Happy Easter! What a wonderful time to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus. I am reminded of what a big deal this is. For those of us that follow Jesus, we do so not because we want to follow a set of religious rules or obligations. We are not trying to earn our way to some type of eternal reward. We do not even believe what we believe because the Bible tells us to. We are Christ followers because of an event in history. Jesus came and lived in 1st century Palestine. He interacted with people, he taught, he lived and most importantly, he predicted his death and resurrection and then pulled it off!
I heard someone say recently that when Jesus died, he had NO followers. They all fled, mourned and went back to their old lives. No one believed that Jesus was the Messiah after he breathed his last on the cross. It was over.
That all changed on Sunday morning. When Jesus came back to life, the people around him were changed completely. Jesus was really who he said he was. By being raised from the dead, he changed everything. This single, monumental event is the hinge on which everything we believe and do rests. Paul said it this way: “13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” He goes on to say that “17 if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15) If Jesus was not resurrected, then our faith is dead and we should turn our energy to other things. BUT . . . if he did rise from the dead (and the evidence overwhelmingly supports this event) then following him is the single more important activity that we are engaged in. So be encouraged this week. We follow a risen Savior!
With the Super Bowl win of the Eagles last night, it would strange to write a blog and not mention it. Although I am personally not an Eagles fan, it is delightful to see how much my friends are enjoying this long-awaited championship. Despite all the press, Philadelphia fans (particularly for the Eagles) are a passionate group when it comes to their team.
As I consider it, I think the desire to celebrate is wired into us. When good things happen, we naturally feel better. When our dreams and aspirations come true, we love it. There is something inside us that has to come out. There is a reason there were fireworks going off and people yelling outside my house at 10:30 last night! There is a desire to celebrate and to share that celebration with others.
I have lived in this area for over 20 years and have seen the pain and angst as the Eagles lost, sometimes in gut wrenching fashion, year after year. There was a sense of hope unfilled that has now been satisfied. But for a long time, some of my friends just stopped cheering. They stopped investing themselves in the team because they did not want to be disappointed again. Some others were cautiously hopeful, but just didn’t want to let themselves get too excited.
I am left wondering if that is too often my approach with God. I celebrate too rarely. I expect too little. I don’t want to be disappointed again, or not have my hopes met. I’d rather stay reserved then risk all that.
But those that follow Jesus are to be joyful, celebrating people. That’s because unlike much of life, our circumstances do not dictate our joy. We can have it no matter what because of the God who loves us and gave us life. So, Eagles fans, enjoy and celebrate. Let it remind you of your ability to be a celebrating person.
Obviously it's the new year and you would expect a blog about looking forward. Maybe remembering last year and making goals for 2018. Perhaps setting up how to have a successful year. None of those are bad, but my friend pointed out a Scripture passage that really resonated with me in light of the new year.
The passage is in the book of Ezra, which is the account of how the Israelites came back from being captive in Babylon. There home city of Jerusalem had been decimated and the center of their worship had been destroyed when they had been conquered decades earlier. Now they were coming back and rebuilding. One of the things they were rebuilding was the temple. They began the work and in Ezra 3 it is recorded how they finished the foundation. They had built / repaired the foundation to set up the rest of the work. It was amazing. It was exciting. God seemed to be finally relenting from punishing his people and he was moving positively instead. It was the first step to re-establishing worship in Jerusalem. It was so exciting, that we read how they celebrated. "10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the LORD, as prescribed by David king of Israel. 11 With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD: “He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.” And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid."
It was a big deal. It sounds like a great party. But what is striking is the verse that immediately follows. "12 But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy." Those who were older. The ones who remembered what it had been like before. The people who had seen what the temple used to be like - they cried. I wonder why. It could be that they were simply overcome that God had finally seen to start the rebuilding of the temple, but that doesn't really fit. I wonder if they were seeing the difference between what was happening now and what had happened before and it was depressing. Things weren't going to be the same. It wouldn't look the same. They had lost something and it wasn't going to come back. They remembered the good ol' days. The glory days. And in doing so, they were not celebrating what God was doing right in front of them.
It seems there is a lesson in there. It can be so easy to face the new year and measure what God is doing based on what he did before. While it is important to remember, to appreciate and learn from the past, God is always up to something new. He is moving. He is not static. And it might be that the very thing that you are going to go through this year that doesn't seem quite as good as before, is actually God doing something really amazing. So know your past. Appreciate your past. Be thankful for what God has done. But keep your eyes on where he is going now. You don't want to miss it.
Weldon Lemke has been leading Hope Chapel since 2009 with a passion to see people come to know God and grow to maturity in Him.