But I plead with every person to put all your heart into seeking the Lord personally, and trusting not in political systems to change our world, but in the Maker of Heaven and Earth.  I'll leave you with the words of the psalmist again from Psalm 146:

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them—
    he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
    and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
    the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
    but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.   

Even so, come and accomplish this through your church in our day, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Loving Atmosphere of Discomfort

We spoke this past weekend about the law of contradiction.  Two concepts which are presented as absolutes yet they exclude the other cannot both be true.  The sovereignty of God is an absolute and our free will is true but only within the boundaries set by God.  We do not have the ability to change reality.

Yet we also spoke of the law of contrariety.  This law states that seemingly opposite things can have great elements of truth to them that blends them together in reality.  That is how law and grace exist side by side.  Mercy and justice are compatible parts of God's economy as well.  They feel like they can't both be true but they make perfect sense together.

Now let's look at this in the life of Jesus.  People who were living sinful lives but looking for hope felt comfortable with Jesus.  He talked straight to them, acknowledging the effects of the decisions they had made but let them know there was a way to a new life.  He had not come to condemn but to save.  But salvation meant that people needed to face up to the decisions they had made, repent, and turn to Him.  His offer to everyone is to deny yourself, take up your cross (make tough decisions to say "no" to ungodly things and "yes" to God's way) and follow Him.  That is the core of the Gospel. 

Our church is a place of loving welcome to all who are seeking and struggling.  But we will always speak the truth in love in pointing people to Christ.  When challenged to change, and turn to Christ, some will say we are legalistic or judgmental.  Not so.  We love and spur each other on to Christ, helping each other along on the journey.  We all will be uncomfortable at times.  That is what truth does when we have to face ourselves.  But the love of Christ will always be the dominating atmosphere in which we live. 

Truth and love, mercy and justice, are powerful components of the character of Christ as expressed in and through His people.  A healthy family holds all these traits in consistent tension.  That is the life of a healthy church as well.  And this pursuit is one we will never give up on.

Monday, August 13, 2012


Psalm 8:1 says:
Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
    in the heavens. 

We saw this glory expressed as we were out on the boat one evening.  The picture of it is here on the left.  The cloud formations,  the fire-like glow of the sun, the reflections on the water, all point to the glory of the Lord.  It was awe-inspiring to us all.  Like other things last week, it got me to thinking.  

Glory is something that belongs to God alone.  He is worthy of it.  He chooses to share it with us through His creation.  He allows it to be reflected in us, similar to how the moon reflects the light of the sun.  But the source and object of all glory is God alone.

Many people spend life seeking glory for themselves.  Accomplishments, career goals, financial achievements, social standing, or as we watched the past two weeks, earning gold in sports.  As I read Ecclesiastes this past week, all these things are a "chasing after the wind."  They do not satisfy for long.  While working so hard at seeking our own glory we can miss out in enjoying His glory.

Last week invigorated me to bring Him even more glory.  He is deserving of it.  I am not.  

As Ephesians 5:20-21 states:
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.   

Saturday, August 4, 2012

   We traveled for vacation yesterday.  I have a new app for my iPhone and thought I would give it a try.  Along the way we wanted to stop to see our daughter.    I turned the app on and was ready to head directly south.  It told me to head west.   It took us a way that no other map program suggested but indicated that if we went this way we would get to our destination in amazing time.  So with that anticipation, I followed its directions. 
   As we traveled, and time passed slowly, I began to doubt this app.  This doesn't seem to make sense.  It felt as if we weren't getting there as quickly as it said.  If we took our "normal" route it would have brought us to the same point we just passed.  We were getting a little stir crazy and ready for the trip to be over.  And to our great joy we finally arrived.
   This morning I have been using other programs to evaluate what happened yesterday.  To be fair, the program indicated that the time was the "travel time."  It did not include our stops to eat, get gas, and stretch.  If I took those times off, it was right.  I used map quest to check mileage.  My new program was right.  The fastest and shortest route to our destination was the way it led us.  And as we traveled my new program warned me about upcoming traffic slow downs and problems.  So despite my feelings, the program was right all along.
   I see people take their first journeys of faith the same way.  They have a new "app" to use called the Bible.  They have been used to traveling a particular path to try to reach a destination and suddenly this new app says to go a different direction.  It feels weird.  And it seems that it is taking longer to get there but they forget that along the way there are needs to address.  And when they reach their destination they find the Bible was right all along. 
   Next time I take a trip, I will have a little more confidence in my new program.  It didn't fail me.  My initial perceptions of what it was telling me were wrong.  What it was saying was right, I just didn't understand it well because I was hearing it based on my former frame of reference and personal experience. 
   I pray that if you are on your initial journey of faith that you can also learn to trust the Bible and what the Holy Spirit is directing you to do, even if your experience and former frame of reference tell you that this can't be right.  You will find it is and it will give you confidence as you take the next leg of your trip.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


