Baptism

Baptism

July 17, 2021

“Many men and women were baptized”  Acts 8:12

Have you been baptized since you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior? Have you experienced the public profession of your faith by following the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus through baptism? The Bible clearly instructs us to take this step, to show all who may be watching that we are symbolically washed clean; are buried (in the water) and raised again, coming up out of that watery grave, arms raised to heaven with a smile from ear to ear.

And yet, there are those who have taken this simple act of obedience and turned it into “Jesus plus”. Jesus plus is any act or belief that says His death on the cross was the first step of forgiveness and eternal salvation. In the case of baptism, some have decided that if you are not baptized following your confession of faith, you are not actually saved. They have taken Peter’s words above to be inclusive, meaning “Repent and be baptized” are the requirements to be saved. Repentance is not enough. In essence, the suffering and death of Jesus Christ on the cross did not grant us full forgiveness. According to this belief, His resurrection from the dead still did not fully save us from death and grant us eternal life with Him. We must be baptized! Jesus plus.

“Twice baptism seems to be linked with forgiveness of sins. On the day of Pentecost Peter said, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (2:38). And later Ananias said to Saul, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord…” (22:16). In both cases the instructions were given to Jews; no Gentile was ever told to be baptized for the remission of sins. In believer’s baptism a Jew publicly repudiated his connection with the nation that rejected and crucified its Messiah. The basis of his forgiveness was faith in the Lord Jesus. The purchase price of his forgiveness was the precious blood of the Lord. The way in which his forgiveness was administered was through water baptism, because his baptism publicly removed him from Jewish ground and put him on Christian ground.” ~William MacDonald’s Bible Commentary

Our salvation is based on our faith in what Jesus did for us, not on something we did. Jesus did not appear to His disciples after His resurrection and tell them something like, “Yes, it’s true, I suffered that incredible pain and suffering and then God raised me from the dead for your eternal life. But now you have to do one more thing. If you aren’t baptized, you won’t be saved!”

    Ephesians 2:8-9  You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of.

    Acts 15:11 “We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”

    When Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman at the well, He said, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you the living water.” ~John 4:10. Notice that the Lord did not mention baptism. Jesus Himself never baptized anyone!

    John 14:6  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”

    Romans 10:9-10  “If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.” Notice that Paul does not add, ‘and is baptized.’”

    Acts 16:30-31  “…He said, ‘Sirs what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.”

    Nothing we do can add to our salvation. It is complete in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He gave Himself to forgive our sins and grant us the beauty and majesty of eternal life with Him. If you’ve not been baptized, you should. It is a wonderful experience, a joyous celebration, and an important step in proclaiming our salvation to the world. However, our sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus, not the water of baptism!

He Gave Them Glory

“God causes everything to work together  for the good of those who love God” Romans 8:28

They were a tight-knit group of Christians who met for prayer weekly. In the beginning, they were uncertain about how to pray and what to say. But as time progressed, they became more confident, more certain of how and what to say. It seemed powerful and life-changing. There was, however, one problem, a serious one. This steadfast group had fallen in love with their ability to pray—it was as though they, through their powerful-sounding words, were causing things to happen or not happen.  They had forgotten about God’s Holy Spirit who intercedes for us as we pray. 

Additionally, they had forgotten about Romans 8 which says, in part, that all things work together for good for all believers. They were constantly praying that God would take away all problems and obstacles from people, as though God’s intention was for all believers to have a smooth-sailing life, coupled with a bit of prosperity. Good jobs, ample money and smooth-sounding prayers had jaded them to reshape God into a human; a powerful and generous one, but a human none-the-less. 

This went on for several years until one night, a newcomer quite innocently asked if she could read a section of Scripture that God had put on her heart. She read as follows: 

   Romans 8:28-39  “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them. 29 For God knew His people in advance, and He chose them to become like His Son, so that His Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And having chosen them, He called them to come to Him. And having called them, He gave them right standing with Himself. And having given them right standing, He gave them His glory.

