Sometimes the same event is both bad and good

20140419-120854.jpgThe first mowing of the year occurred yesterday here at Wesley Chapel.  It was nice to have the yard mowed, but at the same time sad to see the colorful grape hyacinths and dandelions in front of the house mowed down.

That’s a parable of the mixed emotions of this Saturday.  Last night at our Good Friday worship it was certainly sad to think about Jesus’ suffering and His crucifixion.  And it’s sad to think that today was the day the world thought Jesus was dead forever.  Yet at the same time, it’s the best news available to a world of sinners – that while Jesus was dead for a moment in time, He was not dead forever.  Tomorrow we will celebrate His resurrection.  And for those who repent, believe, and receive – we will celebrate our own rebirth.

And every time I see dandelions come back this year, I’ll be thankful for Jesus’ death and resurrection.  And I have a feeling they’ll be back.

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In spite of how it looks

Today is Good Friday.  It’s the day that Jesus was crucified on the cross.

Paul Louis Metzger in his commentary on the Gospel of John says,

One should get the impression that God is conspiring against the conspirators, from Satan to the Sanhedrin. For all their scheming, God is writing the script, not them. Even though everything seems to be unraveling for Jesus and His mission, God has everything under control. So one should get the idea that things aren’t going to turn out the way the conspirators expect.”

God is writing the script. To most, having a parade with people waving palms, looks like victory and dying on the cross looks like defeat.

Jesus riding into town in a parade, with everyone cheering does nothing to save me from my sins. Jesus dying on the cross takes away my sin, Jesus rising from the grave gives me victory. Little do they realize at the time, that the triumphal entry is not Jesus’ victory march. The cross is Jesus’ victory march, the cross is MY victory march. Yet we want it both ways – we want to claim the victory through the cross, but we want the benefits and adulation that comes with the parade.

What we know as believers is that God is always at work for good.  In spite of how things appear, even when God allows Satan to work, Satan in not in control.  God is not waiting to see what Satan is going to do.  Sometimes, like from the cross to the grave to the empty tomb in a few short days, we are blessed to see what good God brought from the bad.  Other times in our lives, we won’t see the good that came from the bad as long as we’re on this side of heaven.  But when we believe that God is at work for His good and that is ultimately good for us as His children, even things that seem to be sure defeat turns out to be victory in God’s Kingdom.

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Surprise me

Have you ever heard someone say, “Surprise me”?  I remember a time or two in days gone by when someone would walk up to the window of the ice cream shop and tell me they wanted a milkshake.  I naturally asked what flavor (we had 60 or so counting all the candies).  And they would say, “Surprise me”.  I doubt that I ever made them vanilla or chocolate.  Looking back, that would have probably been the biggest surprise I could have sprung on them.  With 60 flavors and expecting something exotic or fruity like Orange-Pineapple-Coconut and to get a spoonful of vanilla… Wow – I never expected that!

Easter Sunday is four days away and pastors, secretaries, administrative assistants, bands, singers, actors, and technology geeks are getting ready for Easter worship.  They’re doing bulletins, getting the computers ready to project the videos and songs, practicing their lines, hitting their notes, and practicing their sermons.

Here at Wesley Chapel we have a community sunrise worship at 6:30, breakfast at 7:30, and then our church has three Easter morning worships: 8:30, 9:30, and 11:00.  I know it’s critical for our 9:30 worship to be out of here by 10:30 to free up parking for the people coming for 11:00 worship.

Sometimes I wonder if everything gets so scheduled and planned out that God cannot surprise us.  What if God is going to send His Spirit to move in such a way that the 9:30 worship lasts three hours?  Would we ever allow that to happen?  Would we be willing to just tell the people coming at 11:00 to join us in the community room, that we’ve been worshipping for an hour and a half and the end is nowhere in sight?  We would never do that.  And some of the 11:00 people would have a cow.

Are we ever willing to say to God, “Surprise us!”  And I’m not just talking about Easter morning.  Are you willing to say, “Surprise me”?  If you are, God may just surprise you.

