Why Easter is Important

On the third day, the friends of Christ trod mournfully toward the tomb where He had been buried. To their amazement, they discovered not a well-guarded sepulcher but an empty one. The stone, that colossal sign of finality, had been rolled away. No easy feat. Slowly, in the dawn of that morning, it began to dawn upon them that it was not their Lord who had died, but death itself. Our Lord, the Great Gardener who had sown the cosmos with His words, now walked afresh among His creation. One of His dear friends, a woman, was first to see Him, yet mistook His identity.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” (John 20:15)

Easter is a day of celebration. On this day, we reflect on the time Christ took back the keys of the grave. His triumph becomes our song. As His perfect, atoning blood flowed from His body, the power of sin was broken; and as the power of God flowed into Jesus’ tomb-encased body, the power of death was taken. Our redemption was secured. Heaven rejoiced and Hades trembled. The mountain of eternal death was rolled away; the centurions saw it. We rejoice that our Lord was not confined to the grave, but that this Holy One would not see corruption. It was His resurrection that caused His sacrifice to secure our redemption.

And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! —Paul, the apostle(1 Corinthians 15:17)

Easter commemorates the greatest triumph history has witnessed. Few men escape stone-clad tombs; no man escapes death. Many great men, kings, and conquerors have dotted the historical hillside. Men wielding incredible military power, minds of flashing intellect, men of notoriety and fame—yet all these illustrious tales acquiesce to the reaper. Death’s jaws open wide for a one-way trip to which all succumb in spite of their marvelous achievements. Yet, here is a poor carpenter from Nazareth. Lowly and meek, He comes onto history’s scene, surely forgotten if not for the tales and letters and books that would outline His extraordinary life. He’s not like the rest. He doesn’t wield swords or parade His achievements (at least not yet). Only some know but, as a greater David, this Bethlehemite defeats giants like Death. When this perfect Man came to hell’s gates, Death himself came out welding his crooked keys and fearfully said, “Here. These are Yours.”

“I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” —Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Revelation 1:18)

Easter is eschatological in that it points to our future. The accounts make clear that Christ’s resurrection was a first of many to come. First comes the offering, then the harvest. First came His sacrificial offering, then we, the harvest, shall appear with Him in glory. What is sown in pain and sorrow will suddenly be snatched up again by power from the mouth of God. The same Man that left His tomb will call forth men from theirs. Dust will regather, dry bones will rattle, bodies will animate and be filled with the consciousness of saints long past. Lives now may be wrought with toil and misery, yet it shall not always be. Mary wasn’t completely wrong when she mistook Jesus for the gardener at the tomb, for He is indeed the Great Gardener of our lives. Easter reminds us that we are to look ever forward to the harvest of that great day.

Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. —Paul, the apostle (1 Corinthians 15:23)

Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life,
some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever. —Daniel, the prophet (Daniel 12:2–3)

Rejoice, church! Rejoice, you former sinners! Rejoice, you who were once dead but now made live in Christ. Celebrate with friends and family. Laugh and rejoice, for because of the day of His resurrection, the great day of your resurrection lies before you. The tomb is empty! Our redemption is secure! On that day, we too shall say, “Oh Death, where is your sting?”

Why We Must Pause On Difficult Truths

0511-1104-0222-5954_Line_Drawing_of_Jesus_on_the_Cross_clipart_imageThe clear minded instinctively turn away from suffering. When confronted with the pains and sufferings of life, it is quite normal to change topic, scroll away, look elsewhere. Part of this is the glory of being human, we were made to love that which is aesthetic, formed, beautiful. On the other hand it is that we have difficult time understanding the good in suffering. Yet, life’s journey and the scriptures are filled with stories, events and statements that are difficult to face. What do we do when confronted with them?

Our God is different. His transcendence alone sets Him so beyond the realm of human comprehension and understanding. Often when humans attempt to grasp the mysteries of God they wrongly bring Him down to their terms and experiences. They limit Him and His actions to familiar terms: love, warmth, power, anger. When doing this, they draw on the short catalogues of their own experiences of love and power, project them onto God and then take pause to decide if they accept or reject what they see.

