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Archive for the tag “Easter”

Zechariah 13 Commentary

The last few verses of chapter 12 showed us the sadness and repentance of God’s people over “piercing Him.” This brought His people grace. As chapter 13 opens, we see the continuation of the effects of that repentance as we move from grace into forgiveness and then justification.

Zechariah 13:1 – “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.

This chapter opens as learn that what God is about to do is both for the royal line of the house of David and for the general inhabitant of Jerusalem.

The fountain that the prophet talks about here is something that we see throughout all of Scripture. Ezekiel 36:25 comes to mind. God tells His people that He will “sprinkle them clean” from their sin.

It starts by telling us “On that day….” The day that the prophet is speaking of is the day, as we saw before, that God’s people are reborn.

Zechariah 13:2 – “And on that day, declares the Lord of hosts, I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, so that they shall be remembered no more. And also I will remove from the land the prophets and the spirit of uncleanness.

This is a literal verse. God will remove the idols and unclean spirits from the land. Idolatry was always something that led Israel astray. But now God will completely cut out the idols.

Zechariah 13:3 – And if anyone again prophesies, his father and mother who bore him will say to him, ‘You shall not live, for you speak lies in the name of the Lord.’ And his father and mother who bore him shall pierce him through when he prophesies.

Imagine being a preacher in the final days and misrepresenting the truth. The truth of God will be even more significant than the bond of parents with their children. It will be so important to represent the truth of God that if someone prophesies falsely, their own parents will pierce their side.

Zechariah 13:4 – “On that day every prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies. He will not put on a hairy cloak in order to deceive,

These prophets will be so fearful that they will not dress as a prophet. In the Old Testament, the prophets were typically dressed in a certain way. The way a prophet dressed was an outward symbol of what the prophet was choosing to live. They chose to live a life that abstained from worldly pleasures and to grieve for God’s people.

But this verse shows that those who prophecy will be scared of the ridicule of man. First, in the verse before, a false prophet would be killed by his family. Second, those who falsely prophecy for their own gain would become ashamed of their craft.

Zechariah 13:5 – but he will say, ‘I am no prophet, I am a worker of the soil, for a man sold me in my youth.’

The false prophet, ashamed, will say he is not a prophet but a farm hand.

Zechariah 13:6 – And if one asks him, ‘What are these wounds on your back?’ he will say, ‘The wounds I received in the house of my friends.’

False prophets in Zechariah’s day would injure themselves for their pagan rites. Check out Leviticus 19:28, Deuteronomy 14:1, 1 Kings 18 or Jeremiah 16 and 48. In Ahab’s court, for example, there were false prophets who would prophesy in the name of God. Those same priests, however, would also cut themselves with knives as they worshiped the Baals.

The false prophets would try to explain away their injuries by saying they received them at their friends’ places.

Zechariah 13:7 – “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me,”
declares the Lord of hosts. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones.

The sword is a symbol of judgment. In Romans 13:4, for example, it is a power that God gives to human judges and government.

This verse goes on with much more intriguing symbolism, though. The shepherd that is “standing next to me” is the Good Shepherd. This is the death that was part of God’s design to save humanity. This fits with Isaiah 53:10 in which Zechariah agrees with Isaiah that God ordained Christ’s suffering.

In Matthew 26:31, Jesus quoted this verse when He referenced the scattering of His disciples after His arrest and punishment.

Zechariah 13:8 – In the whole land, declares the Lord, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive.

Only part of God’s people will remain faithful to God until the end. These will be the ones that will be the remnant of the sheep and goats. Unfortunately this tells us that 2/3 of the world will turn away from God and only a third will be faithful.

Zechariah 13:9 – And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”

The third that remains faithful will be tested and go through tribulation. Through the tribulation the relationship will be solidified. Throughout all history, the covenant relationship between God and His people has been challenged, but God has always remained faithful to bring His people back to Him.

Zechariah 12 Commentary

It has been a while since I have posted anything on here. The virus has kept me extremely busy and I’ve spent my time focusing on being the hands and feet rather than studying the Word of God. But I’ve been granted some brief downtime and that is giving me the opportunity to exegete Zechariah 12, which is a very timely chapter based on this week being Easter.

