Monday, April 27, 2015

The Defense of Marriage

Last week an important one-page letter was released, signed by 35 religious leaders, including President Matthew Harrison of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, the church body to which I belong.  Click below and then click "Download and read letter."

www.lcms.org/freetobefaithful

Dear Christians, never cease to pray
For faith + love these latter days,
For marriage, life, and family,
That all be held in sanctity.

Monday, April 13, 2015

70% Off

"...so that our joy may be complete" (1 John 1:4).

Last week I walked into a local arts and crafts store and asked if they still had any Easter things.  The young lady pointed me to the back of the store where they had gathered the leftovers.  The sign read, "70% Off All Easter Merchandise."

Easter is arguably the happiest, holiest day for Christians, on which we celebrate the resurrection of the Savior, Jesus Christ.  Chances are, you had a wonderful Easter.  But what percentage of that joy do you have today?

Where I pastor, church attendance went down over 40% the Sunday after Easter.  Something is wrong.

We need to ask ourselves whether we really, truly believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Or whether Easter hops in and then right back out of our hearts and minds like the bunny and like many other holidays.

The joy of Easter is a spiritual one that runs deeper than our emotions.  The joy of Easter lasts longer than a day.  It is everlasting!  For the joy of Easter is the risen Christ!

As Christians, we should celebrate Easter every day, with each new sunrise.  And we should go back to the way the early Christians looked forward to every Sunday as Easter!*

Christ is 100% risen!  And the joy with which He comes and fills our hearts can never be any less.  Alleluia!

*"The Lord's Day of the first Christians was therefore a celebration of Christ's resurrection.  Each Lord's Day was an Easter Festival, since this was not yet confined to one single Sunday in the year.  This meaning of Sunday is repeatedly forgotten today" (from Early Christian Worship by Oscar Cullmann).

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

When the Sabbath Was Past

Every year on Easter I feel a sense of guilt.  On Good Friday I have only just begun to consider and ponder Christ's sufferings and death.  But then before you know it, not thirty-six hours later, I am saying and singing, "Christ is risen!"  Isn't that a little quick?  Shouldn't we spend more time in Good Friday meditation?  I need to remember that the timeline is God's own, not mine.  But we would do very well to ask why there is only one day between the death and resurrection of our Lord.  The following devotion, several years old, addresses that question.

"When the Sabbath was past..." (Mark 16:1).

Here is a question seldom asked.  Why did Jesus spend only a short time being dead?  In all, He spent: a little bit of Friday, all of Saturday, and a portion of Sunday.  This is not very long.  Even the body of a person who died just one year ago has already spent well over one hundred times as long in the grave.  I will give two answers to this question.

1. I believe that Christ was concerned only with keeping the Sabbath.  Of the three days (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), only one did He "keep" in its entirety: Saturday, the Sabbath.  Throughout His ministry, Jesus was accused of breaking the Sabbath.  Although He never actually did break it, He observes the Sabbath following His death as no man has ever observed it.  He rests wholly and completely from His work of redeeming the world, stopping even His heart from beating.  We learn that He fulfills the Sabbath and every other part of the law for us.  He rises on Sunday, after the Sabbath has been kept.  This is one reason.

2. Another reason is that His disciples could not have lasted much longer without Him.  It is doubtful that they ate or even slept.  How heartbroken they must have been!  And afraid.  How then could Christ be "taken away from them" (Matt. 9:15) any longer?  He rose as soon as possible to give them - and us - peace, joy, and courage.

Christ is risen!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

See It?

Take a moment to study this picture.


It was taken on Easter 2013 at an outdoor sunrise devotion.  We sang, prayed, and read Luke 24:1-12, including:

"But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.  And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb...."

Do you see what we saw?  The strange cloud just to the left of the sunrise now seemed to be "the stone rolled away from the tomb."  It was incredible!  Then someone suggested that the pole in the foreground resembled a cross!

"Do not be alarmed.  You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He has risen; He is not here.  See the place where they laid Him.  But go, tell..." (Mark 16:6-7).