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If you’re hearing your 30th Easter Sermon

Sunday in church was Palm Sunday.  Lots of people in West Virginia churches who attended Palm Sunday worship have sat through a lot of Palm Sunday sermons.  Most of those same people will be in church this Sunday for Easter as well.  But this week we’ll have a lot of people who don’t usually go to church or who haven’t been to church in a while joining us.

As I am working on the Easter message today and as I continue work on it the rest of this week, it’s the unchurched that are on my mind.  I’ll have a relevant life changing message of the Gospel ready for them.  If you go to another church, your pastor will more than likely be preaching the same Gospel.  That will be the pastor’s job.

If you’re hearing the Easter message in church for the umpteenth time, you can help out as well.  Think about how difficult it is for a stranger to come into an unfamiliar place.  Put yourself in their shoes.  For you who are healthy enough to walk, park as far away from the church as you can.  Don’t show up early to get your seat.  Show up right on time so the people who don’t usually go to church can get seats together and have places to park.

And whatever you do, don’t let grandma tell a new person that they’re in her seat in the church.  ;)

 

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Things can quickly change

20140413-073241.jpgThe sun was coming through the windows in the church this morning, just as it does many mornings.  One of the windows caught my eye more than normal.  It had a crown and a cross.  It’s a reminder that things can quickly change.  Today churches all across the world will remember Jesus’ march into Jerusalem.  We in the church call it Palm Sunday.

The crowds were cheering Jesus as He entered Jerusalem.  Yet He knew the cheers would be short lived.  They would turn from cheers to jeers – jeers that would take Him to the cross.  And while that could depress us, the Good News is that just as the cheers were short lived, so was His death!

Jesus went from being hailed a King to being crucified like a criminal to rising from the dead in just about a week.  That’s a lot of twists in the storyline.  And it’s a reminder that no matter what this world brings, there’s a good ending for those who are in Christ.  And that’s one thing that will never change.

Here is a trustworthy saying:

If we died with him,

we will also live with him;

if we endure,

we will also reign with him.

If we disown him,

he will also disown us;

if we are faithless,

he remains faithful,

for he cannot disown himself.

2 Timothy 2:11-13

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Same old food and same old bread

It was sunny and 75 today.  I decided to go for a ride and do some nursing home visits.  One person was eating lunch and said, “I get so tired of this place.  Looking at the same old room and eating the same old food.”  The person held up a piece of bread and said, “Same old bread.”

I obviously have only ever seen this person in that same old room.  I don’t know what their life was like before.  I know they used to go to church at Wesley Chapel.  I told the person that I was there to let them know that the church had not forgotten about them.  They said, “Really?”  I said yes.  They asked if the church ever talked about their spouse.  I said yes.

I stayed for a long time.  I hated to leave.  When I finally said I was going to go, the person asked if I was going home.  I said yes.  But I was leaving with a greater appreciation for this season of my life.

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A moment of failure

This past Sunday in church I talked about the struggle between the Spirit and the flesh in our lives.  I said our lives should be primarily Spirit with a little flesh sprinkled in rather than look like a life of flesh with a little Spirit sprinkled in.  It’s not that we don’t wish to live lives being like Jesus, but we find our fleshly, selfish egos creeping in and not wanting to give up.

In a John MacArthur sermon this morning, he talked about moments of failure.  I wish I had used that phrase on Sunday.  MacArthur talked about Timothy, Peter, and others in the Bible who have had moments of failure.  Those moments of failure occur when we make choices listening to our human nature instead of God’s Spirit that lives within us.

What we must do when we have those moments is to see to it that it’s only a moment and not a proverbial “return to Egypt.”  We must just tell ourselves that we lost that battle in that moment, but thanks to the Holy Spirit in us and the sacrifice of Jesus for us, the war is already won.  One moment of failure does not decide it all.  Does that mean that sometimes there aren’t severe consequences for those moments?  Of course not.  But God is faithful to forgive us for every one when we repent, even if we face consequences here on earth.

It’s good news for we who face struggles in our lives that in Jesus, we are not imprisoned by, nor are our lives defined by our moments of failure.

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