If you are looking for a church service this weekend, our church would be more than happy to have you “join” in livestream. Go to fcbc.church to watch. We are available for watching on the following:

Good Friday at 7 PM, 4/10

Sunday Sunrise at 6:30 AM, 4/12

Sunday at 10:30 PM, 4/12

As we finish out the book of Zechariah, the final 3 chapters deal with the final oracle, or burden, that Zechariah presents. This book ends in hope as we see, over these last 3 chapters, the restoration of God’s people.

Zechariah 12:1 – The oracle of the word of the Lord concerning Israel: Thus declares the Lord, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him:

This chapter begins with an explanation that God created the heavens, the earth and man. This is being explained to show that “He who has started a good work in you will bring it to completion” (Philippians 1:6).

Some versions call this a burden, not an oracle. This burden shows that there will be some significantly bad happening before the restoration of God’s people.

Zechariah 12:2 – “Behold, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of staggering to all the surrounding peoples. The siege of Jerusalem will also be against Judah.

Whenever God says he is about to make a “cup” of something, you know God is about to bring wrath (Isaiah and Jeremiah specifically show this). The cup of staggering, or trembling as other translations have, shows that God is going to make Jerusalem something that they will covet and, yet, it will be as they are intoxicated with it.

The Muslim world desires Jerusalem. It is the third holiest of cities in the Muslim world. It is where the Dome of the Rock is. But Jerusalem will remain protected by God.

Zechariah 12:3 – On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will gather against it.

I can’t help but think about the first question I was asked when I started seminary about 10 years ago: If God is all powerful, can He create a rock that He cannot lift. While that question is circular in nature and meant to trick you into saying something you may not believe, God is pretty clear on the stone that Jerusalem will become.

This stone will be heavy. Not only can we not lift it, but anyone that tries will hurt themselves. Some translations say “all who try to lift it will be cut to pieces.” This shows that God’s hand is on Jerusalem and that anyone that comes against them will be injured.

And who wants to come against Jerusalem? The next sentence tells us that all the nations of the earth seek to destroy it.

Zechariah 12:4 – On that day, declares the Lord, I will strike every horse with panic, and its rider with madness. But for the sake of the house of Judah I will keep my eyes open, when I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness.

Horses are symbols of strength and power. In Deuteronomy 28 we find that the curses that were for Israel are now curses that will be put on Israel’s enemies.

God is telling us that He is looking out for His people.

Zechariah 12:5 – Then the clans of Judah shall say to themselves, ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem have strength through the Lord of hosts, their God.’

This is the moment that God’s people realize that He has always been for them. They see that their power comes from their God, not themselves.

Zechariah 12:6 – “On that day I will make the clans of Judah like a blazing pot in the midst of wood, like a flaming torch among sheaves. And they shall devour to the right and to the left all the surrounding peoples, while Jerusalem shall again be inhabited in its place, in Jerusalem.

God is showing us the power that He will give to His people. This power comes through God’s glory as we will see in the next verse.

Zechariah 12:7 – “And the Lord will give salvation to the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not surpass that of Judah.

It is interesting that God is saving the “tents of Judah first.” This means that God is not starting with the fortified city. He is starting with the countryside. This is being done to show God’s glory.

Zechariah 12:8 – On that day the Lord will protect the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the Lord, going before them.

1 Samuel 18 tells us that David was the greatest soldier in Israel’s history. The weakest person in Jerusalem will become like David.

And then the entire house of David will find that they have been given a supernatural, superhuman strength.

This verse makes me think of 1 Corinthians 1:25. Especially as I write this under a stay-at-home order from the government because of the virus that is plaguing the world. As a full-time ministry worker who is seen as non-essential by our government, I find that I have had to defy the orders on occasion in order to see people fed, to get groceries for people who have lost their income, or to simply take time praying with people, placing my arms around them or hands on them. In worldly terms, this is all foolish. But God’s foolishness is wiser than men.

Zechariah 12:9 – And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.

This could be the battle of Armageddon. You see throughout the Bible a lot of “seek to” phrases. In human terms, this is something that is attempted to be done but is always bent under the will of God. With God, when He seeks to do something, all His promises are “yes and amen.”