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since He did not spare even his own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for His own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with Himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and He is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 As the Scriptures say, “For Your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” (Psalm 44:22) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Her reading brought tears of repentance and renewed joy to all in attendance. God took a simple request, blended with His living Word to remind this group of believers of their first love. 

   Proverbs 30:5 “Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.”  

   Psalms 12:6 “And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace. . .purified seven times.” 

Engrave these words of God on your mind. Call upon them during times of fear, depression, anxiety, frustration, doubt and failure. God’s words never fail or lose their power. And remember that the Bible does not teach that God promises His followers smooth-sailing in this world. Quite the contrary, He assures we shall have conflict, suffering and problems. The equipment provided to navigate these troublesome waters is based on our faith and trust in God’s Son through His death and resurrection. Nothing escapes God. He is always with us and will never leave us. Powerful-sounding prayers are not really that. Simple, heart-felt prayers are actually more powerful. 

Distilling It Down!

“Jesus, remember me” ~Luke 23:42

Jake and Scott found a booth, ordered coffee and a danish. It was their regular Monday, Wednesday routine. They shared classes on those days and became friends. They got great stimulation from discussing the lectures together. Sometimes their thoughts lined up but sometimes not, as was the case this day.

“What did you think of today’s lecture, Jake? I was surprised by his bald-faced, simple statement of faith in God. How could a guy so smart fall for that childish stuff?”

“I’d say it was a pretty deep faith for him to sort of preach to us today. By the way, he said his faith was in Christ.”

Taking a bite of his danish, Scott was obviously pondering. Then he said, “What’s the difference? And how do you have faith in someone who died like many other criminals thousands of years ago. Seems to me Jesus was just another misguided Jew looking for a following or just fighting against the Pharisees and the Roman government.”

“What do you think of Buddah, Scott? We both know some people who read about and try to follow his teachings and yet you don’t come against their faith as you are with those who profess faith in Christ.”

“Yeah, good point,” said Scott. “Except the Buddah was not executed as a criminal…was he?”

“No, I read once that he died of food poisoning when he was about 80. But back to Jesus. Not only did He bring lots of chaos and problems among the Jewish religious leaders, He claimed to be the Son of God, the Savior and Messiah.”

“Well, I heard that He was a prophet and a pretty good teacher so that’s good.”

Working on their second coffee, the men continued to discuss Jesus and who He really was. Or, as the professor said, “Jesus is still alive, sitting at the right hand of the Father!”

Finally Jake said, “Listen, Scott. I am a Christian and I believe in a living Savior, Jesus who died and was resurrected on the third day. Why don’t you open your phone to this Bible app and let’s read some verses so you can better understand what we’re talking about.”

1 Corinthians 2:1-2   

“When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.” NLT

“Who was speaking here?” said Scott.

“That was the Apostle Paul who was a member of the Jewish religious leaders until he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. We can talk more about that later. Just know that Paul’s transformation was a big deal since he had been arresting and killing followers of Christ.”

“Wow. What a difference.”

“Only God could make that sort of change,” said Jake. But let’s read more.”

Romans 3:21-25   

“But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past.” NLT

Romans 5:1-8   

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” NLT

“Scott, faith in Christ is simple, but also challenging. Let’s read a couple of verses in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus makes a promise to one of the criminals beside Him: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. And Jesus replied, I assure you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:42-43 NLT

Jake said no more. They sipped their coffee. Scott was considering what he’d just learned and how it applied to him. “I have a sense this kind of decision to follow Christ would be a life-changer!”

“Sure would. Without bowing our heads or anything, let me pray with you, Scott. Just a simple prayer. Who knows, Life as you know it may be changing soon.” They prayed.

Our Only Hope

April 10, 2021

“Be glad for all that God is planning for you” ~Romans 12:12

Our only hope refers to the Bible as it pertains to our daily lives. We have no other hope powerful enough to stand against all the challenges and evils of this world. God’s grace and mercy, flowing down from Calvary’s cross washes us whiter than snow and gives us the answers to all the problems we encounter here on earth. 