Good Friday calls the believer and unbeliever to consider something that normally causes us turn away. The excruciating stab of betrayal. The unimaginable suffering of crucifixion. The terrible injustice of condemning an innocent man to suffer its torments.

Firstly, it is called “good.” What can possibly be “good” about the suffering of our Lord? Or that of any person? Good Friday is good because it calls us out of human decency and into the realm of the divine. The Cross forms a bridge between that which is acceptable and certain and that which is mysterious and chilling. A voice calls to us on this day, “Will you come and consider this Man’s suffering? Will you see and call it good?” On good Friday we leave the fairy tale realm of strong kings that endure no suffering and sojourn into the heart of a tender God who humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Let us go on a journey through the suffering of our Lord. We do not need to rush, for in doing so we tread into the unknown, into the transcendence of God. The Resurrection will come, but let us not rush to it. All resurrections require death. We are invited to behold the crucified Lord and not flee from Him.

He is despised and rejected by men [including us]…He was despised, and we did not esteem Him…(Is. 53:3) – we have all rejected the perfect Lamb. Don’t run from this truth. Dwell on it. Consider it’s meaning. Let it afflict the soul and emotions.

And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him (vs. 3) – we all have hidden our faces from His suffering. We could not look at it. It was embarrassing. It was extreme. It was gory. Yet, do not push past this reality that we shared in His betrayal.

Smitten by God, and afflicted. (vs. 3) – “By God,” in considering these word we are face with the difficult truth that the Son was smitten by the Father. Why would a Father do this to His Son?

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth (vs. 7) – Our Lord did not defend Himself. How many times even when we are guilty, if not only partially, do we fiercely defend ourselves? Yet, He stood silent, giving no defense.

Yet it pleased the Lord to [crush] Him (vs. 10) – the Father didn’t simply allow the Son’s death, but it pleased Him. The word pleased here means “took delight in.”

[God] has put Him to grief. (vs. 10) – The Father put Christ to grief.

Good Friday invites us to consider suffering. But more than consider suffering, but embrace Him, embrace the crucified Lord. In it we are forced to ask difficult questions and feel painful emotions. Insight is given into our own un-redeemed state and we must confront those issues, and bring them to our crucified Lord. We remember that in all the world’s suffering and affliction God does not look away, they do not avoid it, they feel it. Let us do the same with our Lord.

The New Birth

The gospel is mostly a declaration of things that have happened to us. Events and happenings transpired around the shores of Galilee and near Jerusalem (now some years ago) and have had a shocking affect upon your life. You will never be the same. The important part is that they happened, and that they happened to us. Birth is like that.

A birth is something that happens to a baby, certainly not something the baby does. No one looks at the newborn and says, “Fantastic work! You did it.”

Through the turmoil, and agony, and blood of the mother a beautiful child is brought forth. The cross is like that.

We must look at the glorious suffering Christ and joyfully declare, “Fantastic work! You did it!”

A Letter to Myself

Dear young leader,

The anointing of the Lord to lead is selected by an invisible hand. God raises up leaders and tears them down.

You will face the praise and scorn of others simply because you will be in their eye. The person at the front receives the most criticism because he will also receive the most praise. These two facets: criticism and praise are the wisdom of God at work. One cannot happen without the other. If a man is only praised he will become prideful; if a man is only scorned he will become discouraged. Learn from both.

Learning from the praise of men is as critical as learning from their criticism. Their praise will tell you what they want. He will find that if he leverages the praise of others he can increase his standing in their eyes and yield greater comfort for himself. And if he can avoid their criticism it will have the same result. Yet, he will find that he is not leading them, they are leading him.

Mere leaders will always derive their sense of value from the criticism and praise of men; while heaven leaders will derive theirs from God. The praise of man is candy to the soul, their criticism, his poison. And yet, neither the praise of man nor his criticism persuades the heart of God. Leaders may be praised or scorned, yeDouglas_Fairbanks_at_third_Liberty_Loan_rally_HD-SN-99-02174.JPEGt the heart of God remains unmoved by their chatter.