Zechariah 12:10 –  “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.

I love this verse! This verse is the story of anyone’s life who has converted to Christ. When Christ came the first time, His people didn’t recognize Him as the Messiah and they pierced Him. This time, they see the hurt they have caused Him and mourn and weep for Him.

Think of Saul on the Damascus road. This is the same effect that realization has on a person.

Zechariah 12:11 – On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.

King Josiah was killed in Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. It was the death of Josiah that was the last straw before Judah had lost hope.

Zechariah 12:12 – The land shall mourn, each family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves;

Verses 12 through 14 show the impact on both the royal (house of David & Nathan) and priestly (house of Levi and Shimei). In verse 12 we see the entire land mourning. Not just the seats of power, but all of God’s people.

Men and women will mourn separately as is the tradition of the Jews in public worship.

Zechariah 12:13 – the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself, and their wives by themselves;

Both the royal and priestly lines are the ones leading the mourning. In the past, both lines were corrupted and led Israel in evil deeds. They will be leading the nation in repentance.

Zechariah 12:14 – and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves.

The entire nation will be reborn in a single moment. Think of Isaiah 66:8. They will all be mourning separately, overcome by the grief of killing of the Messiah the first time.

While Jews are predominantly discussed here, the Gentile can also take heed. We all share the guilt of the crucifixion. We also shall share in the salvation that comes in repentance.

We Are The Church

Ephesians 2:20-22 – Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

On Resurrection Sunday I didn’t go to my home church for service. Last year my mom passed away on Easter Sunday and this year Easter just happened to fall on her birthday. I went up to my dad’s alone and we went to his church and then went through the box of memories we had of my mom.

My dad’s church is nothing like my home church.

My home church is your typical modern non-denominational, evangelical/charismatic, thousand-person church. My dad’s church is a small Methodist church that typically has less than 25 people at it.

My home church has an amazing worship team. My dad’s church has an organist who misses a lot of notes.

My home church has 6 pastors, 7 elders, about 50 trustees, and several other people who help with the service. My dad’s church has a part-time pastor that goes to preach at another church and then comes to my dad’s church to preach.

My home church has a weekly monetary need of $33,000 to meet all of the financial needs of both the church and the missions that we support. My dad’s church has raised just shy of $11,000 in the first 3 months of this year.

My home church is continually bringing in a younger and younger crowd (and not at the detriment of the older crowd either). My dad’s church had an average age of 60+.

It was a little bit of a culture shock going to church with dad today, but not completely as I grew up in that kind of church environment.

But let me tell you something, my dad’s church has a lot of positives that my home church just doesn’t.

Hebrews 10:24-25 – And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

First, for the Sunday service, almost all of the 20-something people who attend the church are helping out in the service in some way. That is almost a 100% participation!!! My home church struggles in this area.

Next, the discipleship of people is very strong. Over a quarter of the people at my dad’s church is going through discipleship classes regularly and each of them are connected with each other and spend time with each other outside of church living life together. While they aren’t taking official classes, they are pouring into each other daily just by spending their lives intertwined.

Finally, my dad’s church had the entire congregation making a joyful noise to the Lord during the hymns. My home congregation falls short here. Yes, the first 6 rows at my home church sing out loud, but I typically sit in the back. As I look around at people the larger majority are not singing the songs. Don’t get me wrong, they like the music a lot (and so do I). But they don’t have a personal connection with the music like the old hymns did on the older generation.

After the service, the pastor of my dad’s church asked me if I would come up and give the message one weekend. In the short few moments it took me to respond, I did think about the differences between my dad’s church and my home church. But I answered with an emphatic “yes.”

I’ve thought a lot about being a pastor. I’ve been trying to apply for several pastor positions but since I don’t have the experience level or the ordination, I’ve been rejected by almost all the places I’ve applied.

And could I ever lead a United Methodist Church?

Romans 12:5 – So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Their theological differences are so far away from my home church’s views. I’ve talked to my wife about the possibility of being a UMC pastor. Or another legacy denomination. And we’ve both agreed that it would be a struggle not just for me but my wife and family to go into an environment that would be so far removed from where we are now. What would the kids be taught in youth group of Sunday School? What would the overarching theology be from the pulpit or from the denomination?

