How to margarinelize (lighten up) the gospel at Easter.

 

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If I were a devout Christ-rejecting secularist that already believes that the resurrection of Jesus is a silly myth held by superstitious conservatives, and I drove by a church next Sunday and saw children on the lawn picking up eggs laid by rabbits, I would keep on driving. Why?

Why not?

How am I, a skeptic at heart for the christian dogma supposed to believe that there is something credible, something serious, something awesome and weighty to the blood-splattered cross and earth-shattering resurrection of Jesus when you Christians play games in commemoration of his death, burial, and resurrection? And we all know why you do it – to boost attendance! Surely the first-century church, whose followers were beaten, jailed, ostracized, and became martyrs proclaiming the alleged resurrection, would not attempt to boost attendance on Sunday morning by hosting a “children’s-hunt-for-eggs” laid by rabbits carnival?!?!?!?!

My skepticism would be warranted: there’s nothing really true to believe in.

This is what happens when the church slowly adopts the commercialization of Easter. I’m not against playing make-believe with our children; pretending and role-playing fanciful characters is actually part of what it means to desire a world that is not bound by human brokenness. But when we diminish the glory of Christ’s victory over the greatest enemy of man – death, by luring the skeptic with a lolly-pop, then it should come as no surprise that over time, Easter becomes decentralized in the heart: “see mommy, death can’t be that terrible – I have more bunny eggs in my basket than she does.”

In modern America with its resurrection-merchandising, Easter becomes sensationalized, and consequently, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ becomes marginalized; the gospel is pushed to the outer-edges of our lives, from what was once at the center, full of gravity, to a remote point of insignificance, barely worth dying for. On the very day that is supposed to be approached with the most glorious and joyful heart, with confessional led singing and adoration –  you would think that IF Jesus really did rise from the dead, that believers of this gospel would not confirm the skeptic’s doubt by presenting a great truth with a chocolate bunny, or, a marshmallow peep.

Having spoken with many millennials over the past couple years, and having read real data about what is going on in post-christian America, one of the reasons why the church is rejected en masse is because it just can’t be taken seriously anymore. And no wonder: we now have churches using marshmallow peeps to tell the the most important message that a broken soul could hear. I wonder if the Egyptian Coptic Christians who were murdered this past week by ISIS would still be alive today if only they had used the multi-colored sugarbirds to margarine-ize their witness? That way, possibly, the enemies of the cross would not feel so threatened by the King of kings and Lord of lords.

This coming Lord’s Day, “whatever you do, do to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31)! Sing with unspeakable joy! Give thanks for the most undeserved gift to man! Go deep into the waters of Life! Believe without reservation that Christ is King! If you have any opportunity of influence upon children this coming Sunday, whether because you are a family member, or a Sunday school teacher, or you’re preaching the gospel, do all that you can to joyfully point them to a Savior whose real enough, big enough, and powerful enough to rescue them from sin, death, and the grave.

“He is Risen” does not belong in the candy aisle.

It belongs in the heavens above and in hopeless hearts below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

An important question as you put away your Christmas music.

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Question:

Can Nat King Cole sing Easter Songs?

Can You?

How do you know that you truly worshiped the baby Jesus this Christmas, as Jesus himself taught? Here’s how you know – answer the next question:

Can you sing “Silent Night” and “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” back to back?

Nat King Cole, like most artists who publish their Christmas albums, have nothing to sing about 4 months from now because they really don’t believe that the baby Jesus was crucified, buried, and rose again. Which means, most music artists who sing “Silent Night” don’t really believe in Christmas.

I hope you do/did.

 

He is More than his Muscles

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That’s Coho Salmon caught about 13 miles out on Lake Michigan. And that’s my son-in-law sitting down because if he we’re standing, well . . . he wouldn’t be standing. We’d be fishing him out of the water too, or off the deck of the boat. This is because he has muscular dystrophy.

The world has always valued muscular strength, and for good reason: Someone has to un-lid those stubborn jars! Physical strength is a wonderful gift from the Lord, like his many other gifts. But, we live in a broken world with a thousand broken ways of brokenness. And unfortunately, we often idolize our strengths without a thought of humility that we have been blessed. You see this in sports where there is more muscle-mass on display than in any other venue of life. Especially in weight lifting, football, and any combat sport. But you can also see this in a little boys’ bedroom as he picks up his metal-frame bed at the footboard, making that Six Million Dollar Man sound, pretending that he’s the strongest of them all: ttttrrrrrnnaaannnaannnaannn . . .