1 Thessalonians 5:9-10  “For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever.”

Leaps off the page doesn’t it? “God chose to save us!” What more can we ask for? The next time you open the Bible, take your time without regard to how many chapters or pages you read. Savor God’s Word. Allow His truth to wash over you. Personalize it. For instance, “Christ died for ME!”

We are reminded in Romans 5:4 that when we run into problems and trials, they develop endurance, strength of character and, ultimately, hope. This hope will not lead to disappointment! 

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance” (see also James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7).

When our lives seem dismal and futile, where do we turn? Where can we find answers? Call the pastor? Perhaps. Call a friend or elder? Of course. But…any answer that is capable of changing our lives and giving us the hope we need is found in the Bible.  

God’s word, given to us by Him to encourage, build-up, strengthen, guide, heal, change and provide light at the end of those dark tunnels, is filled with powerful parables, stories, and sentences designed to rescue us from this dark world and its attacks. 

Sentence after sentence, tucked into the pages of our Bible jump out and grab us with answers directly from the mouth of our Creator. For instance, “Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins.” (Romans 3:24) 

Perhaps you’ve been a Christian for several years and still struggle with things and find yourself giving up, feeling discouraged or confused, wondering why your life seems without power or the touch of God. Do you read the Bible? And after reading it, do you believe it? In spite of all the troubles and problems around you, do you really believe God’s word? Sometimes we allow the problems of life to diffuse the power of His word in our lives. 

Just when we think it is all a mess, we find a verse as in Philippians 2:13 that says: “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and power to do what pleases Him.” This is a fact! God is working in us…”He will never leave or forsake us” (Hebrews 13:5). Believe it and act on it. 

Almighty God wants to remind us of who we are in Christ; encourage our hearts with His word, show us His will for our lives, reveal the strong foundation on which to build our lives, clarify how to live a Christian life in the midst of our world and fill our hearts with His unshakeable truth.  

1 Thessalonians 5:18  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Jesus Heals a Sick Boy!

March 20, 2021

“Jesus took hold of the boy’s hand and helped him stand up” ~Mark 9:27

If you’ve ever been baffled and/or challenged by a section of Scripture regarding what Jesus said and meant, this is probably one of those. His reaction to a father’s request to heal his son and rebuking his disciples gives us pause to consider the meaning. The section follows:

Mark 9:14-29 – 14-15 Then as they rejoined the other disciples, they saw that they were surrounded by a large crowd, and that some of the scribes were arguing with them. As soon as the people saw Jesus, they ran forward excitedly to welcome him.

16 “What is the trouble?” Jesus asked them. 17-18 A man from the crowd answered, “Master, I brought my son to you because he has a dumb spirit. Wherever he is, it gets hold of him, throws him down on the ground and there he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth. It’s simply wearing him out. I did speak to your disciples to get them to drive it out, but they hadn’t the power to do it.”

19 Jesus answered them, “Oh, what a faithless people you are! How long must I be with you, how long must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.”

20 So they brought the boy to him, and as soon as the spirit saw Jesus, it convulsed the boy, who fell to the ground and writhed there, foaming at the mouth.

21 “How long has he been like this?” Jesus asked the father.

22 “Ever since he was a child,” he replied. “Again and again it has thrown him into the fire or into water to finish him off. But if you can do anything, please take pity on us and help us.”

23 “If you can do anything!” retorted Jesus. “Everything is possible to the man who believes.”

24 “I do believe,” the boy’s father burst out. “Help me to believe more!”

25 When Jesus noticed that a crowd was rapidly gathering, he spoke sharply to the evil spirit, with the words, “I command you, deaf and dumb spirit, come out of this boy, and never go into him again!”

26 The spirit gave a loud scream and after a dreadful convulsion left him. The boy lay there like a corpse, so that most of the bystanders said, “He is dead.”

27-28 But Jesus grasped his hands and lifted him up, and then he stood on his own feet. When he had gone home, Jesus’ disciples asked him privately, “Why were we unable to drive it out?”