And if we look at the first century church as our example, they were completely unified and are the perfect example for us to follow.

Or were they?

All the members worked together in peace and harmony, right?

Nope.

The New Testament chronicles several dissentions and problems in the first century church. As a matter of fact, the book of James was written to help bring unity among the churches. The early church was suffering from false teachers, partiality toward those who had money, gossip, and general misunderstandings regarding faith and its application.

That’s not very different from today? What are today’s litmus tests? False teachers (especially those who preach about homosexuality and gender issues). Partiality toward those who have money (or who claim to be conservative, right-wing politically). General misunderstandings regarding the faith (which version of the Bible to use, how to translate the end-times prophecies, and general church polity being used as a condition of faith).

Ephesians 2:19-22 – So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

I am not going to say that I am becoming more liberal in my beliefs. Paul was never wishy washy about where he stood. I still hold my same beliefs that I ever have in believing that the Bible calls homosexuality and abortion sin. But I also need to line that up with the Bible’s call for unity, even in a church that was as corrupt as the Corinthian church where Paul STILL called them saints!

I know many groups, both liberal and conservative, have worked together to build bridges between those who call themselves Christian. Ecumenical groups abound in this day and age. Some are worthy, others I call into question. I am a member of the Manhattan Declaration, for example. I signed it. It is an ecumenical declaration between Evangelical, orthodox, Catholic, and even some legacy denominations. It believes that every life has dignity, that marriage is between one man and one woman, and religious liberty is a right of all human beings. It is clearly made up of groups of people in which I disagree with their theological beliefs.

But we have unified to get an important message out that strikes at the core of the gospel message, that we are all created in God’s image.

So just how can groups that varied theological beliefs come together?

I don’t completely have that answer.

I know the answer is held somewhere in the gospel message. That is one thing that all foundational Christian denominations believe, that God formed us in His image, that we fell through sin, that we are in need of a Savior, that Jesus Christ is that Savior, and that Jesus died and rose again and will one day come again to save His church.

The answer is in there.

Acts 28:31 – Proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

But where?

Can it be enough that Christians come together to spread the gospel message? Can that be enough?

The disciples, once Jesus was taken up in the cloud from them, ran beck to Jerusalem and spread the message about the Kingdom of God. Paul, Peter, Phillip and especially Jesus all preached and teached the Kingdom.

The problem today is not a church that believes one theology over another.

The problem today is that the church doesn’t even know what the Kingdom of God is!

If we could unify under that alone we would be a much stronger church! We wouldn’t focus on what makes us different but what makes us the same! We wouldn’t have time to fight among each other over scraps but we would be out there on the front lines taking entire cities in the name of Christ and fighting against the real enemy, Satan.

So let’s learn about the Kingdom of God. Let’s try to understand its implication on our lives and how we should live and act as a Christian people.

Then….

Let’s get out there and help the world to seek FIRST the Kingdom of God.

Matthew 6:33 – But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

The Altar is Empty

As we come up to Resurrection Sunday I can’t help but think about the amazing truth that the tomb was empty.

That fact alone makes me continually think about my words, actions, and behaviors to see if I am living a life that would bring honor to the simple message that the tomb is empty. But as I look around my church on any given Sunday I find that not only is the tomb empty, but the altar is empty as well.

Every Sunday we give people the opportunity to come up and pray with an elder or prayer worker. The impetus is the call to accept Christ.

Typical routine: Songs, announcements, tithe, sermon, sinner’s prayer, altar call.

The altar call is for both the saved and the unsaved. This past week my pastor preached on a topic that should have had Christians from all walks of life coming to the altar to pour themselves out before God. Unfortunately, other than the typical people who come up almost every Sunday, we had very few people come forward.

I have always debated the use of sinner’s prayer/altar call. There are times I think it is “easy believism.”

Are you going through a tough time? Come leave it at the altar, God will fix it. Just not always in the way we expect.

The part that is sorely missing in the sinner’s prayer/altar call is the follow up to walk through life with the person. And this isn’t only at my church. This is happening in churches all across America.