That boy was me as I would finish watching a 70’s episode of Lee Majors lifting a car off the ground to save a little old lady; god-like strength has always been a marvel. And don’t even get me started on the recent years of muscular strength displayed in the Marvel Comic stream of movies. Point: mankind has always marveled in extra-ordinary muscles – as far back as the Greek stories of Atlas and Hercules.

Joey Slogar III, my daughter’s husband, and father of my grandchildren, does not have much of what this world prizes. But he does have what out-lasts muscle-tissue: a soul. In fact, everyone has a soul – it’s that part of our humanity that is immaterial and eternal. We all know it to be true of ourselves because we all want to live forever in a place where brokenness ceases to exist, and death is forever banished. But more than a soul is needed for this kind of joyful vitality. It takes a soul that knows the one whose body was completely broken down and yet rose victorious over all that this broken world could dish out. To live forever with no fracture of body or mind needs a healer who has the power and authority to overturn the dystrophy of the soul. Yes, the dystrophy of the soul is our greatest threat. And since Joey loves Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, the greatest threat to Joey’s long-term paralysis is already defeated. Let’s say it with pictures:

This is what muscles look like when you’re young.

This is what muscles look like when you’re old.

And this is what muscles look like when you’re dead.

But this is what muscles look like when they are dystrophic,  BUT the soul, which is more than muscles,  enjoys the good gifts of the Lord.

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Joey is more than his muscles in the best way possible. He knows who is mightier than the brokenness of man. True, his biceps don’t have the impressive flex factor that others have, but as the apostle Paul reminded young Timothy, “for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” –  (1 Timothy 4:8). This means that for everyone whose muscles are either in atrophy or in dystrophy – makes no difference; the most important thing is the pursuit of knowing the godliness of the Lord. We must remember that being born with visible brokenness is not due to mom and dad’s sin (John 9:3a). But due to sin, which is unbelief and rejection of God who sent his Son, all of us come into the world with our hearts not merely weak, but dead and condemned (John 3:18-19). The good news is that if Jesus can raise the spiritually dead, then it is a cinch to also provide a new body (Matt. 9:5; John 11:25).

The pain of muscle-loss in this life is temporary. The pain of soul-loss is forever. This is why it is important for all of us to remember while living in a muscle-idolizing culture, that we are more than our muscles.For those who have come under the grace that is in Christ Jesus, like Joey, muscular dystrophy will not have the final word. Jesus will – and that’s the point:

“. . . that the works of God might be displayed in him” – John 9:3b!

“I will believe in anything, just not Jesus’ Resurrection”

The world approves of every form of human enlightenment as long as Jesus’ Resurrection is not the reason. Hindu has Karma and Reincarnation. Islam has Janna/Paradise, which is an eternal sexual voyage, except for women of course. Entrance to Janna is earned by good works; bonus points if you kill infidels. Then there is Orthodox Judaism, Mormans, Jehovah Witnesses, Scientology, and all forms of false Christianity, all of which can be lumped together: you get to heaven, earning your way by good works.

While these are treated with a level of tolerance, Jesus’ resurrection is not. While these are viewed as credible, Jesus’ resurrection in incredible. While these are all viable and reasonable ways to Nirvana, Heaven, Paradise, Your-Favorite-Eternal-Hobby, Jesus’ way to heaven is not. And here is why:

Jesus said, “I Am the Way” (all other ways are false)

Jesus said, “I Am the Truth” (all other claims are lies)

Jesus said, “I Am the Life” (all other ways and claims lead to eternal death)  John 14:6

No one ever spoke with such authority and exclusive language than Jesus did. Either you can get to the next phase of enlightenment in the after life by any man-made means possible, or only Jesus (John 6:44; 14:6). This is why Jesus is so threatening. This is why we crucified him. This is why we cannot tolerate Jesus. This is why Jesus must go. But as they say, ‘you can’t keep a good man down,’ even more so with Jesus, it’s impossible to keep him down because it was not man that took his life in the first place. He voluntarily laid it down and he has the authority to raise it up (John 10:18).

Tomorrow in worship, we’ll sing this song also, along with “It is not Death to Die” (previous post). May Christ be enjoyed over all the earth, in every tribe, tongue, people and and nation!

 

It is Not Death to Die

 

Tonight our church will worship with a Passover Meal because God passed over us; his wrath landed on his son, on the cross. And because it did, our physical death no longer has the final word – Jesus rose from the dead and by faith in him as Lord and Savior, my substitution, the consequences of my sin have been removed as far as the east is from the west! This Sunday, we sing this song based on Philippians 1:21: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” May the Risen Lord be your hope and joy.