29 “Nothing can drive out this kind of thing except prayer,” replied Jesus. J.B. Phillips Translation

Imagine the surprise at Jesus’ response to the father’s description of what happened, or rather, didn’t happen. The desperate man, anxious to see his only son healed, is instead rebuked by the Lord. First he is frustrated and disappointed with the disciples’ inability to cast out the demon and then, when Jesus appears He rebukes everyone for a lack of faith. Can anyone cast out this demon? Finally, he thinks, Jesus will restore my son to a normal life. 

Not quite yet! Even though the boy thrashes about when he’s brought to Jesus, He asks the father questions instead of simply casting out the demon. Imagine the scene as Jesus and the father talk about frequency and how long this has been going on while the boy is convulsing nearby. Finally the father begs the Lord to heal his son.

Then Jesus challenges the father with, “If you can do anything? Everything is possible to the man who believes.” And since this is real life instead of a movie script, the father candidly, probably with tears, laments, “I do believe. Help me to believe more.” Jesus grants that request and heals his son. But did he?

Instead of rising up, after a piercing, demonic last ditch scream, the boy lay as dead. All who witnessed this exclaimed, “He is dead!” Not so. Jesus took his hands and raised him up into his father’s grateful arms.

The thoroughly confused disciples then took Jesus away from the crowd and asked, “Why were we unable to drive [the demon] out?” These were men of faith and action, who had seen and done miracles. Why were we so powerless, they wondered. What is the secret? In keeping with our Lord’s mysterious answers, He simply says, “Nothing can drive out this kind of thing except prayer!”

If you are like me, you vow to ask God to help you to believe more and pray more.

Baptism

“Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” ~Acts 2:38

Paul was in a small church conveniently located three blocks from his apartment. In his youth he had attended a Baptist church with his family. Although he enjoyed his experience, he was never “saved”, which meant being born again. Born again is an experience where a person believes that Jesus Christ died on the cross for his sins and was raised from death on the third day. Paul was 14-years-old at the time of his confession of faith (he made this out of a sense of obligation, not really from his heart). However, once in college, his mostly worldly wise and faithless professors chipped away at his faith which was fading into the background anyway since he didn’t bother to find a church or Christian study group, even though there were an abundance of such groups.

But now, it was different, college was long gone and Paul felt it was necessary for a true confession of faith, time to share a belief in the Savior.

At the next mid-week service, Paul stood and professed his desire to “be saved”. Friends gathered around, laid hands on Paul and supported his prayer of faith joyously. Lots of hallelujahs followed.

A week later, Pastor Sam called to set an appointment with Paul to discuss baptism. “I want to discuss being baptized, Paul. What are your plans for that?”

“My plans? I want to be baptized soon, just like it says in the New Testament.”

“Well, you have to attend our baptism class first, Paul, and then we can schedule a time when we have at least five people wanting baptism.”

“How long will that take?”

“Oh not long. No longer than, say, six months.”

“Six months? I want to be baptized right away. I want people to see my confession of faith just like in the New Testament.”

“Well, maybe we can shorten the wait time, but the class is mandatory.”

“What’s the class for, pastor?”

“To make certain you know what you are doing and that you make a full confession of faith in the Lord.”

“But I just did that last week in the service. You were there.”

“Well, you know, Paul, it’s part of the deal here, just like in the churches I’ve attended in my life. Baptism class is necessary.”

“Pastor, you know more about the Bible than I do and you know there are verses that talk about people being baptized right after they confess their faith. Look at Acts 2:38, “Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

“Later in verse 41 we see the incredible baptism of 3,000 souls: “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”

“And here in Acts 8:12, “When they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.”

“Pastor, I’ve allowed myself to sink into a mediocre faith in Christ, hanging onto some tepid version of following my Savior. I am tired of that lifestyle. I want to be obedient and effective for the Lord. I need to follow Him in being baptized so the world can see where my heart is. Please let me be baptized. I’ll gladly go to a river or lake or someone’s pool, pastor.”

Tears welled in Pastor Sam’s eyes as he realized that he, too, had become mediocre in his walk of faith. Rather than “devoting himself to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers,” (Acts 2:42), he had become self-obsessed, more concerned with personal comforts and accolades from his small congregation. The Holy Spirit was pricking his heart through young Paul whose desire to follow the Lord burned brighter than his own.