Our church was blessed with over 70 people giving their lives to the Lord last year and over 60 getting baptized. That is almost as much as the average Christian church has in attendance on any given Sunday!

But is it enough? And, Christians, why are you not pouring your heart out before God when given the opportunity?!?

While the altar call is not really found in the Bible, there are some examples that show that an altar call is biblical. For example, Jesus publicly asked the disciples to follow Him immediately. And they did.

Later in the book of Matthew, we are told a new believer must acknowledge Christ “before men.”

We also see that when Peter gave his first sermon that thousands came to the Lord that day, which can denote some sort of altar call.

The danger comes in whether, especially with conversions, those conversions were real. Romans 10:9 explains that believing in your heart comes first, followed by a verbal confession. It is dangerous just to think that someone calls out to the Lord for saving that they are saved. Just look at Matthew 7:22.

Matthew 7:22 –On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’

True salvation leads to continual sanctification as the fruit of the Spirit buds and grows inside the new believer. If there is no fruit, then there is no repentance.

But what about for the believer?

Every Sunday there are elders and prayer workers up front waiting for people to pray with. Why won’t people come forward?

We are called to leave our burdens at Jesus’ feet.

Without having a physical Jesus to do that with, we typically lay our burden at His feet through prayer.

This is very similar to what Hannah did in 1 & 2 Samuel.

1 Samuel 1:15 – But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD.

Hannah poured herself out before God.

I imagine a pitcher of water.

The water are the burdens in our life, which is the pitcher. Think of how heavy that pitcher becomes when the burdens begin to fill the pitcher.

Then the altar call comes.

You sit in your seat, wondering when the service will be over so you can be first in the drive thru line at the fast food place. Meanwhile, all those burdens, and your already half-full pitcher, goes into next week where more burdens fill you up.

The next week you think that you have had enough, so you go to the altar and pray with an elder or prayer warrior.

But you don’t want to give it all out.

So you pour a little of the pitcher out at the feet of God.

You walk out of church feeling a little lighter, but still full from the previous weeks.

The next week comes and your burdens take you to the brink. You go into church on Sunday morning and just can’t even bring yourself to worship. You stand there while the music plays, staring blankly at the band. Then during prayer your mind is wandering across everything you have to accomplish. During the sermon you are making plans for the rest of the day and possibly the week.

Then the altar call comes.

You have a choice.

You can go down and unload. That would be doing what Hannah did by emptying herself before God. That will help give you clarity and direction throughout the upcoming week but realize that your pitcher will start accumulating water again.

Or, you could go down an release just enough burden to lighten your load a little, knowing that you will overflow with burdens the coming week.

But you have another choice.

You could go to the altar every Sunday and pour out your burdens before God every single Sunday. Going into a new week with an empty pitcher helps us to maintain sanity, but it keeps our perspective on the One who can remove our burdens completely.

So, this Sunday don’t let the altar be empty. Let’s always remember the tomb is empty, but the altar is filled with people who desire to pray with you and help you pour yourself out before God.

#TheGraveIsEmpty

I am writing this on Easter evening, or, as Christians like to call it, Resurrection Sunday.

Today we had a plan in place. I planned on waking up, going to a sunrise service of a new church in my area and then gathering the entire family together and heading up to PA to spend the day with my parents. If you read a previous blog post of mine, you will know that my mom has stage IV cancer and we don’t really have a lot of time with her.

Well, this morning the call came.

“Fred, get up here. Leave the kids home, come to PA. Your mom doesn’t have long left.”

My heart sank. I immediately changed all the plans and started driving north.

The plan was to move her to a hospice facility where she could finish up her final hours without pain. She was breathing very shallow and, in between each breath, was moaning in pain. When I got here, I was told by my dad that the ambulance to transport her was about an hour out.

I sat down at mum’s bedside and prayed with her. I told her to simply let God have control and stop trying to take that control away from Him. Let Him heal her, whether that be through a miraculous healing of the cancer or through ending her pain through taking her home.

I went to the place we were ordering Easter meal from to pay for it and have them donate it to a local church. After I returned I went back in to check on mum. I told her I loved her.

When I walked in the door I heard the moaning and breaths, but a few moments after walking out of the room, I didn’t hear it anymore. I asked pap and he said that she occasionally does that. This time I went back in and noticed her eyes partially opened. She wasn’t breathing.