When a young man finds himself in leadership he may begin to think of himself as something special. He may think that his gifts or charisma that have lent to this position are an endorsement from heaven. Yet, the endorsement from heaven comes not in the gift given but how the gift is utilized. A young man may use his gifts to promote himself to fame and glory; avoid this. Ask, who am I promoting through my gifting?

12 Then David knew that the Lord had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel. (2 Sam. 5:12)

God anoints leaders for others. He anoints them for Himself.

 

The Church: a vision for present and future

A ship is built for two reasons: to weather the conditions of travel and to carry passengers to a destination. Both are necessary for a proper vessel.

One may build a church to weather cultural/social conditions with little regard for the destination. One may also envision and build a church for the destination with little regard for the tumultuous journey.

A vision for the future equips for the present. And an engagement in the present sets the course for the future.

You Must Renew Your Mind

At the new birth, God gives us a new spirit. It is a glorious truth worth exploration and meditation. He does not however, give us an entirely new mind. The seat of the mind is where our thoughts and perceptions are concentrated. It’s though the mind that we perceive life as it plays out in front of our eyes.

There is a necessary distinction that must be made as we process the dramatic change of the believer’s salvation. Think of a slave who is suddenly freed, or an orphan that is newly adopted. Legally their status has changed; for the slave is now free and has access and rights they did not before. The orphan now enjoys the love and privilege that comes through nurturing parents in a family. Now here is the distinction that we are going to look at; in both cases, their thoughts are still mostly the same as when they were slave or orphan. To be more specific, their memories weren’t erased, their self-perception wasn’t immediately changed, and their life experiences weren’t blotted out. They are beginning a new life and awaiting the new experiences that will enfold through it. In many ways, they are the same person they were before; the only difference is that they hold a new legal status.

Consider this testimony –

It’s a different universe…there is no human word to describe what it’s like; miserable, oppression…there is no love. I couldn’t tell my mother that I loved her because the only love I could express was love for the Regime. There was no love that I could express. It is the darkest place on the earth; there is no place like North Korea on the earth. It’s hard after you went through that hatred, that injustice. You fear that there is no compassion inside of you and no love…I experienced it, I hated everything. I couldn’t love people when they said, “Life is beautiful.” – Yeomi Park (North Korean defector)

In her testimony, she describes these feelings of fear, lack of compassion and love after her defection. She had not been trained in these things. They were completely foreign to her experiences and way of thinking. Those there were privilege of freedom to be had, and new experiences of love and relationship to encounter, the framework of thinking was mostly still the same.

Similarly, for new believers, they may experience thoughts and emotions more closely resembling their pre-salvation way of thinking than that of a follower of Jesus. Why is this important? If we don’t have a biblical understanding of the change that must take place after salvation, we may wake up discouraged in 15 years thinking this thing is sham. Certainly we wouldn’t be critical of Ms. Park, if after her defection, she exhibited patterns of thought or behavior that hearkened to her past experiences. We would be compassionate and patient. Why then do we hold ourselves to a demanding standard related to the new birth?

God’s part is to justify us through the cross of Jesus. But it doesn’t stop there. We have a real part too. Paul said it like this-

2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12:2)

Our mind is clouded with the world. The world’s ways, fears, ideas, solutions, wisdom has established roots deep in the minds of humanity. This is our starting point: thinking like the world. Until that mind is renewed it will operate out of the mindset of the world. The glorious truth is that we don’t have to live there, under the world’s mindset, we can be transformed.

Here are some practical ways our mind is transformed:

  1. Fill our mind with the Word. The old adage, “What goes in must come out,” is quite true here. If we pour in the opinion of others, we will pour out the same. When we immerse our minds in the Word of God, the truths of God’s Word begin to show up in our lives. We will begin thinking differently, then feeling differently which leads to acting differently.
  2. Paul refers to the Word as that which “washes.” The bible has a trans-formative power that upends lies and wrong ideas about God, establishing new ones. We engage the word not stoically but through relationship. In other words, we talk to the Holy Spirit as we read.

The transformed mind sees the God differently. It sees people differently, including self. When it looks in the mirror, bible verses come to mind. Rather than seeing what the world sees, values and criticizes, we see what God sees and values. This is the fruit of the transformed mind. Looking at others, we view them through the lens of God’s word. This liberates us from relating others on the basis