I had the fulfillment of a nice gift yesterday.  I was given a Groupon to do a Discovery Flight.  I was given 10 to 15 minutes of "training" at a simulator on the ground and then we went up in a four seat Cessna airplane and I actually got to run the controls and fly.  It was a blast. I did notice that the instructor asked that I ease up my grip on the controls as we approached for the landing.  Wonder what that meant??  :-)

Pam, ever my faithful partner, sat in back and took marvelous pictures.  The thing that struck me while up there and also from her pictures was the perspective.  We saw Buffalo in a whole new way.  When we are on the ground, things look totally different.  They are congested or run down or gray.  But from above, it looks exciting, fresh, alive.  We saw the harbor, the Niagara Center, the Coca Cola Field.  We watched trains, buses and cars winding their way.  We noticed the gold dome of the M & T Center glistening in the sunshine.  What can feel dead or insurmountable on the ground looks different from above.

That is why we encourage people to consider God's perspective about their lives.  To us, on the ground, things can look rough.  But from above, God sees things, people, and places He has planned for us to bring us life.  His perspective is always better.

How's your perspective today?  I encourage you to look to the One who stands above it all and ask Him to show you His pictures.  Life will look far different for you too.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Below the Surface

I was sitting on our porch this morning watching and thinking.  The hot winds were blowing the young trees in the courtyard around pretty well.  Some were bending slightly but remaining steady.  We saw numerous trees uprooted in Indiana over the 4th of July from that freak storm that went through.  It was obvious that their roots weren't deep enough to help them stand.
This morning I was thinking through Jeremiah 17:

This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
    who draws strength from mere flesh
    and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
    they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
    in a salt land where no one lives.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.” 

The time to determine where the roots of our trust lie is not in the midst of the storms, but before.  When our roots are deep and deepening in the Lord, we will stand.  But if we consistently trust in ourselves and other people, we will be uprooted when the storms come and then turn around and blame God for the storm.  

The purpose we are doing the House of Prayer and the Grow Discipleship classes as well as our Sunday offerings is to help people go deeper.  Many choose to want a more passive role and just "enjoy" a service.  But roots don't go deep with passivity.   It is in the storms of life and the development times in between that causes our roots to grow.  

Make sure you are growing.  There are storms coming.  Will you stand?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Too Busy

You don't have to talk long to someone or ask many questions until inevitably the issue of time or schedule comes up.  I hear stories of how overtime, games, parties, hobbies, and homework are stressing use of time to the limits.  For Christians, this can cause more stress because of the guilt felt by all the things that "should be" included in the schedule that are not.  It seems that time for prayer, studying of the Bible, meaningful conversations with our family members, and even church attendance get left out when time gets tight.
We all have 168 hours per week, 24 per day.  All of us have to make choices.  All of us will have a myriad of good things presented to us as possibilities.  So how do we determine which things we will do?  Here are some suggested guidelines for deciding.

1.  Put the non-negotiables in first.  The things that are essential for your well-being as a disciple of Jesus.  You will eat at some point.  You will sleep at some point.  Put in there that you will take time to study your Bible.  You will set aside time for your family to be together without interruption.  You will set aside time for spending time alone with the Father.  Church is a high priority.  Exercise is important.  Put these things in your calendar first.

2.  Put your required responsibilities in second.  We have to work or go to school.  There may be a few other things that you "must do."  Careful here.  There are things that we can do and might do and even feel pressure to do.  But they really aren't musts.  Put the things that are responsibilities in second.

3.  Decide what activities or people are the most important places to invest your time in.  Consider time as valuable than your retirement funds.  Since you have limited time (like funds), make choices based on what is going to be most beneficial for you and for honoring Christ.  You may react to the idea of being discerning with people.  But the reality is that there are very needy people who will monopolize all your time if you allowed them.  They need a team of people to deal with them, not you alone.  Plus if you invest time in a few key people they in turn will help you deal with others.  Learn to say "NO" to some good things so you will say "YES" to the most important.