The words found in Revelation 2:4-5 stung Sam’s repentant heart: “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.”

“Well, my dear fellow,” said Sam, “let’s get you baptized. How about me making a few calls to see if there are others who want to have the mighty experience of baptism as well. Phil Williams has a very nice pool that would work just fine.”

Contented

“And My people will be satisfied with My goodness.” Jeremiah 31:14 

A synonym for contented is satisfied. And God has made us fully satisfied because of our relationship with Christ. Since that is so, when I become discontent or dissatisfied, I am actually saying God’s hand in my life is not sufficient to keep me contented. Which brings me to the unhappy conclusion that I am tearing at the fabric of my eternal relationship with my Lord and Savior. Rather than immersing myself in His Word and bathing myself in true contentment and satisfaction, I have turned to my own selfish desires where I find, not surprisingly, discontentment. Lord Jesus, forgive my shallow desires and bathe me in your everlasting Word. 

2 Corinthians 12:10  “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  

Romans 5:1-5  “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Also through Him, we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, 4 endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. 5 This hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  

Philippians 4:11  “I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”  

2 Corinthians 9:8  “And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.”

1 Timothy 6:6-8  “Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. 7 After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. 8 So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.”

Hebrews 13:5-6  “Your life should be free from the love of money. Be content with what you have, for He Himself has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you. 6 This is why we can confidently say, The Lord is my helper, and I won’t be afraid. What can people do to me?”  

Proverbs 30:7-9  “O God, I beg two favors from you; let me have them before I die. 8 First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! 

    Give me just enough to satisfy my needs 9 For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name. 

What now? We are laid bare before God, our excuses piled high like cord wood, waiting for a heavenly match to set them afire, burning away the impurities with only glowing hot embers of faith and contentment in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ remaining.  

Oh God, thank you for your eternal patience, grace and mercy. We see your light of hope gleaming brightly just over the horizon, beckoning us ever nearer to walk along this life-path, hand-in-hand. 

“But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sins.”  1 John 1:7 

Reject Fear!

Again and again Jesus stated that fear is the enemy of life. “Don’t be afraid; just believe” (Luke 8:50). “Do not be afraid little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Matthew 14:27). Fear breeds a deadening caution, a holding back, a stagnant waiting until people  no longer can recall what they are waiting for or saving themselves for. When we fear failure more than we love life, when we are dominated by thoughts of what we might have been rather than by thoughts of what we might become, when we are haunted by the disparity between our ideal self and our real self, when we are tormented by guilt, shame, remorse, and self-condemnation, we deny our faith in the God of love. When God calls us to break camp, abandon the comfort and security of the status quo, and embark in perilous freedom on the journey to a new Canaan, and we procrastinate out of fear, this represents not only a decision to remain in Haran, but also a lack of trust. 

 From the book, The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning, page 20

WDJS

“But I tell you this: Love your enemies” ~Matthew 5:44

In the 1990’s a youth leader in Michigan began a movement which took hold and spread worldwide. Before long millions of people, young and not-so-young wore bracelets, pins, T-shirts and wrote with pens as they drank from coffee cups all bearing the initials, WWJD which is an acronym for, What Would Jesus Do? The original idea was to cause people to think of their actions throughout their days and nights, based on this slogan. Since Jesus did what His Father told Him in all circumstances, we may see WWJD as a daunting, formidable task for us mortals.

Perhaps another acronym may prove more beneficial to all followers of
Christ: WDJS which stands for: What Did Jesus Say? Rather than attempting to decide what Jesus would do, we can see what He actually said in the Bible. Memorizing the Lord’s statements should act as a key to our choices in life. If you are new to the Bible, look for a version which states it is a Red Letter Edition wherein all the words of Christ are printed in red! 

Matthew 6:14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Mark 8:34 “Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.”

John 14:6 “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

John 14:27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” 

Matthew 20:18-19 “Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die. Then they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised from the dead.”

