Saturday, March 23, 2013
Many people look forward to spring break this time of year, especially if a vacation or special trip is being planned. How wonderful for us to have such a gracious God, who provides us with an annual springtime journey that is well planned, totally paid for, and more rewarding than any trip you'll ever take!
This special trip is a Journey with Jesus during Holy Week. It is a seven day all expenses paid trip that starts on Palm Sunday, continues through Holy Thursday and Good Friday, and culminates on Easter Sunday morning. How can you afford this epic journey? Your trip is already paid for! The One who paid your fare also made it possible for you to be included on this annual voyage of a lifetime. And there’s more! He is also your Host on this journey. He will travel with you each day to make sure you get everything promised in the journey’s package. Are you ready now to receive the details from Your gracious Host, so you can get onboard?
Welcome to the annual observance of Holy Week, brought to you by the Christian Church on earth. Your host is none other than Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the world, the Eternal Word, the Second Person of the Trinity, the one true God. This journey is one of the oldest in history, dating back nearly 2,000 years, so it is well planned and well tested. Your Host promises that this journey cannot fail - even the gates of hell cannot ruin this wonderful trip! Your fare was paid for centuries ago when Jesus Himself first went on this same journey, blazing the trail that we can now joyfully follow. From His own baptism and temptation in the wilderness, to His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, to the upper room of the last supper, to the cross, and finally to the tomb, Jesus paid the price for all of us to take this journey as well. Much of the landscape here on earth has changed, but since He has gone before us, He has made these pathways of our journey safe and secure.
He will meet you when you come onboard on Palm Sunday. He will be present in all the Divine Services this week, by the work of the Holy Spirit through the means of grace as He deepens your faith, refreshes your spirit, and guides you in the joyful obedience of discipleship. You will receive such great gifts and blessings from your Host on this journey. You will be overwhelmed at how meaningful this is for you, as you receive hope, healing, comfort, and strength in preparation for the grand finale on Easter morning.
By the end of long vacations and trips, people usually experience fatigue. On your Holy Week journey, however, you will grow stronger and be ready for the great and final climax of this experience. What special places in history we find ourselves! On Palm Sunday we are brought into ancient Jerusalem at the most festive time of Passover. Our Host hands the children palm branches to wave as we are included in the narrative of the greatest story ever told. On to Holy Thursday and Good Friday to continue the divine drama through these wonderful times and places of Holy Week, taking us on an emotional roller coaster ride, even though we already know how the journey ends at the empty tomb in victory on Easter morning!
All aboard for the journey of a lifetime!
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
All throughout the Bible, the theme of “exile” is present. The worst penalty imagined in the Old Testament is to be exiled, separated from home, under enemy rule, alienated from God. Over and over again in the Scriptures, we hear the voices of exiles.
We hear the voices of Adam and Eve, cast from the Garden because of their transgression to a life east of Eden.
We hear the voice of Cain, sentenced to wander the earth after failing to be his brother’s keeper.
We hear the voice of Joseph, sold by his brothers into slavery and exiled in Egypt.
We hear the voices of Jacob’s entire family as they are forced to resettle in Egypt, where eventually they become slaves to cruel Pharaoh.
We hear the voices of the people of Israel, wandering through the wilderness until an entire generation dies off because of their unbelief.
We hear the cries of women like Naomi, who left the land in time of famine and suffered the loss of her husband and sons.
We hear the prayers and songs of David, God’s chosen king but also the exiled king, as he dwelt among the rocks and the caves while fleeing King Saul.
We sit in silence with Elijah the prophet, who hid in the wilderness from King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, alone by the brook, fed by ravens.
We watch in horror as the Assyrians conquer and scatter the northern tribes of Israel, demolishing their kingdom and dispersing the people far and wide into foreign lands.
We lament as the Babylonians sack Jerusalem, plunder and destroy the Temple, and then take the people captive, transporting them into exile, where they hang their harps by the waters of Babylon, longing for home. "How can we sing the Lord's songs while in a foreign land?"
We rejoice when they return to the land after Cyrus’s edict. But our joy is mixed, for we remember that other nations would come in to rule over Israel. Though they had returned from geographical exile, they remained captives and slaves in their own land under enemy rule.
We pray for an end to the exile. O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion! When God restores the fortunes of his people, Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad!
This is what we do on our own Lenten journey. We recognize our own captivity and exile. We cry out for redemption and restoration. And we wait for the Lord until He comes.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Have you ever realized what a great evangelism opportunity Lent is? You've got free dinners, evening services, meaningful messages, inspiring music, Christ-centered and cross-focused themes, which all culminate in Holy Week and Easter Sunday.
What an opportunity! It’s ready made for inviting friends and family who do not know Jesus or have become disconnected from Him to come to church with you.
What an opportunity for the church to live out the fact that it's a mission outpost where Jesus gives life. Lent is a great time for our church to look for new ways of bringing the Gospel to the community. You think everyone in town belongs to a church? Don’t be fooled. Demographic studies show there is no portion of our country where church goers number more than 50% of the population.
So let's find those people and invite them to church this Lenten and Easter season. They’re all around us – at work, school, in your family. Now is the time for us to talk about what the church can do to bring people to worship during Lent and Holy Week. Now is the time for us to pray about who we can invite to come with us to church.
In the book of Acts, when Paul finishes his speech to all the Greek philosophers on Mars Hill in Athens, he tells them, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed, and of this He has given assurance to all people by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17)
That’s why Lent is an evangelism opportunity. To repent is simply to turn around – to turn away from sin to see Jesus crucified for us. It’s done by God through the power of the Holy Spirit, but He uses us to extend the invitation to others. No one is left out - no one is excluded. And there’s only one way - His name is Jesus.
He lived for us, offered Himself for us, and died for us. And now risen from the dead, He gives new life to all who believe in Him. At the end of Lent comes Easter and the hope of new life through Christ's Resurrection.
What a fantastic Easter this will be for someone you bring with you to church this Lent, for whom God’s Spirit has the opportunity to work repentance and faith in Jesus! Bring someone to church with you on your Lenten journey this year.
Monday, March 4, 2013
all children of adam and eve are sinners - romans 3
the penalty of sin is death and hell - romans 6:23
jesus christ paid the price for our sin - romans 5:8
justification is by god's grace through faith - eph 2:8-9
we can have the assurance of this gracious gift - 1 john 5