4.  Don't forget to schedule some margin.  You don't have to be busy 24/7.  That is why God established the concept and requirement of Sabbath.  He knew that by nature we would be workaholics or busyholics.  So He scheduled a "time-out" once a week, once a quarter, once a year, and once every so many years, so we would stop and have some margin.  Read for enjoyment or improvement.  Have some no background noise think time.  But schedule some no schedule time in there.  Its ok.

Some years ago, my schedule got out of control and it was causing friction for Pam and me.  It was a defining moment for us in addressing the animal we can call the tyranny of the urgent.  All the things I was involved with were good. But they were not all necessary.  We sat down and worked through the process I listed above.  I began to say "NO" to some very good opportunities so I could focus on the "BEST."  Life changed.  Stress levels came down.  Enjoyment increased. 
I will tell you that this animal does not die.  You must constantly fight with it.  But by putting these guidelines in place, the battle is easier.  So go for it today.  And see how life can improve for you.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Stay on Target

Do you remember the Star Wars movies?  I enjoyed watching every one of them.  There is one line that rings in my head today.  It comes from the scene where the rebels are making their run to attack the Death Star.  There is one means of destroying this terrible weapon of the Empire.  It is to hit a small vent shaft with torpedoes.  The Red Team leader makes his run with two comrades by his side.  As they are approaching the shaft, they are attacked by fighters from the Empire.  As their leader, he continues to shout, "Stay on target.  Stay on target."  If you have no idea what I'm talking about or want to see it again, you can go to this link.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6v5VahaEL7s&feature=related

In the church we have diverse family situations.  We have singles.  We have marrieds.  We have married with children.  We have empty-nesters.  We have divorced.  We have single parents.  We have folks who are separated and not divorced.  And the enemy, Satan, would love for us to get distracted by attacking us while we stand against his evil empire.  So what does he do?  He separates us according to the "needs" of our circumstances, keeping us focused on those, and not on the real target of keeping Christ at the center of our lives.  The Bible is clear that there are unique challenges and blessings in every circumstance of life.  The single person can devote all their energies unilaterally to whatever their focus in life is.  There is no one else to consider or make decisions with.  Yet singles also face the felt needs of coming home to an empty house; not having someone to share the day with; loneliness; etc.  To explore some of these issues from a Biblical and single's viewpoint, see Luci Swindoll's book Wide My World, Narrow My Bed.  The married person has the joys of sharing life with someone yet also has the need to please their spouse and use their time, energies, etc to fulfill responsibilities to their family.  They are not as free as the single.  The single parent and widow have the need to fully trust the Lord because of the weight of their circumstances.  The other situations listed above have a mixture of all these.  If we solely keep our eyes on the needs, it distracts us from the relationship with Christ and disjoints us from each other.
   I'm not being simplistic.  Just pleading the case to "stay on target."  Its not about my "needs" as a single; its about Christ.  Its not just about pleasing my spouse.  Its about us together as one serving and honoring Christ.  Christ first.  Christ last.  Christ in all.
   We can help and encourage each other about how our needs can be met.  They are met in the context of the family of God.  We just can't allow the felt needs to replace the true core of keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.  If we do, the enemy has won and we are distracted.  Surprisingly enough, when we keep our eyes on target, all the needs get met.  I plead with us all, "Stay on target."

Friday, June 15, 2012

What A Privilege

With Billy Graham at BGEA Headquarters, Charlotte, NC
Someone asked me recently if we received our picture of us with Billy Graham.  We received it a week or two ago and I've posted it here.  While his body is weak (at 94 he's allowed) his mind is still sharp and still focused on the mission.  Everything about his library and the Association headquarters points to Jesus Christ.  The man and his team are mentioned but the obvious intention is to give glory, praise and attention to the grace of God and the salvation provided for us by Jesus.  We felt so privileged to have this opportunity be a part of our journey.

   We will never have a library built in our honor.  But I did think about what we have hanging on our walls, written in our journals, seen in our picture albums, and known from our conversations.  If people walked through the imaginary library of our lives, what would they see and hear?  My prayer is that Jesus would be as centrally evident in our lives as He is in Dr. Graham's library.  What is in your library? 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Don't Rebuild

Usually when a storm like Beryl comes along and destroys homes, we would seek to rebuild as soon as possible.  It is a natural inclination for us to rebuild.  We may try to improve some on the previous structure, but rebuilding is a must.
   We can do that spiritually too and it can destroy the work of Jesus in us.  Our life in Christ is a relationship built on faith in Him.  People in relationship do things naturally to communicate, spend time together, work together, share friendships, and show loving care to one another.  That is the life of faith.  But I have watched too many people start down the road of faith, only to revert back in their thinking and actions to doing things simply to earn God's favor.  And no one can be saved that way.  In Galatians, Paul speaks to this very issue because some people were trying to get the Galatians to follow the law as well as faith in Christ.