 

 

O My Soul, Arise

 

“Arise, My Soul, Arise” was written and published in 1742 by Charles Wesley. Though in our hymnbooks, most of the Western Church does not sing it. Unfortunate! Thanks to the Lord, Sovereign Grace Ministries has again resurrected a great song that has nearly died with a music score that matches the emotional longing that the lyrics call for.

We’ll sing this in congregational worship this Sunday, March 13, and again on Resurrection Morning, March 27.

Enjoy!

I Can’t Wait to Go to Earth!

I get to live on this earth forever. I’m really happy about this because it’s what our hearts are undeniably longing for: I want to live where I’ve come to love my surroundings. I want to live where my memories are. I want to live in and with what God has created for his glory and my joy. I want to see what this earth would look like if there were no sin and no curse – it’s got to be breathtaking.

This earth has been subjected to groaning and futility (Romans 8:20) – it’s cursed because of my sin. But this same creation will be set free from its bondage to corruption (vs. 21a). Notice that Paul does not say that this creation will be destroyed and a different creation will take its place. But rather this creation will be “set free to obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (vs. 21b). This creation, with its massive Oceans teeming with life, its Grand Tetons, its majestic Himalayas, its towering Redwoods, Appalachian Mountains, and its Swiss Alps, will get what’s coming to her: Resurrected children of God who will live like Kings and Queens forever with their Savior and Brother, Jesus Christ. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I get to live forever on this earth and you can too. Not even Cuba Gooding Jr., Annabella Sciorra, and Robin Williams can story-tell what awaits us, though they tried in Vincent Ward’s, “What Dreams May Come.” Reincarnation via will-power is powerless to give us what our hearts long for.

Speaking of stories, Mankind has a thousand versions of the afterlife and how to get there, that’s because man really does want to live forever on a real physical sphere where unending delight is really found. And no wonder: Man was made to live on this earth forever. This is not the opposite of going to heaven. To say that I want to go to heaven is the same as wanting to live forever with God, on this earth, but without anything broken:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”(Revelation 21:1-4 ESV)

Not to exhaust many other relevant texts, but clearly here, what passes away is not our physical bodies or the physical world, but the things that cause death, tears, brokenness, and pain. These are the things that will be left behind. To give assurance that God will never break his covenant to love forever all those who are part of the new covenant family in Christ (Jer. 31:31-34; Luke 22:20; Hebrews 8:8-13), upon this earth, he made a promise that this fixed order of our Sun, Moon, and Earth will never go away:

“Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar – the LORD of hosts is his name: If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever” (Jeremiah 31:35-36).

God says that if this fixed order of our earth, moon, stars and sun ever cease to exist, then so will his children in Jesus Christ cease to exist. But neither will happen. Which means, for all those who are in a covenant relationship with Christ, they get to live on a cleansed and renovated earth – that’s what will be new about it. As Isaac Watts sang, “No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; he comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found” – (3rd verse in “Joy to the World! The Lord is Come”).

Since we are promised that we will be known as we were known (1 Cor. 13:12), I look forward to life in a painless, deathless, sorrowless body, where upon this earth, in the same Appalachian Mountains where I grew up, I will enjoy all that it means to be a complete human: to know Christ and to dwell with him with no barriers of sin. This means that I will enjoy a oneness with Christ as I reflect upon the graces that I experienced before my resurrection (Eph. 2:7). So many of my moments of growing in Christ and receiving his grace took place in WV. I’ll walk with Christ and those who “loved his appearing,” and see the same landscape of my childhood, my life with my parents and grandparents, my experiences meeting and living with my wife and the years of a growing family, pursuing higher education in Chattanooga and St.Louis, and then shepherding a church family near Chicago (one day, no more sin in Chicago, no more of its governors going to jail!). I’ll be learning more and more of who Christ is without a single plateau of boredom. In the newly renovated WV (since the “new earth” will be this earth all cleaned up) I might take up new areas of stewardship to serve others – explore and harness resources – enjoy an unending fellowship with a good dog and a horse – take in an evening of delicious food for about 10 years, then move on to dessert! (Isaiah 11; Luke 19:17-19; John 21:9ff; Rev. 19:6-9).

Simply, as I get a little older, and feel a little more of the effects of our sin,

. . . I can’t wait to go to Earth!