Pastor's Blog

April 2018

The Abandoned Do Have Comfort

John 10:12, "The hired man, who is not a shepherd, does not own the sheep. He sees the wolf coming, leaves the sheep, and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the sheep and scatters them."

A young boy of about seven looks up and he doesn’t see his mom and dad anymore. In the middle of the mall, with people everywhere and they’re gone. They’ve left him there. He searches desperately, but they are nowhere to be found. He goes to the car, but it’s gone. He’s alone. He’s been abandoned.

It’s not far from the truth. Parents have taken advantage of laws meant to protect children abandoned at hospitals so they could get rid of a problem child. Imagine being on the receiving end of that! Imagine the ones you thought cared about you leaving you behind to hold an emotional bag of hatred, guilt, loneliness, distress. What could ever give you comfort again?

Being abandoned by the ones you thought cared about you is a terrible thing. We wouldn’t wish it on anyone. The sad truth is, when it comes to what we allow to take care of our souls, we invite it. We invite into our lives wickedness and sin that we think will make us happy; things we think will take care of us, but in the end they abandon us. These hired hands we thought would shepherd us run away and they leave us holding the bag of guilt and remorse. What could ever give us comfort?

The Shepherd’s offering. Our Savior, the Good Shepherd, rescues us from all that. He saves us by an offering of his life which gives us comfort. It comforts because he alone, amid all the hired hands of this world—he alone cares for us. We have comfort because his offering gathers us into the safety of his eternal flock. We have comfort because the Shepherd does the will of God the Father. Comfort comes to us, the ones abandoned by the hired hands of the devil. Comfort comes to us through the offering of Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd. His offering is our comfort.

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Easter Eye Witness

"Then Jesus opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." Luke 24:45

Once again, we are with the disciples in the locked room on that first Easter evening: a group of worried-looking disciples, hiding behind locked doors. I imagine Peter pacing around, jumping at every sound that comes from outside, ready to draw his sword. We look at their faces and see the confusion there, the sadness and the fear.

And they had no idea what was about to happen to them. Even though Jesus had told them, they were so worried that Jesus’ body wasn’t in the tomb that they had forgotten the very special task the Lord had for them. Jesus was about to come and make them his witnesses.

But, as always, Jesus never leaves his followers empty-handed. If he gives them a task he also gives them the tools. If Jesus was going to make them his witnesses, if these worried and sad disciples were going to go before the world and witness the miracle of Easter, then they were going to need some help. They were going to need to understand the Scriptures, so Jesus opened their minds. They were going to need power and motivation, so Jesus promised them the Holy Spirit.

As Jesus’ followers, we carry on the legacy of that first Easter. The task Jesus gave to those worried men in that locked room, he hands to us, too. We are Easter’s witnesses. And if we’re going to be any good at this job, we need tools. We need to have our minds opened so we can understand the Scriptures. We need the power and motivation to get the job done, so Jesus makes us Spirit-powered witnesses.

It’s almost as if we are standing in that locked room on that first Easter evening. It’s almost as if the Lord were physically present right now speaking those same empowering words, “You are witnesses of these things.”

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Keep Your Easter Faith

John 20:27, "Then Jesus said to Thomas...stop doubting and believe!"

One Easter Sunday a few years back, I sat down to read the paper. A rather alarmist headline was spread over the front page “Growing Numbers Don’t Identify with a Religion.” It was an article about people not wanting to be tied to a particular religion. What could be causing that? Is it that people are losing faith in religion?

Faith has one enemy: doubt. Doubt causes people to question what they believe. In some areas, that can be good. Doubt can cause a group of citizens to hold their government accountable. But when doubt disturbs our faith in God then it is our enemy. Don’t be fooled, there are some who want us to believe that skepticism and doubt about God and his Scriptures is healthy. There are some who approach the Bible with an attitude that says, “I won’t believe it, unless I see it.” Those kinds of attitudes spread doubt and doubt is the enemy of faith.

Easter is about certainty. The resurrection of Christ, the empty tomb, the eyewitness accounts are all there for us so that we can keep our faith. There is an infamous disciple nicknamed Doubting Thomas. Unfortunately, he’s remembered for the wrong thing. The story’s title should be, “Believing Thomas”. That’s because Thomas and the rest of the disciples teach us to keep our Easter faith by trusting in Jesus like they did. Doubt is our enemy so keep your Easter faith.

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Things Look Different after Easter

"But when [the women] looked up, they saw that the sone, which was very large, had been rolled away." Mark 16:4

They looked up and what did they see? The stone which covered the entrance to the tome of Jesus, had been removed! This wasn’t according to plan. “Had someone come in the night to steal the body? But why?” But they were wrong. They had come out to the tomb expecting the wrong thing. They had come to Easter with the wrong reasons. The tomb had been opened for them and for the rest of the world. The tomb had been opened so that people could look in and see that Jesus had done exactly what he said he would do. And these women, who were so devoted to Christ, should have known better. They should have remembered Jesus’ words, “Three days later the Son of Man will rise!” Friday. Saturday. Sunday. They should have expected that Jesus had finished the job. They should have looked up sooner.

We had better look up, too, or we’ll come to Easter with the wrong expectations. Perhaps some of us stand outside the tomb and within our hearts we nurse a grudge against someone. Have we come to Easter expecting to be forgiven only to withhold our forgiveness from others? Look up and see! Do you come with so much guilt expecting that Christ paid for other people’s sins, but not yours? Look up and see! Have some come to Easter because they feel that’s what they are supposed to do, but their hearts are far from God? Look up and see! The truth is you and I come to Easter with hearts of sin that fight against God and we expect the wrong things from Easter. We expect our things, not God’s things.

As the early morning mist cleared, the women looked up and they saw that things were different, their expectations were wrong and thank God they were! You, too, look up from your life and see that things are different.

That empty tomb reminds us of what God has been doing for us. It reminds us that on Good Friday the Lamb of God willingly took to the cross. He willingly became the sacrifice for sin on the altar of Golgotha. He willingly suffered God’s anger and hatred against mankind’s sin and he willingly died. The weight of our sins were carried with his lifeless body, and they were buried in the darkness of the earth. And the stone slammed that tomb shut and our sins never came back. They died with Christ. We died with Christ and we were buried with him. Easter hands us a different set of expectations that tells us God forgives sinners.

Look up and see it! Approach the tomb with confidence! The stone has been rolled away and things are different here. Look up and see. Come to Easter not loaded down with guilt, arrogance and unbelief. Come instead with a light and joyful faith that is anxious to see what it already believes: sin has been done away with. Look up and see: things are different.

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Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. ~ HEBREWS 12:2 (NIV)