15 “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ 16 know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
17 “If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. 19 For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

He appeals to them to not fall back into a mindset or pattern that tries to please God by following a set of rules.  Christ died and showed us His grace to set us free to live in a vibrant relationship with Him.  In fact, He lives His life in us.  I can truly live in no other way than to experience the grace of God daily.  I can't earn God's favor.  I can only enjoy it by dying with Christ.

Today we celebrate freedom because others have died to earn it and preserve it for us.  The same is true for us spiritually.  Our freedom can only be enjoyed because Christ died for it and preserves it.  

Don't try and fight a battle that is not yours to fight.  You can't win.  Freedom and life are found only in Him.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Way More than We Thought

I'm sitting at a Starbucks about seven blocks from Times Square as I write this.  I'm across the street from the Carnegie Deli where where Justin and I ate lunch.  It is over 100 years old and was packed.  We ate beside an Indian couple (from India) who were on a 40 day holiday.  We ordered.  Justin got a Reuben sandwich and I got the local spotlight special, a "Woody Allen."  The walls were plastered with pictures of all the stars who have eaten here over the past century.  Impressive.  Most impressive as well were our sandwiches when they arrived.  I'm not sure how many animals were killed to just make our sandwiches, but a herd comes to mind. The picture is only "half" the sandwich.  No, I didn't eat it all.  Justin's Reuben looked like a mountain covered with cheese.  He didn't eat it all either.
We did not want to waste the food.  In fact, we discussed how sad it was that so much food must be wasted every day in this deli, yet the streets outside had their fair share of homeless and hungry folks in them.  We asked for "to go" containers and within a block we had shared our excess with people who were hungry.  Their joy was a blessing to see.

Took me an immediate different direction.  It has to do with a promise I read recently.  It comes from Psalm 84:11

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.

This tells us that the Lord is just waiting to pour out all kinds of good things on us.  He wants to do that so that we can have an abundance in our lives that overflows to others.  Yet I wonder how much is just sitting, being wasted in the storerooms of heaven, because we fail to see and hear what He wants to give us.  Or are we paralyzed by fear or sin or some other roadblock of blessing? 

Your Heavenly Father wants to share excess with you so that you can pass it on to the hungry.  Its not going to be just material things.  It may be.  The question is, are you willing, ready and seeking to receive what He has?  Ask, and you will receive.  Seek and you will find.  Knock and the door will be opened.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Say It Again

Engaging Every Person to Become a Passionate Follower of Jesus Christ.  That is our purpose.  To engage means that we believe the Bible is Eternal Truth.  And when we respond to that truth by faith, God gives us a New Heart.  At that point we experience and live in the Grace of God and extend it to others. We find Authentic Living is so freeing, that we can be who we are at all times. Since we have died to ourselves and live for Jesus, we can experience intentional, Growing Relationships with the Lord, our families, friends and acquaintances.  We also step up so that Everyone is Equipped to tell our personal story of God's grace to anyone who asks and also to serve others to show the love of Christ.

Toward this end, we work hard at having an atmosphere where we can be open and honest with each other so we can help and encourage each other in the pursuit.  We are intentional about trying to provide opportunities for everyone to move forward in the process.  So if you have been attending and you want to move forward, its time to join a small group or take one of the classes offered to start building relationships while learning more about the Bible and the God of the Bible.  If you have enjoyed attending and building some relationships but aren't serving in any way, its time to step up and give of yourself in helping others.  And do it without expecting something in return.  We serve for the sake of showing the love of Christ, not for reward or brownie points.  And if you have been doing all these things but have never shared your story with anyone, its time to prayerfully ask the Lord to give you an opportunity.  But be ready to do it in three minutes or less, simply telling what your life was like before you met Jesus and how He changed you.  Not all the details, but the essence.  That gives the person the option of asking for more and you can see how the Lord is helping you connect with them.

How are you doing in the journey?  How are we doing in helping you?  If there is a way to help you more, email me with your thoughts or questions:  pjones@easternhillschurch.org

Pastor Pat

Friday, May 4, 2012

We've Spent Enough Time

 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do. . . 1 Peter 4:1-3

"I don't know how to stop."  You've used the excuse.  So have I.  It can apply to everything from eating the wrong thing to any sinful actions we have going in life.  What motivates us to stop?  For most people, when the doctor says stop eating the wrong thing or smoking or drinking or you will die, they stop.  The thought of death or losing life with their family is a strong motivation.  When most people are told "be on time from now on or lose your job," they change.  Especially in this economy they need their job.  So they do what needs to be done to effect the change.