I called to pap and he checked her. We were pretty sure she had gone home to her Creator.

We called the hospice nurse. She cancelled the ambulance and came right over and pronounced her dead at 11:45 AM.

My mom knew. She didn’t want to end her days in the hospice facility. She told us that a few weeks ago when she was in the hospital. She wanted to end her days surrounded by me and pap in her own home.

And that is how she died.

The rest of the day has been a blur. We spent time with the funeral home getting her moved and planning the viewing. We went to eat a local diner that was open today (that was such a blessing!). Then back home to go through all the old pictures and reminisce about mum and how much she meant to us.

We are having a viewing on Wednesday and then immediate cremation.

Why no funeral?

Because the grave is empty!

When mum passed through the wildwood into the place where dreams come true, she ceased to be mum and simply became a body. The essence of mum is found in the Spirit that inhabited her.

Mum loved God and people. She had a servant’s heart. As a matter of fact, she had the Servant’s heart. She had the heart of God.

So now it is Easter eve. Pap finally fell asleep. The house is quiet. The only noise I hear is the droning of the ceiling fan above and the tapping of the keys on my keyboard.

I am sitting her thanking God for taking her so quickly so she didn’t suffer too long. I am thanking Him for the opportunity to tell her I loved her before she passed from somewhere into elsewhere.

The truth about Easter is just what happened today.

The grave is empty.

Mum will not be in a grave because there is no reason for it.

Christ burst from the grave. He proclaimed to the world His return.

He gave the disciples a mission to accomplish.

Jesus’ final 40 days on earth, after exiting the grave, dealt with sharing the Kingdom of God with everyone.

There is a reason to celebrate Resurrection Sunday. Just like there is a reason to celebrate my mum’s life with my pap through the old pictures.

The reason is simple.

Power.

The power of the Holy Spirit is freely given after bursting from the grave. The power for my mum to live on through my actions and words is amplified after her death. How much more will I look at how I deal with people after seeing my mom live it.

How much more do I want to proclaim the Kingdom of God now that Christ has given us this mandate after leaving the grave.

So, what will I proclaim on the day after Easter?

I will proclaim the Servant’s heart of my mom. She embedded that in me through her gracious living. And I will take that lesson and translate it to my Christian theology and proclaim the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God places Jesus on the throne. Entrance to the kingdom requires new birth (John 3:5), repentance (Matthew 3:2), and the divine call (1 Thessalonians 2:12). Jesus calls us to seek the Kingdom of God first (Matthew 6:33) and pray for it to come (Matthew 6:10). It is joy in the Holy Spirit, righteousness, and peace (Romans 14:7).

So again, I sit here in the quiet of the night.

Thinking about how to live out my mom’s servant heart and how to proclaim the Kingdom of God through all I do.

Tomorrow is a new day. A new day to celebrate the two people I love dearly who have burst from the grave, Jesus and my mom.

The Hate in your Heart you’re Hiding Well, but the Booze on your Breath is Easy to Smell

If you look online, like I prefer to do, and go to that wonderful search engine Google and type in “list of sins in the Bible,” you will get an amazing list of websites that tackle the sin problem. My favorite link to click was “40 sins that can send you to hell.” I laugh at that one because I hate to tell you, but without Jesus, ANY sin will send you to hell. I clicked another and it said that using terms like “Oh my gosh” or “geez” is sinful because it is simply another way of taking the Lord’s name in vain. If that is the case, then oh my gosh am I in trouble.

There are sins that are easy sins for the church to tackle. Those are the sins of alcoholism, drug abuse, infidelity, and many others. While for the person going through the problem feels like the world is crashing down around them, the church has a solution. We have Jesus. We set up a program around a Jesus-centered approach and tackle the problem head on.

But then there are other sins. These sins are much harder to quantify. They don’t readily show their head. They may come out only when backed into a corner (like I had happen to me recently…forgive me Mimi). These are sins like greed, misplaced anger, lust, hatred, pride, laziness, etc…. Those are sins that are not so easy to tackle.