Luke 6:27-30 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back.”

Romans 12:1-2 “So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.”

Romans 14:1 “Accept other believers who are weak in the faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.”

Left to our own ideas we cannot tell if the light at the end of the tunnel is God’s provision or Satan’s imitation. However if we choose to read and re-read the Biblical accounts of Jesus’ conversations (WDJS), we will always be prepared for the challenges of life. And for those times of poor choices, we will see the forgiveness of Christ as well.

Bunnies and Eggs?

Dean, Cole and Brad were having their weekly meeting at their favorite coffee shop. Brad was the coffee aficionado who seemed able to discern between every coffee variety. He only drank black coffee…very dark! For Dean and Cole, it was part friendship and part lattes. Their idea of good coffee was espresso (any variety), steamed milk and syrup. As to where coffee originated, they hadn’t the slightest idea. This week was the week before Easter Sunday.

Since Brad was an active Christian, Easter was a special time of the year. “Ok, what does Easter mean to you guys?,” he said.

“Bunnies, eggs, and delicious ham dinners,” said Cole.

“Chocolate bunnies, candy eggs, and fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy at our house,” Dean said. “As I look back on it, I think the candy part was my folks’ way of getting us to behave during that season. If we misbehaved, not so much candy.”

All three chuckled and got off on an obedience tangent for a minute. “Did either of you go to church or even hear about Jesus and the resurrection when you were kids?” asked Brad.

Both men agreed that church or mention of Jesus’ resurrection was absent from their childhood. “My aunt Ethel was a Christian I think. She always gave us Bible stuff around Easter time. One time she gave all three of us kids Bibles with our names in gold. That was cool!” said Cole. “Now that I mention it, she was always a caring, generous woman. I got into some serious trouble once when I was 17 and she bailed me out and paid my fines. She also got me a job which changed my life. Because of my Aunt Ethel, I own my furniture company. She got me a job with her brother who built furniture. That’s how it all began.”

“No church or Jesus or resurrection in my family either,” said Dean. “But my girlfriend in my senior year was a Christian and her father had a rule that anyone who dated his daughters, he had two, had to attend their church. I figured that was simple enough so every Sunday evening I went to their little church. I think that was an important step in my becoming a Christian later. I got pretty attached to the young pastor. It seemed like he could see inside my mind but he was not judgmental, he was full of love. You know, real love without conditions. Funny how I walked away from my faith over the years.”

Savoring another sip of his coffee, Brad said, “I don’t know if you guys know this or not but I never knew anything about Christ or His resurrection until I was in my twenties. We never went to church or even talked about God. Easter was like you both described, egg hunts, chocolate bunnies, candy eggs and other types of treats. We didn’t go to church first but went to my grandparents or aunt and uncle’s place for a ham dinner with all the trimmings. My grandmother, my aunt and mom all cooked the feast while we played outside. Those are good memories too.”

“That brings up a valid question then, Brad, what’s wrong with keeping those family traditions at Easter. You just admitted those are good memories and we all feel the same way. Why do Christians have to make such a big deal about this?,” said Cole.

“You make a good point, Cole. Actually, we shouldn’t make such a big deal about the normal festivities with candies and special ham dinners. We should realize that they are separate things and keep them separate. If you’re not a Christian, you aren’t interested in hearing about the resurrection of Jesus while you’re expecting family festivities; even though it is the most significant event in all of history. To unbelievers it is boring or intimidating or downright frustrating to be forced to hear about that. 

“I guess what has happened is the church has adopted easter egg hunts, chocolate bunnies as prizes and candy eggs as well. It is the church that needs to establish its priorities, not the world. Maybe the church felt like they were being left out or were taking away a treat from their members so they added “Christian” easter egg hunts with candy prizes after a sermon on the resurrection. However,  by combining the two things, the church is diluting the message of His resurrection. How can we spend an hour or more singing and preaching about the risen Lord and then follow that with an easter egg hunt? 

“Let me read from the Book of Matthew guys,” said Brad.

“Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb.

Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.

Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying.”      ~Matthew 28:1-6