So what is our motivation to end sinful patterns in our lives?  Picture Christ's suffering on the cross.  Do you hear the anguish of each breath?  Do you hear the screams of pain on every lash of the whip as it rips across His back?  Can you feel the sting of the thorns as they pierce His head and the blood drips into His eyes?  Can you appreciate the weight of your sin and mine being heaped on His righteous soul and He feels the brokenness of Oneness with the Father?  Can you?  

We've spent enough time satisfying the sinful, evil desires of this body.  Time to be done.  So we arm ourselves with the same attitude as Jesus.  Out of love for Him, we simply refuse the desires of the flesh, even if we suffer for it.  And suddenly the only thing that matters is doing the will of God.  So the greatest motivation in the world is at work, the motivation of what John Wesley called perfect love.

Haven't you spent enough time doing the other thing?  Try loving Jesus today and see what happens.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Forget Easter

Each year we are built up by the thought of Easter and a special celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It is always an exciting time.  But I want us to forget about Easter.  Let me explain.

Easter is named after a pagan goddess.  It was a pagan holiday in various countries centered around new life and spring renewal.  Bunnies were associated with fertility and eggs were part of their gifts to good children.  Except for the stretch of association with new life, there is nothing sacred about Easter.

But we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on the first day of the week.  And the date for this celebration was established in 325 AD.  Here is the history:

Prior to A.D. 325, Easter was variously celebrated on different days of the week, including Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. In that year, the Council of Nicaea was convened by Emperor Constantine. It issued the Easter Rule which states that Easter shall be celebrated on the first Sunday that occurs after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox. However, a caveat must be introduced here. The "full moon" in the rule is the ecclesiastical full moon, which is defined as the fourteenth day of a tabular lunation, where day 1 corresponds to the ecclesiastical New Moon. It does not always occur on the same date as the astronomical full moon. The ecclesiastical "vernal equinox" is always on March 21. Therefore, Easter must be celebrated on a Sunday between the dates of March 22 and April 25.

The thing we celebrate is associated with the Jewish festival of First Fruits.  You can read about it in Leviticus 23.  Paul connects the dots for us in 1 Corinthians 15:

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.”[c] Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. 

So Christ is our firstfruits.  When He comes He will bring with Him those who have died before us.  Then we who are alive when He comes will join them and we will live with Him forever.

That is why I don't really care about identifying with Easter.  But I do celebrate and lift up the fact that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead on firstfruits according to the festivals God has given. 

And if God fulfilled this part of His plan so completely, He will fulfill the rest of them the same.  Now that is something to get excited about.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

If I Were There. . . . .

We tend to think rationally, reasonably.  At this time of year, I try to imagine what it would be like if I had been there for those last days of Jesus' life.  And where would I be?  What would I be thinking?

It is hard without being in the situation, I understand.  But I assume I would be much like those who were there.  We were feeling good about things at the meal.  We went to pray and Jesus and the three "top dogs" went a little further.  Suddenly there were soldiers everywhere and Judas was there.  Jesus said something about him at the meal but I wasn't quite sure what He meant.  But it was clear now.  Judas led these soldiers here.  Betrayed.  Now Jesus was in the hands of the religious leaders who wanted Him dead.  We had to run in the darkness and then follow behind. 

Then on Friday, at the same time the Passover lamb was being killed, Jesus was being crucified.  This can't be.  How can He bring in the Kingdom if He dies.  He had to come off that cross.  He had to.  Its the only way it makes sense.  Then He died.  And He was placed in a tomb.   We are in shock and disbelief.  We were sure He was the answer, the Anointed One.  Now we don't know.

 We're confused?  Jesus has walked away from such situations before.  When they wanted to stone Him in Nazareth, He looked at them and walked through them.  They tried to capture Him in the temple courts before, but it seemed fear of the people kept them away.  But now it was night.  And the darkness spiritually was as deep as the night.  So much evil happens under cover of darkness.

We wonder what tomorrow will bring.

 Time hasn't changed this scenario.  There are people today who come to understand things up to the point of Jesus dying.  But they miss the point of the Resurrection.  The resurrection confirms the ugliness of the cross, the conquering of sin and death.  Life reigns.  That is what tomorrow will bring.

Has tomorrow come for you??