I am going to stick with a topic that I have covered a lot lately, homosexuality. I bring it up a lot because of my late brother being gay and the fact that it has turned into the litmus test of the 21st century to tell if people are Christian or not.

Now I am not going to water this down. Homosexuality is a sin. It is a choice you make. But that does not preclude you from getting into heaven. How often do we see the televangelist screaming out or the Westboro Baptist church types screaming out in hatred that “God hates fags?” Sorry, but I have no hell to give you. That is simply between you and God.

Here is how I see it though. With this or any sin, if you want to come and stand beside me in worship, I would love to join with you in praising God. If you are gay and ask me to marry you I will tell you I cannot because of what my Bible says about the sin of homosexuality. But I am never going to dissociate from you. If anything I will spend more time with you. No, not hitting you over the head with Leviticus, but simply showing you that Christians can love.

Many people who are stuck in sin are actually hated by those who claim Christ. It is a very fine line to have your beliefs and share them with people and to be homophobic (or hate the sex offender or the wife beater or the….). If we are attacking the person and arguing just to be heard and win the argument, then we are struggling with one of those sins that are much harder to quantify. It is very easy for us to mask our hatred in Christianese.

The litmus test should not be whether a person is gay, drunk, drugged, or anything. The litmus test should be the Gospel of Christ.

Yes, living the Christian life, I truly believe, will lead to people changing their ways. And yes, I truly believe that those who are gay will make the choice to swing the pendulum the other direction (so to speak) when they realize that Jesus’ love is more than any man or woman can provide. But it should not be up to us to change any person through our actions. God has given us freedom. We can share Him and His Gospel, but if a person chooses to reject it, that is on them, not us. It is not up to us to change them. The person can only change themselves, and that is only if they truly want to change.

So whether you are battling an “easy” sin or a “tough” sin, know that Christ is right there.

We just celebrated Easter, a 3-day holiday that is all about what Christ did for our sins. It started with Good Friday, when Christ was crucified. He conquered death by dying on the cross. Sure, He could have pulled Himself off of it. But He chose to die a sinner’s death. If He would not have taken all our sins and died, then there would be no remission of sin.

Then comes Sunday where we celebrate resurrection Sunday. This is the day that Christ shows His victory over death and hell. The action was completed on Friday but the celebration happened on Sunday.

So I will ask you. Have you been hurt? Perhaps it was someone who claimed Christ as their Savior. Perhaps it wasn’t. It could be something you did to yourself like drug or alcohol addiction or maybe it was something someone did to you to cause you to harden your heart, such as rape or abuse. Regardless, Christ has died and rose again for your sins. He died for your hurt and pain. If you simply reach out to Christ, you will find that your Savior will come. He will listen. He will heal. He will call you friend and family.

I would love to hear if you have reached out to Christ. Please comment or send me an email to fred.noble777@gmail.com. I would love to get in touch with you and help you on your journey.

So What Happens on Monday?

John 16:7 – But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

Jesus is dead.

The disciples are scattered.

Fear has gripped everyone.

And then Jesus bursts from the grave, destroying the chains that fear and death have had on His followers.

It is the day after the resurrection, so now what?

Acts 1:8 – But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

POWER!

Once the power of the Holy Spirit came, the disciples went.  They went to all the areas of the world and made disciples.  They went and planted churches.  They baptized people.  Christianity grew quickly.  People were on fire!

When we embrace what Easter is truly about (no, not bunnies and chocolate), we can’t help but realize that after Jesus claimed His rightful throne in heaven that we have been given a mandate.  This mandate is just like a military command, but a military command that involves no more blood to be shed.  The blood was shed on the cross.  Christ took the one and only death needed to claim victory in this war.

Matthew 28:18-2018 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

This military mandate is to simply “GO.”

This isn’t a suggestion.  In the original documents, it says, “having gone, therefore, make disciples.”  This must be interpreted as having imperative force.  When a participle, such as the Greek word, πορευθέντες, functions as a circumstantial participle dependent upon an imperative, it gains imperative force.

Just imagine the disciples’ excitement when they heard this!

So, Christian, GO and get that POWER that CHRIST has GIVEN us!  And then GO and MAKE disciples, BAPTIZING them in the name of the FATHER, the SON, and the HOLY SPIRIT.

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